Are You Using only Records that have Every Name Indexes?

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.

Who Paid the Taxes?

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.

Which Court?

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

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.

But we are thankful for all who participate in Genealogy Tip of the Day in any way, shape, or form and whether they make any purchases or not.

And thanks to all who have helped make our page what it is.

Avoid Memory

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.

An Ordering of the Children

Wills, deeds, and other legal documents may list all the children of a specific individual. Don’t assume that they are listed in order from oldest to youngest. They may be–or they may not be. Try and use other records to estimate the years of birth for at least some of the children when vital records are not available. That may give you a better perspective on whether children are listed in birth order in a specific document or not.

Remember that a quit claim deed drawn up to settle the estate of a deceased individual may mention children and grandchildren of the deceased in order to transfer title properly. The deed may not distinguish between children and grandchildren, only referring to them as heirs. The deceased individual may have children who predeceased them and their children would be heirs. Some documents may not make all these relationships clear.

And obituaries? Well they can omit children, use a concept of “children” that is broader than biological children (for often understandable reasons), list children by where they live to save space, list them by gender, or simply list them in a random order.

Unwritten Clues

There is a picture of my Dad and my brother taken in the early 1970s. My Dad is wearing a pair of dress slacks, a dress shirt, and a tie. My Dad rarely dressed up–most pictures of him are in jeans and some form of work shirt.

My immediate thought was “where were we all going?”

Sure enough, my Mother had written the month and year when the photo was taken and the name of the cousin whose wedding we were getting ready to attend. The picture was taken in the front yard of the home where we live.

Many documents, records, and pictures have unwritten clues that can be just as important as the statements and images that are straightforward. Sometimes those unwritten clues are more important than other ones. Sometimes those unwritten clues cannot be noticed until we have seen a lot of other records or documents and have a point of reference.

That’s the case with the picture of my Dad. If that was the only picture of my Dad I had and he had some sort of “office job,” the attire might not have been noteworthy. But in this case it was.

Responding to an Ad?

If your ancestor apparently picked up and moved to where he knew no one, is it possible he was responding to an advertisement? Speculators, land agents, promoted their projects and developments in a variety of ways–including newspapers.

It might have been an advertisement that caused your ancestor to pick up and move to where he knew no one.

State Record Keeping Facilities?

Have you checked out the website for the state archives, state historical society, state library, etc. in the states where your ancestors lived? At the very least many have research guides and information about records in the state or province. Many have online indexes, databases, or actual images of records that can be accessed remotely. Others offer some research services via email or phone or at the least answer research questions.

Don’t neglect state-level facilities. They often have budgets and staff that local agencies do not. Some may also be repositories for local records that can no longer be maintained by the original creator or holder of the records.

Check Every Book

Even if Aunt Martha does not have hollowed out book on her bookshelf, any book in her collection could have an obituary, photograph, letter, or other paper-based family history item tucked into it. Family Bibles are the first place to look–and to page through page by page. Clippings, funeral notices, and the like can also be used as bookmarks.

Make certain you have flipped through all the pages of those books if you have the chance to go through them. You are looking for items of family history value–not just items with monetary value.

When the book in the illustration was pulled off the shelf, it’s purpose was clear. Not all hollowed out books are as easy to spot.