If your relative has property values in the 1850 and 1860 census, analyze them in context–not in isolation. The only thing the value tells you by itself is that the relative owned property. Context matters. How does their property value compare to that of their neighbors in both these enumerations? By what percentage does their property value change from one enumeration to the next? Does this same change seem to be taking place with their neighbors as well? An increase in property value could mean more property was acquired, property values in that area went up in general, or improvements were made on the property. A decrease may mean property values declined or property was sold. No matter the value of real property listed in the census, locate […]
The title of this post may conjure up memories of a college roommate you have not seen in years. It’s about those relationships given in documents or records that can be interpreted in one of many ways. Sister-in-law or brother-in-law are two of those relationships. I have a sister-in-law who is my brother’s wife and another sister-in-law who is my wife’s sister. Had my wife’s brother married, his wife would also have been my sister-in-law. Keep in mind that for some relationships, “in-law” or “step” may never be used when describing the relationship. Individuals may be referred to as “nephews” whether they are biological or related by marriage. And of course the difference matters to a genealogist and when analyzing DNA matches or those individuals who “fail to […]
Success with the DNA aspect of your genealogical research will be enhanced if more relatives are also tested. It can sometimes be difficult to get other family members to test and it is best to take a “soft and gentle” approach when trying to convince others to test. Prioritizing those you should ask and those you should test is also important. Generally speaking it is older family members and ones who might not be around as long as you would like. Another factor to consider is how many generations the testee is from the ancestor on whom you are really stuck. If your great-great-grandparents are the problem and your parents and their siblings are deceased, do those great-great-grandparents have any great-grandchildren who are still living? They may even […]
There are times when the methodology of tracking all the friends, associates, and neighbors can be taken a bit too far. It’s always important to keep perspective in mind and to think about interactions with people in our own lives when researching those whose lifespan preceded our own. The witness who appears on several deeds my ancestor signed? That’s someone I probably should research a little further to determine what (if any) the connection is to my ancestor. The lawyer who draws up his last will and testament or writes a few deeds for him? That’s someone whose background I should research, but I probably would not research the lawyer as closely as the repeating witness. Think about your own documents and records and how people from your […]
One problem-solving approach I like to use is to constantly ask myself “what could I be missing?” That’s an intentionally broad question and does cover a lot of ground. Do I really have every document on this person? Is there a relative I’ve overlooked? Is there a detail I do not understand in this record? Did I get everything in the file or record? Is there something I think I understand that I do not? And so it goes.
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There is no doubt that in local records throughout much of American history women do not appear as often as men. Genealogists know that an American women who dies before the twentieth century is more likely to have an estate settlement if her husband died before her. But it is a mistake to assume that a woman would never appear in a court or land record in the United States before the twentieth century. While divorce was less common, it did happen. There were women who, for one reason or another, had separate property and occasionally appeared in a court record or a land record because of it. Failing to search for that female relative in court and land records “because I have not found one yet,” means […]
An ancestor of mine has children who were born in Canada, Michigan, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. He and his family got around. Never assume that your ancestor did not move. Just because he was in a specific location in 1850 and 1860 does not mean that he was there in 1855. One of my wife’s ancestral families was in Illinois in every census after 1860, but spent two years in Pennsylvania and a year in England after that. Both of these residences took place in off census years and the family was “back” in Illinois for the next enumeration. Some city and town dwellers who rented their home may have moved frequently as well. They may have stayed in the same general neighborhood or maybe not. The […]
Tracking down those aunts and uncles who had no descendants is advised because it helps give the researcher a complete picture of the entire family and it helps all members of the family to be remembered. Those are excellent reasons. But there’s another reason. Some record on that relative with no children of their own could provide information on those relatives you can’t find out more about. This 1980 death certificate for my aunt listed a sister-in-law as the informant–complete with residential address in 1980. Had I been unable to track her down, the reference would have been extremely helpful. Any record on that relative with no descendants could tell you more about your relative’s life. It could also provide information on other family members as well. The […]
I’m working on a family between the 1900 and 1930 time frame. While we often rely on the decennial federal census records to give us a scaffold on which to build research plans, it’s worth reminding ourselves that a great deal can happen in the years between one census and the next. In the case of this family, I suspect that the man and woman who married in 1908 were divorced or separated by the date of the 1910 census. It appears that the wife did marry again but she used her maiden name when doing so. That made locating the marriage all the more difficult. All the creative searching for her under the name of her 1908 marriage would not help. If you can’t find someone in […]
Google search for “countyname county directory.” Use name of the state if county name is common. You will get things besides directories. GoogleBooks search for “countyname county directory.” Use name of the state if county name is common. Can also search for names. Not always able to download entire book. Archive.org–same search ideas as for GoogleBooks. Can download entire book as PDF or alternate formats. Hathitrust.org–same search ideas as for GoogleBooks. Not always able to download entire book. Library websites in the town and county in which they town was located may either have digital images of directories or links to sites that do have these images. Google searches for “townname public library” should help locate these libraries’ websites. Ask the researchers with interest in the same county […]
There is more to using reference materials than simply seeing if your item or person of interest is included. The publication’s preface or introduction may include additional material to help explain the reference you found to the person or item for which you were looking. There may be a list of abbreviations, an explanation of the book’s format, a summary of items used, etc. all of which are helpful in interpreting the item correctly. Don’t just copy the page that includes that for which you are searching and quit. The front matter of these books matter if one hopes to interpret the information correctly.
When you find quite a bit on a relative in a certain county for what appears to be the entire duration of their life, it can be tempting to think that neighboring counties do not need to be searched. That can be a mistake. Deed, court, and probate records were easily located on a person of interest in Bedford County, Virginia. I thought I was done with that portion of the research. It turns out that I was not. A search of court records in adjacent Amherst County turned up a court case for him there as well. I was not done with the research. The deeds had not been fully analyzed and I did not know where in Bedford County the person lived. Their proximity to the […]
Not every family has a cache of mementos, ephemera, and other memorabilia that are a physical reminder of the past. There is also no doubt that such items can be a great way to jump start someone’s memories. A picture of the county courthouse, an old restaurant, the town square, etc. are reminders of times past that can help start a conversation about the “old times.” Pictures or items the person can hold can open the memory floodgates. Ebay is one way to obtain such items–sometimes for a cheap price if you avoid the pricier items. You don’t need anything fancy or expensive. A post card picture, a matchbook from a restaurant, a cheap political button, etc. are all ways to help start the conversation. Reading digital newspapers […]
The app to save pictures and information on family mementos (documents, pictures, furniture, jewelry, etc.) seemed like a great idea and was not too difficult to use. Stories of these items often do not get preserved and when a family member dies the stories of those items are often forgotten and the significance of the item is buried along with the owner. But before you spend a great deal of time using anything on your phone or computer to organize your personal family history items–use it. Experiment with all the aspects of it. The biggest concern with all these apps or programs is the ability to get the information off the website or the app in a way that the information can be kept and used later. Websites […]
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