When a person has only seen one example, it can be difficult to know what may be unique about that item. There may be clues in how that one record or item is different from other records and those clues cannot be seen when there is nothing with which to compare it.

The “Pop-up-Pal” phone I had as a child is a perfect example. The “O” on my phone is painted red. I assumed that all phones had this one red button. The only toy phone of this type I had seen was the one that I had. Curious about the phone, I searched for it online. None of them had the red “O” button. Then I remembered.

I was the reason the “O” was red. Pushing that button made the operator pop up and I got mad at that girl every time she popped up. So Grandma put red fingernail polish on “O” so I would remember not to push it.

The story didn’t pop back into my memory banks until I realized the red button was something that was different about my phone.

It’s always advised to compare a record about an ancestor to other similar records. This can be a particularly helpful approach in analyzing records that are not written on pre-printed forms where noticing unusual comments or items may not be as straight forward.

It is difficult to know if something is off about one record if you’ve not seen other records. It’s difficult as well to know if an estate was settled in an usual fashion if you’ve only ever looked at one probate record. Expanding you search and using more records increases the chance you notice what is unusual.

Just like knowing the red button made the operator girl “pop up” made me less likely to push it.



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