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 […]
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.
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
If your ancestor sells property, ask yourself at least the following questions about the transaction? How old was he when the property was sold? Was he getting ready to leave the area? Was he having financial problems? Was he selling to a child or other relative? Did he buy other property about the same time? Similar questions should be asked of other documents as well, particularly ones whose underlying motivation may not always be crystal clear. Even if the reason for a record is clear–a marriage record exists because a marriage is taking place–ask yourself if there was any reason why the marriage took place when it did. Don’t look at a record all by itself. Put it in the context of other things that were taking place […]
Websites that allow users to search digital images of newspapers are great. They can make the discovery of newspaper references take seconds instead of the hours, days, or months, it would take to manually search a specific set of newspapers. But make certain that the site has the actual images of the time period you need–month, year, etc. If the newspaper was daily and you need an item that probably was printed in March of 1888, does the website have all the issues from that month? Do you know how to browse their set of images to find out? Issues may be missing from that time period. You may not be searching all the issues you think you are.
When writing out memories of what others told you years ago, include at least the following: name of person who told you the story; that person’s relationship to you (if known); approximately when you first heard the story; your name and date of memory.
When a researcher is “hot on the trail” of an elusive ancestor or relative, it is tempting to research as fast as possible to find the answers. Avoid that. Chances are the relative for whom you are looking is already dead, so time is not of the essence. Leave a trail of exactly what records you looked at and, more importantly, why you looked at them. Do this as you are doing the research when it is all fresh in your mind. Failure to do so may leave you wondering later where there records were from or what made you connect them to the same person.
Virtually any piece of family history ephemera can jog memories. Postcards are no exception. This June of 1970 postcard sent to my parents by my Mom’s paternal grandmother generated quite a bit of discussion when I posted it to my Facebook page. Getting some family history information was not even my reason for posting it–I commented how the only person still living who was mentioned on the postcard was me (the “Michial” my great-grandma mentions in the greeting). Most of the memories were not even about this trip from Illinois to California, but were about other visits the family made to the West Coast during roughly the same time period. Sometimes all it takes is one small thing to get people to thinking and remembering. What do you […]
The John Sullivan of interest in Pittsburgh was a John L. who was a policeman. I found him easily in a 1928 directory. In looking at all the John Sullivan entries, I located a John J. who was also a policeman. This is something I need to be aware of. Individuals can easily be listed in records without their initials and it would be easy to inadvertently confuse these two people. Even if you find “your person,” browse other names. In addition to potentially locate others living at the same address (at least in directories), you may learn of others whose names are very close to your ancestor with other similar characteristics that may cause them to be confused.
If you are looking for remembrances, pictures, or other memories of your relatively-recently deceased ancestor or relative, do not neglect reaching out to their friends or friends of the family. They may have pictures, memories that family does not have, or be more willing to tell stories than immediate family members.
“That’s not their family.” “They weren’t married into the family then, they won’t know anything about that.” Reaching out to biological relatives is an important part of getting family traditions, identifying old photographs, and determing if there is any family ephemera floating around in someone’s home. But do not limit yourself to the biological family. I was having difficulty identifying a photograph recently and I posted it to my Facebook wall. A niece of the individual by marriage identified the photograph. I hadn’t thought to ask her at all as the picture was taken thirty-five years before the niece was born. But then I realized a few things: The niece had seen the person for twenty-five more years than I had. The niece had seen the person when […]
No matter how much FamilySearch and other websites have online for your area of interest, always consider the possibility that there could be records that have not been microfilmed or digitized for that location. Reach out to local records facilities, contact archives/societies in the area, and reach out to researchers also working in that area to determine what materials may only exist in their original format.
What was the last genealogical item you shared with someone else? It could be some information you discovered, a copy of a record you paid to obtain, a family picture you discovered, etc.? Sharing is altruistic, but from a genealogy standpoint there is more to it than that. Sharing means “getting it out there” in multiple places and increases the chance that what you share lasts past you. If there’s only one copy of an item (particularly something in paper format), it’s “fragility” is deceased when copies of it are shared with others. Of course the original may still be fragile, but the copies “floating out there” increase the chance that the item is preserved in some format. Of course when you share, someone else may share something […]
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