If you are fortunate enough to have Grandma’s high school or college yearbook, it still may be to your advantage to look at digital images of that same yearbook. It could be that Grandma wrote in her friend’s yearbook and that friend’s yearbook was the one that was digitized and put online. When digital images of yearbooks are posted online, those signatures and notes of “best wishes” are usually not indexed. You will have to search for them by hand–if you are lucky enough to find a digital copy with personalized notes.
When was the last time you went back through your “early research” and checked your citations and determined where the information was actually located? Sometimes early in our research, the rush to discover, and possibly because our experience and skill level still needs to be developed, conclusions are made that are not quite correct and sources are used that are not as reliable as others. Cleaning up old citations for me has been a great brick wall breaker and “leads I never followed up on” finder. Sometimes that’s all it takes to get my research started again.
Knowing that your ancestor was a farmer, a cooper, a blacksmith, etc. is good for an initial point of reference, but sometimes knowing more about the daily work of your ancestor can be to your advantage. If he was involved in a lawsuit that resulted from his job, a working knowledge of “how” he worked can be helpful in interpreting records and testimony. Just knowing something about his daily work can give you more insight into his life, social history, etc. Those who did not have a paying job still worked, especially mothers who were at home with their children. Knowing what their typical day consisted of can also help provide insight into your family’s life one hundred years ago. All of this can also help in the […]
An affidavit is a written statement, typically used as evidence in court, that is made out by oath or affirmation. Occasionally affidavits may appear in local records office with land records or miscellaneous records depending upon the content of the affidavit. An affiant is one who makes out an affidavit. Someone who is said to be affianced is engaged to be married.
There’s always value in reviewing court cases in which your ancestor was involved. That’s true even if the cases involve mundane, seemingly trivial matters, and contain no direct genealogical information. Remember that every court case can not involve an inheritance and contain significant documentation of family relationships. Those mundane cases can help as well and it’s worth remembering that the mundane must have been important to your ancestor (or someone else) for it to have gotten to court. Who provided testimony? Their relationships may not be stated, but those individuals could have been related by blood or marriage to your ancestor. The fact that your ancestor was involved in a lawsuit means that he was of legal age and (probably) a citizen at the time of the action. […]
James died and left his wife Sarah half his farm and the rest was to be split between his two sons, William and Riley. Wanting to move west, Riley shares his portion to his mother and his brother. I wanted to know how much of the farm Sarah and William had at that point. A little chart was helpful–although not entirely necessary. Sarah owned the half she originally had and she had one-half of Riley’s one-fourth (an additional one-eighth). This gave Sarah 5/8 interest in the property. William owned the original one-fourth he had and one-half of Riley’s one-fourth (an additional one-eighth). This gave William 3/8 interest in the property.
When viewing estate records that include inventories appraisals and sale values, always compare them. In certain times and places, law dictated that the property of the deceased had to be sold–even if there was a surviving and children. If the widow purchased property, compare the appraised value with the amount she paid. It could be pennies on the dollar or a token amount. The law may have dictated that there had to be an auction, but the neighbors may have shot dirty looks (or perhaps shot something else) at anyone who tried to outbid the widow. Other items purchased by individuals outside the immediate family may have gone for prices closer to their appraised value. Appraisals are only estimates and were used by the administrators to estimate ability […]
Tracking down twentieth and twenty-first century relatives can be problematic, but it is sometimes necessary in order to determine DNA matches or see if living family members may have family information, ephemera, or pictures. Sometimes a person can find one relative when others seem to go missing. The difficulties are magnified when the relative is a female who may have had “one more” husband than the researcher was aware of. While FindAGrave has its issues (not all cemeteries entries are complete), consider searching for those missing relatives in the cemetery where you’ve found one of them. On a side note, I’ve sometimes spent just a little time trying to figure out why a relative was buried in an unexpected cemetery. Sometimes that can be a clue that the […]
Local land records are not just deeds involving property transfer between grantors and grantees. They may contain court orders that impact property title (such as partitions), affidavits (from heirs or others testifying to certain aspects of property title), contracts (to purchase a piece of property or between two individuals with their own property preparing to marry), etc. Occasionally someone who never bought or sold property can appear in a document recorded with the land records. An uncle of mine filed an affidavit in the 1890s after his father died stating that there was no debt on the property and that all his father’s last bills had been paid). The son did not sell the property, but filed the affidavit because the family had not gone through a probate […]
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It’s easiest to know a will mentions all the will writer’s children when they are all mentioned–even if to be told they are getting nothing. It is the wills that appear to only mention some children that are more confusing. It’s possible that other children were provided for separately or were intentionally left out for one reason or another. Children do get left out of the parents’ wills. It is proving the connection that can be the problem. Researchers should make certain that all probate records involving the settlement of the parent’s estate have been obtained–not just the will. Were there any settlement deeds drawn up for property not referenced in the will? Did heirs have to sign any of those deeds? Was there property whose disposition was […]
This is not some spirituality post. When looking at any legal record, it’s always important to remember: What is the true purpose of this record or the process that created this record? The purpose of an estate settlement is to settle up the affairs of a deceased person, either according to the terms of their last will or according to the procedure set in state statute. It is not to leave a detailed record of all the heirs, exactly where they were living at the time of their death, exactly how they were related to the deceased, or even the exact date of death for the individual who died. In some cases, because it was deemed necessary for the settlement or contemporary statute required it, those details are […]
The petition to probate the will indicated the deceased died “on our about” the 6th of December. The person’s death certificate indicated that they died on 3 December. Is the difference significant? Probably not. Of the two documents, the death certificate is most likely to be correct, but there are always exceptions. The probate court is most concerned about the fact that the individual is deceased. The date being three days off most likely not germane to the petition to begin the probate process. The incorrect date could simply be an error that was not noticed. Even if it was noticed at some point later, correcting the error was likely not considered to be worth the bother. If there’s real concern about which document is correct, one could […]
It can be tempting when only a few documents have been located to reach a conclusion about an ancestor, family member, or historical event. While sometimes conjecture is occasionally justified as a problem-solving technique, remain focused on what the documents actually say–avoid creating dramatic events in your head to “explain” what was left behind on paper. Remind yourself that conjecture is just that: conjecture. It can be easy to get caught up in conclusions that are drawn too early and sucked into the belief that there was something dramatic going on in our relative’s life. The result is that we often ignore other obvious information or spend too much time trying to prove conclusions that are improbable, wasting time and money in the process. Sometimes we need to […]
Online citizens are good about sharing a variety of memes, images, and other things from “back in the day.” Recently it was some sort of make up. People were saying “Oh everyone’s Grandma had that.” And on and on and on. No everyone’s Grandma did not have that. Mine had an old container of powder of some sort that she must have had since well before my father was ever born. She rarely wore it and I’m not certain I can ever remember her actually wearing it. Grandma was a farm wife, did not drive, wore house dresses everywhere (except when going to town), and shoes were optional a fair portion of the time. Be careful assuming something about a deceased relative just because someone shared a common […]
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