Every database, index, record, or compilation has limitations. Do you know at least one limitation for each finding aid or actual record you use? Transcriptions may include errors. Search engines may not work the way you think they do–or the way another site does. Informants on death certificates don’t have to prove every statement they make. Census takers may guess at information or ask uninformed neighbors. Probate records generally will not list relatives who died without descendants. Land records do not include those who rent their land. Indexes are not always full-name indexes. Affidavits in pension claims can contain lies or exaggerations. And so it goes. For every source you use, every database you query, every book you read–ask yourself what limitations there may be. Knowing the limitations doesn’t mean […]
Some locations have precise geographic borders. Those borders may change over time, but often are reasonably well-established. Some places, particularly those whose names are informal and known to locals, may have more fluid boundaries or just be a general area. Ethnic regions of some urban areas can change over time and have boundaries that are in a constant state of flux or have no precise definition. In some rural areas, certain areas may have a name that known to locals but does not appear on any map, post office list, or other geographic finding aid. Frequently these items are mentioned in newspapers, family letters and correspondence, and other unofficial records. Some thoughts on locating such places can be found in our recent post on Prairie Precinct in Winnebago County, […]
The note I made for a DNA match said only “likely Trautvetter.” There was no reason given for my conclusion. All I wrote were those two words: “likely Trautvetter.” It’s even possible that I got mixed up and meant to type another name besides “Trautvetter.” Without any commentary or record of what was running through my head, there’s no way I can evaluate the “likely Trautvetter” statement without trying to reproduce the work that got me there. That’s time wasted. The evaluation is not time wasted. It is always beneficial to review one’s work after it has had time to cool. Reproducing that work from scratch? That’s time wasted. My statement could have been as simple as “Reviewing the shared DNA matches I had with this unknown match […]
A reunion may be titled “the John and Susan Smith reunion,” but it may included a broader set of relatives and family friends. The Dirks family of northeastern Adams County had a reunion for several years in the 1930s. I thought, based on the name of reunion that it was for the descendants of Bernard and Heipke (Mueller) Dirks of Coatsburg, Illinois, who were married in 1856. In looking through the names, I realized attendees were not just Bernard and Heipke’s descendants–there were a number of attendees who were children and grandchildren of Anke (Mueller) Adams, sister of Heipke. So it might have more accurately been termed the Mueller reunion. That turned out to be more true than I realized. In trying to figure out who everyone was […]
Do not limit yourself to one way to locate information and records. Doing so can guarantee that your “brick wall” stands strong and proud for even longer. For information about records and accessing those records: The “big genealogy fee-based” genealogy sites–Ancestry, Findmypast, Newspapers.com, Genealogybank, etc. The “big free” genealogy sites–FamilySearch, FindAGrave, etc. State archives websites–not all info is online State record agencies websites–not all info is online Regional and university library websites–not all info is online Local library websites–not all info is online Local record holder websites–not all info is online Local genealogy/historical societies websites–not all information is online There are probably a few other ways as well to locate records and information about those records. But looking in these places will get the researcher on their way […]
A few reminders: tips are short–and not meant to be extensive, academic discussions of a topic tips are reminders–all of us forget things from time to time tips may send you looking–for more details on that topic tips may not apply in all areas and time periods–check and see if that concept applies to your research situation tips are sometimes basic–we’ve got people at a variety of levels who participate and we were all beginners at one point in time And thanks to all who participate in Genealogy Tip of the Day! It is appreciated. Check out Ancestry’s current offers!
Sometimes the connection the adminstrator of an estate has to the deceased is obvious or easy to determine. Sometimes it’s not. It’s always worth finding out if there is a connection. For years, I assumed incorrectly that the administrator of the estate of Michael Trautvetter who died in Hancock County, Illinois, was a neighbor, friend, or interested creditor. I knew little about Trautvetter’s family and, after a while, gave up on determining what the relationship was. Years later, after learning more about the family it was discovered that the administrator of the estate was the husband of a daughter of Trautvetter’s sister. The sister had a marriage in Germany I was unaware of and that was the maiden name of the administrator’s wife–which meant nothing to me at the time. Always […]
Classified ads can contain all sorts of ancestral clues. This 1887 era ad from Illinois suggests that there were problems in the marriage of George Ann Cline and her husband, Robert. The ad states that he has no authority to act for George Ann in any manner regarding any of her property, be it personal or mixed. The reference to property makes one wonder if George Ann had property from before marriage earnings, a previous marriage, or an inheritance. The newspaper reference suggests that court records be accessed for a divorce between the couple as well as probate and land records in the area. Ads of this type were not uncommon in the late 18th and 19th centuries and even into the 20th.
I have numerous obituaries for my ancestor Heipka (Mueller) Dirks who died in Coatsburg, Adams County, Illinois, in 1924. For the most part they contain the same set of details about her life. When one has an obituary for a person from three or more newspapers it would seem that all the bases are covered. That’s not necessarily true. I recently located another obituary for her in a Camp Point, Illinois, newspaper. It is the only obituary for her which indicates where the family attended church before one of the “correct” denomination was built in the town where they actually lived. I had already located the records the discovery was not earth-shattering. But it makes the point that another “copy of the same thing” may not be the […]
Two excellent ways to strengthen your research is to write it up and to cite what you write. It is especially true on a person or family that is giving you difficulties. Write for an imaginary reader that does not know anything about the family. Explain what you know, how you know it, and where you got it. Give reasons for your conclusions. Have a source or reference for every statement of fact that you make. Re-evaluate those statements you can’t document. Writing for someone else to read and understand often helps us to get at errors or omissions in our research. Citing our sources frequently does the same thing. You don’t have to be as dogged as Riley in citing your sources, but some attention to them […]
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Most of us have asked someone a question or said something to someone only to have their response to us make it clear that they did not understand what we said. Is that why your relative gave “off-the-wall” answers to the census taker, records clerk, etc.? A person’s difficulty in understanding the question can be compounded by age, hearing difficulties, cognitive abilities, native language, etc. Do not assume that your relative really understood what they were being asked.
Sound genealogy methodology indicates that witnesses on documents should always be researched for a potential connection to the person for whom they are witnessing a document. That’s good advice. Just remember that not every witness had a connection to the person who actually was signing the document. Samuel Neill became a citizen in Hancock County, Illinois, in 1880. A quick search of the 1880 census indicated that the witness on his naturalization was the county collector who apparently had no connection to Neill other than he was in the courthouse on the day Neill naturalized. Sometimes witnesses are simply other adults of legal age who were in the vicinity of your ancestor.
Some city directories contained two sets of abbreviations: a general set that applied to entries across the United States and a second set that applied to the specific geographic region the directory covered. The second set, if there is one, may appear right before the alphabetical list of names. The general set likely is on its own page. The specific abbreviations typically contain abbreviations for employers common in the area.
Ira Sargent is enumerated in the 1850 and 1860 US Census under the last name of his step-father, Asa Landon. Ira was born in the 1840s and his father, Clark Sargent, died around 1848. By 1850 his mother had married Asa Landon. Ira’s 1870 marriage record is probably the first document where he actually provided his name to the records clerk. Chances are someone else gave his name to the 1850 and 1860 census enumerator. Your relative might have known his “name,” but might never have had a chance to give it to the clerk, enumerator, etc. until after he was “of age.” Is that why you can’t find your person in any record until they get married?
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