Even if your ancestor’s estate was intestate (without a valid will), the probate records could contain a copy of will that was refused probate by the court. While that will was unprobated, it still could provide good genealogical clues and reading it may tell you it was not allowed to go through probate. If there was a separate court case over the will it may be filed with non-probate court records in the county where the estate was administrated.
A witness to a document is simply indicating that they saw you sign the document and that they believe you are who you say you are. They are not saying anything about what is in the document. They do not have to be related to you in any way. Witnesses to wills cannot be beneficiaries to the will and need to be old enough to execute their own legal documents (meaning of age and of sound mind).
If your ancestor worked for a company, there may be a record out there that could help you in your family history research. Those of us who have generations of farming ancestors or otherwise self-employed family members have to rely on whatever materials our relatives left behind–and those are often minimal. However, if your ancestor worked for a large employer, it’s possible records are sitting around somewhere. Employment records for your ancestor can provide significant information on your relative, perhaps brief biographical data, citizenship status, address, etc. The difficulties with these records are that they were not always retained long term by the company, may have been destroyed when the company closed (was sold, went bankrupt, etc.), and are not public records. If you find them, you may […]
“I had a large client report.” The report, or more accurately the client report, was what was large–not the client themselves. In this case, it is probably pretty clear that the word “large” does not refer to the client themselves. But ask yourself when reading any statement: is there another way to read that? Is there a different interpretation that is reasonable? Don’t get stuck on your first interpretation of a word, phrase, or sentence. Some items genealogists use are poorly edited for clarity, particularly 19th century county histories, “mug books” of biographies submitted by family members, and more newspapers than one may care to admit. If that’s the case, references to certain items may be ambiguous. Always ask yourself: Is there another reasonable way to interpret this?
Write down everything you think you know about a specific ancestor. Do not refer to anything other than what is in your mind. Include birth, death, marriage information, likely educational level, religion, occupation, how often the person moved, etc. When you are done, see what pieces of information you can find in actual records or “reliable” sources. Those other pieces of information about your ancestor for which you have no source may not be true, could be partially true, or completely incorrect. But if you have those pieces of information “in your head” while searching for your ancestor, they could be impacting how you search, what types of records you look for, etc. And that could be hindering your research.
Some families move more frequently than others. That can be a difficult concept to grasp for researchers who still live in the same area where all their great-grandparents did. The bigger problem is making certain that the same people have actually been located in different locations and that the researcher is not assuming they have the same person (or family) without more than just a hunch. Making certain ages, places of birth, and other identifying characteristics are reasonably consistent is one way to reduce the chance of making an incorrect identification. Researching as thoroughly as possible is another way to be more certain that two people in records hundreds of miles apart are actually the same person. The more items that are located in each of the geographically […]
I will be offering a live session of my “Beginning German Research” webinar on 2 October 2020. This session can either be attended live or be pre-ordered as a downloadable presentation. An earlier version of this post went out with the incorrect date.
Some documents indicate who provided the information contained in the document. Other documents do not. Even documents that have an “informant” may actually have had several different people who actually provided the information. How likely was the informant to actually know the information they provided for the document? Where would the informant have obtained the information they provided for the document? Was there any penalty for lying? Was there any reason to lie on the document? Just because a person could have lied or given incorrect information on a record does not mean that they did. It just means that the potential is there.
I will be offering a live session of my “Beginning German Research” webinar on 2 October 2020. This session can either be attended live or be pre-ordered as a downloadable presentation. There are more details on our announcement page.
If a name is partially legible in a document or record, it can be difficult to find a list of names that “it could be.” One way to potentially get a list is to search a database for those known letters using a wildcard search. If a maiden name in a church marriage register looks like Tr[letters]t[letters]n, search for Tr*t*n in databases that contain name from the same general area where the name you are unable to read comes from. Using databases on Ancestry.com, FamilySearch, etc. are great ones because if the record set is a large one, you are pulling from a large group of names. When performing searches of this type, search specific databases. If the name is of German origin, focus on databases from that […]
If you have a digital image of a record that has portions that are difficult to read and cannot be enhanced, have you looked to see if there are other sites that have digital images of the same record? Some records are available digitally on more than one site and those digital images may not have been created in the same way. That other site may have a better image. Get the Genealogy Tip of the Day book. Great for reading cover to cover, browsing, taking notes in, or reading at random to get your research started.
If a document provides you with new information, a new conclusion, or a piece of information that “excites” you, read it again. It can be very easy to think a phrase or word means something that it does not. The temptation to jump to conclusions can be especially great if we have struggled with a family or a research problem for some time. There are times where it is best to wait, do something else, and then come back to the item after some time has passed so that it can be looked at “cold.” One of the easiest ways to make your own genealogy brick wall is to jump to a conclusion based on a too quick reading of a document. Get the Genealogy Tip of the […]
For relatives who had middle names, try and determine (if possible) where the middle name originated. It could be a maiden name of the person’s mother or grandmother. A middle name could be the first or last name of a contemporary well-known person (nationally or locally) such as a politician, minister, etc. That middle name could have come from a neighbor, family friend, godparent, etc. Or that middle name could simply be one that the parent liked for no other reason than that.
Did your relative have to have their farm or home lot surveyed either to establish boundaries with a neighbor or to have the property split up among several heirs? Those surveys and plats should be recorded in the same local records office that records deeds, mortgages, etc. (often the County Recorder in the United States). The surveys themselves may not provide major genealogical clues, but you may learn what caused seemingly arbitrary property lines (an old railroad in this case) or that a row of hedge was used by two brothers to mark their property line. When accessing these records, make certain and determine how they are indexed–it is geographically or based on the landowners mentioned in the survey?
Compiled genealogies and other reference materials used in family history research (particularly directories and abstracts from records) often contain abbreviations, special symbols, formatting styles, etc. that can be confusing. These short hand approaches to writing are often done to save space on the printed page and make the compilation easier for the compiler. They may be confusing to the person using the book if they don’t take the time to figure out what abbreviations, annotations, etc. mean. These are often explained in the introductory material in the publication. Copy or make digital images of these pages when you have the item. It will save time and frustration. This is a particularly good idea with city directories that often abbreviate words distinguishing between home owner, renter, boarder, etc. Get […]
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