Not all families are composed of individuals who are biologically related to each other. In many cases, those relationships are extremely important to the individuals involved. DNA does not track those relationships where the connection is not biological. For that reason, when it is known that two members in a family are not biologically related, it’s important for the genealogist to clarify the relationship in their database as much as possible (adopted, foster, step, etc.) to help with the DNA analysis. It’s also important to document what is known about that non-biological relationship because it mattered (or matters) to the individuals involved and can impact their lives and records in which they appear together. An ancestor of mine in Massachusetts was raised by a neighbor (after the parents […]
Time is what we occasionally need. The ability to get “immediate” answers to many questions online sometimes makes us think that we should understand things immediately as well. The best realizations or awakenings about a document or a record do not always pop into our motind the moment we first read the item. It takes some a while for connections to be made, particularly if the problem has not been an easy one to solve and the language and terminology is not familiar to us. So give yourself time to understand. Do not expect an immediate answer. Knee jerk reactions sometimes end up kicking us in the rear end. I know that’s not really possible to do, but the statement is not meant to be taken literally.
If your ancestor has a surname as a first name or middle name, remember that it may be a mother’s maiden name, grandmother’s maiden name, or another last name from the family’s history. It’s also possible the name was for a family friend or notable figure. Keep in mind that not all notable figures during the time the relative was named are still notable figures today.
Making discoveries is great, but there comes a time when one has to stop gathering and start organizing, summarizing, and putting information in form that can help you make more progress and get less confused. Information from a new find needs to be compared with what is already known to determine if the right person has been located and if the information is consistent. It can be easy to latch onto the wrong person if one is not careful. And a chart to keep track of the names and relationships is usually helpful as well. Names can easily run together.
My grandmother had a few genealogy-related items that her sister had copied for her in the early 1970s. Most were obituaries or biographies of known family members. There was one item that I could not fit into the rough family tree I had created in the early 1980s: a biography of a drugstore owner in Quincy, Illinois whose last name was Miller. My grandmother’s great-grandmother was a Miller which explained the possible connection. The Miller name is extremely common, none of the names in the biography resonated with me, and none of my family during that era had any sort of occupation outside farming. He could not be a relative because nothing fit. Early in my research, I decided that the biography was something my aunt had simply […]
Reunion notices can be a great way to track down missing relatives when other records make them difficult to locate. Bear in mind that the description of the reunion may be more restrictive than attendance actually is. This 1940 reunion writeup is for the “Dirks” family appears to be for the descendants of Bernard and Heipke (Müeller) Dirks. And most of the individuals listed in attendance were descended from the couple. But there were a few attendees who were descended from Heipke’s sister and one attendee who was the widow of Heipke’s cousin. The attendees may be from a broader set of relatives than you think. Which makes these notices sometimes even more helpful. Add Genealogy Tip of the Day–the book–to your bookshelf!
Not everyone in a family may have used the same spelling of a last name. In this immigrant family, the mother used the spelling of Müller and the son used Miller. The difference in this case is small, but for names that were more difficult to spell or pronounce, the change could have been more significant, making it difficult for the researcher to immediately see the possible connection between the two names. Non-immigrant families occasionally change their names as well–often due to family squabbles, the desire to mask family origins, etc.
Her first name was Tomma and she was married to Gerhard Mueller until he died in the 1870s in Quincy, Illinois. She was a milliner after his death and is listed in numerous business dealings. Sometimes she was incorrectly listed as “Mrs. Thomas Mueller.” There was no Thomas Mueller–at least not in this situation. Any attempt to find the Mr. Thomas Mueller will only serve to confuse my research even more. Is it possible that the person you think existed as a separate individual was actually a just a mistake?
Genealogists often use the placement of two people next to each other in a census as evidence they are neighbors. That’s good advice. But just remember that a census taker (or anyone performing a similar listing of people by going house-to-house) eventually has to turn around, will have to “come back” to get the neighbor who lives adjacent to Grandma’s back forty. Genealogists with urban ancestors, whose addresses are often included in a census, can see that neighbors around the corner or whose property backs up against the back yard may be enumerated several pages after the person of interest. Those of us with rural ancestors often do not have specific addresses to trace. Near neighbors can be several pages apart on a census. I was reminded of […]
Things change over time. Different places have different practices and different cultures. While most of us know this, it can be easy to forget when we are waist deep in a genealogical research problem. Just because the first always got a larger share of his father’s estate in a specific place in 1690 does not mean that same practice was taking place in 1790. Just because your immigrant ancestors in the 1870 named children for their sponsors does not mean that their parents did the same thing in the 1840s in Ireland. Laws change. Culture changes. Religious practices change as well. Find out what was going on at the time and place your ancestor was living. Don’t assume the only differences between you and your ancestor in 1850 […]
Life has changed in the last one hundred years. I can’t remember if I have ever had to provide just my year of birth on any application–credit, job, insurance, etc. If I only gave my year of birth, the recipient of the application would have handed it right back to me and asked me to complete it. My great-grandfather, born 99 years before me might not have had any record that provided his precise date of birth. There were no civil birth certificates recorded in 1869 when he was born. Of course there may have been other records. That’s not quite the point of this post. There are times where no matter how diligently you research, all you will get is the year of an event. And there […]
One way to overlook genealogical records is to get stuck at a certain level and never move beyond it. Records may have been kept at the federal, state, county, township, town, village, or other political level. Names of the smaller jurisdictions may vary from one region of the United States to another as may some of the record-keeping responsibilities. There can be some variation in records at levels from the county on down. That’s why it is important when searching online catalogs to make certain that you have browsed at all political and geographic levels in which the area of interest is located. Some of the most unique records available are smaller sets of records that may only have been kept in one location. You do not know […]
Whether your celebration is big or small and no matter which holiday you celebrate at this time of year, greetings from Genealogy Tip of the Day. This early Christmas picture of me–looks like it is about 1970 based on my age–has everything identified except the teddy bear I am holding. Don’t neglect any pictures you’ve put off preserving. If you want to add to your genealogy bookshelf this year, check out my list or get your own copy of Genealogy Tip of the Day. Consider a DNA test if paper alone hasn’t answered all your questions.
Mom and my Aunt Ruth always said it was best to avoid the teacher’s lounge at work. Whether you agree with that little tidbit of advice, when it popped into my head this morning I was reminded of the importance of writing down those bits of wisdom you remember from relatives. Even if you can’t get together physically with your relatives over the holiday season, maybe you can ask them what tidbits of wisdom they remember from other relatives. Some may be common clichés, others may indicative of the time in which your relative lived, a few may be bits of wisdom for the ages, but they are all a bit of your family history. And they may help you to remember just a little bit those family […]
If your relative was a member of a specific church, have you looked into histories of that church? Your relative may be mentioned (if you are lucky). To be honest, few of mine are. It’s always worth a look just to be certain that nothing is overlooked. If the church was originally founded by a group of migrants, a discussion of their general origins in the church history may give you some direction in determining where your own ancestor was from. Get Genealogy Tip of the Day–the book–today!
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