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.
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 […]
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.
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.
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.
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.
FamilySearch has indicated the following database has been added or updated; Missouri, County Marriage, Naturalization, and Court Records, 1800-1991
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.
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.
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.
Keep in mind that there are a variety of records that might mention your ancestor and that are not every name indexed. Court records, estate records, and other records usually are not FULL name indexed, unless they have been abstracted and published. It may be necessary to get away from indexed records in order to solve your problem. The difficulty is that unindexed records take longer to search.
If you are looking for when an ancestor died in an era before good death records, consider looking at property tax records if the ancestor owned property. If the ancestor suddenly is listed as “deceased” or “the estate of,” that could be a big clue as to when he died. The estate may be paying taxes for several years before the property actually changes hands.
If you are looking for a specific court case, make certain that you are looking in the records of the court that would have heard those types of actions. For example, criminal matters may be heard in a court separate from those that hears civil matters, disputes over inheritances, divorces, etc. I spent some time looking for records of a case in the wrong court because the action I was looking for was actually a criminal matter.
Our goals here at Genealogy Tip of the Day  are simple for the most part. They are generally to get readers thinking about: the research process what they find analyzing what they find their assumptions about research and their ancestors terminology and language used in records the history, culture, and environment in which their ancestors lived And we try to be short—that’s sometimes the difficult part. Tips are not meant to be verbose or lengthy discussions. The intent is to make people aware or to remind them of a topic, concept, term, etc. Longer discussions are posted on my Rootdig blog. We also appreciate those who purchase a webinar, one of the recommended how-to books on my virtual shelf, or the Genealogy Tip of the Day book. Those things help support our endeavors here. […]
One of the “big” genealogy sites recently announced an update to a database for a state where I have a handful of relatives. Instead of reviewing the information on those relatives in my database and then conducting some searches, I immediately began conducting searches. That was a mistake. The “search right now” approach to get immediate results may be tempting, but it can be easy for the researcher to forget key details, mix up names, overlook some relatives, etc. All this does is end up wasting time and cause information to be overlooked. Always go back and review details about people before searching for them. That little bit of time spent could result in more time being saved.
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