There is no “magic book” in genealogy research that will always answer your family history research questions. A source, published or not, that provides the answer for one person will not necessarily provide answers for someone else. That said, finding out what sources others have used is helpful, because sometimes they do work or they at least lead to clues or additional sources that can help you progress on your research journey. Reaching out to others working in the same areas during the same time periods (related to you or not) can be a great way to become familiar with sources and techniques that may be helpful to your research. Local genealogy groups (both online and offline), local genealogical/historical societies, local libraries, etc. can all be ways to […]
Often when genealogists analyze records they look at information from the viewpoint of the person who provided it or from the viewpoint of someone trying to analyze that information for perceived reliability. But there is another perspective: that of the record creator or the clerk. Maybe they could not understand your ancestor. Maybe they did not care if the information was correct or not. Maybe they were trying to be as precise and particular as they could be. Maybe they were writing as neatly as they could. Maybe they had a stack of forms to complete, organize, etc. by the end of the day. Maybe they only got the job because of who they knew and not their ability. Or maybe your ancestor did not want to provide […]
I first read and transcribed the 1812 will of James Rampley in Harford County, Maryland, when I was sixteen years old. I don’t think I have looked at the entire will in over twenty-five years. Today I read the entire document. And there were at least five good clues that I missed in that early reading of the document because there were many things I didn’t know about research, the law, inheritance, and the family at that point in time. Do you have something that you’ve not read in ages? Could there be unused clues in that document?
Before you overly analyze that incorrect marital status in a census, before you get all “fussed up” over an incorrect place of birth, consider the possibility that what is wrong is simply an error. Sometimes our ancestors lie.But sometimes people just make mistakes. We were not there when they gave the information and when it got written down. Sometimes a mistake is just a mistake. Something to think about before we go making up some grand reason behind the discrepancy. And then again, we could be the one who is wrong and our relative may actually have been correct. Get your Genealogy Tip of the Daybook.
Those of us looking for rural ancestors sometimes ignore the census information regarding addresses that’s contained in the far left hand side of more recent census records (1930 and 1940 for example). That would be a mistake. I located an uncle in the 1940 census for Lima Township in Adams County, Illinois. The “address” indicates he was living on the Adams-Hancock County line road. That was a good clue which told me that he lived along the extreme northern edge of Lima Township.
Effective interpretation and analysis of records requires the genealogist to know the limitations of the record being used. These limitations generally concentrate on who does not get listed in the record, how the information is given for inclusion in the records, how the records are organized (which impacts how they are searched), etc. For land records some limitations would be that only land owners are mentioned, some deeds were not recorded promptly, some land ownership happened without a deed being drawn up (eg. inheritance), etc. For obituaries some limitations would be cost of publishing in newspaper (if applicable as not all newspaper required payment), desire of family for others to know, ethnic and social class of deceased, need to search manually if papers are not digitally available, etc. […]
Keep in mind that some documents may have several dates, each of which serve a separate purpose. A land record may have a date of execution, when it was signed; a date of acknowledgement, where it was “acknowledged in front of an official;” and a date of recording, when it was filed for record. Those dates may all be the same–or they may be stretched out over several years. It just depends. But there is a difference between the dates.
An 1819 document used the abbreviation “M.T.” as part of the location in a document. It took me a moment to realize that the reference was to “Missouri Territory.” In 1850, such an abbreviation would not be used Abbreviations were always used in the context of the time and place. Keep this in mind when interpreting them. And remember that using abbreviations in your own work should be avoided precisely to avoid confusion
Remember that your ancestor might have been known by several different first names. This can be especially confusing when a researcher is “fixed” on one name. My great-grandfather was actually Frederick, but sometimes he was Fred and sometimes he was Fritz (the latter more in his younger years). Another ancestor was John Michael Trautvetter. He went by one of several different names: John Michael Mike Jahn (a German version of his first name) J. M. Some nicknames are not quite as obvious. Sally was a common nickname for Sarah. If you can’t find your ancestor, learn nicknames that were derived from the original name. The ancestor might simply be hiding under a nickname.
A remainderman usually is someone whose title to property does not become realized until the termination of the ownership of that property by a former owner. Usually this former owner has a life estate in the property and usually has been given that life estate by someone else. Mimke wills his wife Antje a life estate in his real property and then at her demise title is to pass to his children Johann, Jann, and Metha. Johann, Jann, and Metha are the remaindermen. Mimke’s will may not use the word “remaindermen,” but it’s possible they are referred to by that term in other legal documents. There are a variety of reasons why someone may bequeath a life estate in their property to someone, but generally it revolves around […]
If that digital image of a newspaper or record is difficult to read, how possible is it that another image exists somewhere else? That image may be better than the one you first locate. There are several reasons for varying image quality, but it depends on how the digital image was made in the first place. Let’s say in the 1940s, newspaper A is microfilmed. The original copy of newspaper A either deteriorates or is intentionally destroyed. There are several rolls of microfilm made. We will focus on copy 1 and copy 2. Copy 1 of that roll of microfilm gets fairly heavy use and there’s some wear on it. Constantly rolling it through the machine does that. In the early 2010s, copy 1 is digitized in order […]
When using any genealogical database or information management software, make certain that any relationships you think you have entered correctly are actually displaying correctly. Also if you do not know what something does, leave it at the original setting until you find out what it does and whether you need to change it or not. That prevents problems as well.
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