Is a Conclusion Temporary?

When research in the United States gets back beyond a certain point, records are fewer and less likely to make direct statements. It is important to remember that any conclusion reached when the records are not clear may need to be revised if new information comes to light.

Keep your mind open to the chance that you may be incorrect or may have not looked at all the records. Never assume that your initial “hunch” is Gospel Truth.

Contextual Clues Mean It’s Not a Part of a Name

This tip originally ran in 2015.

The middle entry on this page of 1838 baptisms from Aurich, Germany contains the entry for my ancestor.

The fourth column contains the names of the sponsors. When I was trying to analyze the entry for my relative I thought the symbol in the middle red circle on the image were a part of the entry.

Then I looked at the other two entries on the image I made and realized that the items in the circle were partially used to number each entry and were not a part of the names of the sponsors.

If I had only copied the entry for my ancestor and not other entries on the same page, I might have missed that.

Don’t copy only the entry of interest on a page like this. Copy other entries on the same page.

You can’t made comparisons if you don’t.

One or Two Cow Stories

Apparently one of my great-granddad’s grandsons would visit him when the grandson was a small child. The grandson would be in the barn with great-granddad while the cows were being milked and would ask for either a “one-cow story” or a “two-cow story.”

The type of story depended upon how many cows had to be milked before the story was over–one or two.

Don’t forget to record your own stories–whether they are one or two-cow stories.

Your stories don’t even need to involve cows at all.

Lining Out Your Research

Do you know where all the lines are on the map of your ancestor’s neighborhood? Property lines, county lines, state lines, they all play a role in your family history research. These lines change over time as new territories are created, county lines are debated and finalized, and as your ancestor buys and sells property. Getting your ancestor’s maps all “lined” up may help solve your problem. And keep in mind that while contemporary maps are always an excellent idea they should not be used by themselves. Maps created decades after your relative lived in an area may also be helpful as well.

With maps–the more, the merrier.

Photo Backs Can Help

Always make an image of the back of photographs. Even if the back does not contain specific identification of the individuals, place, or event in the picture, it may help you determine what photos were taken at the same event.

I have a number of photographs that were taken at a wedding in the greater Chicago, Illinois, area in the 1950s. They were scattered throughout several boxes and folders of pictures obtained from several different relatives. The photographer’s stamp on the back at least confirmed that they were taken at a function associated with the wedding. That’s a clue to assist in identifying those people who are not personally known to me.

Reading it Cold

Remember that in many cases, the indexer indexing the record you are using was not familiar with the names in the area where the records were created.

In most cases, they are reading the names “cold.” Keep that in mind when formulating searches and contemplating alternate spellings. You may know what it says. Someone else may not.

Don’t Rush to Enter Relationships

Filing documents and records as quickly as you can is good–things get misplaced. However rushing to do your data entry may not be a good idea. Some records do not clearly indicate relationships precisely. Most genealogical database programs require specific type of relationship–you usually can’t just say “related.”

Analyze what you find. Draw conclusions and determine the family structure. Then put the relationships in your database. You can enter individuals in a database program without indicating the relationship.

Nearest County Seat and Their County Seat

Some things have to be “done” in the county seat where the person lives. Other things do not. Would it have been easier for your ancestor to get married not in “their county” seat, but in the county seat of the neighboring county? Would the county seat newspaper in the neighboring county also have published an obituary for your relative? Is it possible your relative was sued by someone in a court in an adjacent county?

Never neglect the county seats in nearby counties, particularly if your ancestor lived near the county line.

Photo and Transcribe Stones Now

Tombstone of Nancy Tinsley, Blue Ridge Cemetery, Shelby County, Indiana–picture taken June 2021 by Michael John Neill

If possible, put tombstone information preservation high on your genealogy priority list. Time and the elements are not always kind to tombstones and their inscriptions.

Pictures and transcriptions are the best ways to preserve the information and certainly the cheapest.

Some stones age better than others depending upon their location and what sort of material was used for the tombstone itself. Don’t put tombstones on your “genealogy back burner” because you think they’ll “always be there for me to look at.”

That’s not always true and time can easily get away from us.