Not Always the Reason You Think

In December of 1905, my great-grandparents mortgaged a 1/10 interest in a piece of property, signing a five-year note. They paid it off in June of 1907. They may have paid it off early to save on the interest or they may have paid it off because in the summer of 1907 their mother wanted to sell the property and could not sell it with the mortgage unpaid.

Sometimes there’s a reason why things happen when they do.

Served from an Adjacent State?

Many men who served in the union Army in the United States Civil War did not enlist in the state where they resided. For a variety of reasons a man may have enlisted in a unit from a neighboring state. Usually it was to help the state where he enlisted meet it’s quota.

But don’t dismiss a potential reference to your soldier ancestor simply because he’s from the “wrong” state.

How Does that Finding Aid Work?

Whenever using an index or finding aid to any other series of records, ask yourself how the index or finding aid actually works.

Does it index every name included in the record? Or does it just index the names of the primary individual (the deceased on a death certificate, the child on a birth certificate, the pensioner in a pension record, etc.)? What other names are typically included in an individual’s record?

If you cannot answer these questions, you might not be using the index or finding aid effectively.

One More Marriage?

Is it possible that your relative was married one more time than you think?

I was working on a family for a friend and initial difficulties finding the marriage of the known couple were because the female had been married before to a man who died approximately three months after their marriage. The marriage of the known couple actually lasted only about a year and a half when the wife died the day after giving birth to their child.

Sometimes those short marriages can be easy to overlook, but they can generate just as much genealogical information as marriages that lasted decades–even if they don’t result in children.

2021 Ft. Wayne, Indiana, Research Trip

We are offering a small group trip to the Allen County Public Library’s Genealogy Collection in August of 2021. The library is located in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, and houses one of the nation’s largest genealogical collection. Registration is limited.

The trip will follow the library’s protocols for health and safety. The trip will be the first week of August 2021. Additional details are on our announcement page.

How Far Back to Get That Name?

When a name gets passed down, people often think it’s from someone in the same generation as the parents or grandparents of the person who has the family name. That name can easily come from a generation or two further back.

A parent could easily have chosen a name of one of their grandparents to give their child or from a beloved aunt or uncle who was actually one of their grandparents’ siblings. That family name may come from a little further back than you think.

And don’t just assume that the first person you find with the same name in the tree is where the person got the name from. There may be another person you haven’t found yet who is the reason the name was passed on.

And you may never know exactly for whom the person was named–particularly if the chooser of the name is deceased and did not pass that information along. I know exactly where my middle name came from, but my first name’s “origin” will remain a mystery.

Initials Only?

Your relative may have used their initials instead of their full name because they didn’t like their actual name, wanted to distinguish themselves from another relative of the same name, or possibly some other reason. This 1950-era picture of my Grandpa Neill’s pickup and my Dad indicate that Grandpa had “C. R. Neill” as his name on the truck. That could have been simply because it was cheaper to have painted or took less room.

I have seen a few other references to him by his initials, but there are also numerous references to him that include his first name of Cecil as well.

Those Strays on A Transcription

Transcriptions of actual documents may contain marks that appear to be errant strays left by a careless clerk. Occasionally that it exactly what they are.

Other times they are not. Clerks who made handwritten copies of records that served as an official copy may have noticed spelling errors, errors of fact, or other inconsistencies in the original document. It was not the clerk’s job to correct. Instead when a clerk noticed an inconsistency in an original record and was making a handwritten copy, they would often make an annotation as is done in the 1862 marriage record from Missouri used in the illustration.

The clerk noticed that Kempster was spelled two different ways in the record and the Kempter was used once. When it was spelled “Kempter” on the document, the clerk underlined the “pt” to indicate that the missing “s” was not his fault.

Varying Places of Birth Can Be a Clue

Places of birth that vary for an individual from one record to another can be confusing. There are times where the variant locations are simply mistakes for one reason or another.

Other times those varying places can be a clue. Perhaps country boundaries changed over time and the person was giving the current country their place of birth was located in. Perhaps they were giving the country at the time when they were born. Maybe their village of birth was close to a line between two countries and when asked where their village was located they simply said “close to Switzerland.” It is also possible the family moved quite a bit and the person did not know exactly where they were born.

They may have settled in an area where many Germans settled and, as a native of Switzerland who spoke German, it was assumed that they were born in Germany as well.

Content Can Vary

There is a reason a genealogist should look at every record, even when you do not think it may tell you “anything new.”

I have used St. Louis County, Missouri, marriage records before during the 1845-1870 time frame for several of my families. In the entries for these individuals, the names of parents were not given. Work on a new-to-me family indicated a marriage in St. Louis.

Much to my surprise, the 1862 marriage entry gave the names of parents of both the bride and groom. In this case, it seems that this specific Roman Catholic priest included the names in the information returned to the clerk.

I was going to look at the marriage record anyway, just to confirm the date. Just a reminder that you never know what something may tell you until you look.