The Giver of the Affidavit

A man and woman had four children “without benefit of marriage” in the 1790s in Virginia. This relationship necessitated documentation of the relationship in order for the children to inherit from the father.

That’s not the tip.

The mother of the four children testified in the 1820s to their relationship to their father–that’s not expected. To strengthen their case another woman testified to the parentage at the same time. If there was a relationship of this woman to the family it is not stated. But she had at the very least known of the relationship between the man and woman during the time the children were born–she testifies to that.

This woman is one who warrants further research. While she may not have had any biological relationship to the children in question, she at the very least must have been a near neighbor to the parents of the children. There’s also a reasonable probability that she was related to one of the parents–either biologically or by marriage.

At the very least this witness warrants further research. Whenever someone provides testimony about members of a family and their relationships that someone is someone who should be researched.

The Getting When You Can Reminder

We have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating…

Don’t assume that online site will “always be there” and you can always go and get what you need. Make a copy of that image for yourself while you have it on your screen. Save the information while you have access to it.

Websites go down. Fee-based websites sometimes lose the ability to include certain items in their subscription. Websites change how things are organized and what you could find a month ago is impossible to find. Your cousin could remove their online tree from that hosting site.

You may find yourself unable to continue to pay for that monthly subscription to that database site that includes images.

Save it while you can. Name it in a way that makes sense. Save it where you can find it. Make backup copies.

Later you will be glad you did.

You Don’t All Share the Same Bits

Analyzing DNA matches can sometimes be confusing. One issue is the bits of shared DNA that get passed down through the succeeding generations of the family. The visual with my ancestor Erasmus Trautvetter’s simplifies the genetic process, but serves to illustrate what potentially could happen.

Among all the DNA Erasmus had in his body, let’s focus on two chunks: chunk 1 and chunk 2. Only chunk 1 is passed down to son Henry. Chunks 1 and 2 are passed down through son George and chunk 2 is passed down through daughter Ernestine. Henry passes chunk 1 to one of his descendants. George’s chunk and 2 are passed down through several generations until another George. The second George passed chunk 1 down to all of his descendants, but I am the only descendant of the second George who got chunks 1 and 2. Ernestine passed down chunk 2 to one of her descendants.

For that reason, all of us in the current DNA are not matches for each other. Those of us with chunk 1 all match. Those of us with chunk 2 all match. But the descendants with only chunk 1 in their DNA will not see the descendants with only chunk 2 in their DNA.

Search the DNA Match Trees

I was looking for two “missing” grandsons of an ancestral couple who married in Germany in the 1790s. The men had the common name of Hess and while I knew where they lived shortly after immigration to the United States they seemed to have dropped off the radar after 1855 or so when they would have been in their early twenties.

They were alive until at least 1871 when they were heirs to an estate in Illinois. Those records indicated they were alive, but that one could not be found. The records provided no clues as to where the one who could be found was living. If they lived until 1871 they would have been in their forties and old enough to have left their own descendants.

Then I looked at my DNA matches to known descendant s of the couple who married in the 1790s. Some of those matches had trees attached–incomplete ones most of the time. Two of those trees had men with the last name of Hess as ancestors–not back far enough to help make an immediate connection, but at least a clue.

My next step is to trace those Hess men in other records to see if their ancestry has a connection to the Hess grandchildren of my ancestors that I am looking for.

After all, the presence of that name in the trees may be a coincidence. The actual connection could be through one of the other blanks in those trees.

What Hamp?

When I was small, “What hamp?” was my phrase when I wanted to know what was going on.

As a genealogist, I’m still asking it.

Documents and records are usually created in response to some event. For vital records, the event taking place should be obvious. Probate records are also the result of an obvious event. But the precipitating event behind other documents may not be quite so obvious. An quit claim deed listing all the heirs may have resulted from the death of a surviving parent or the youngest heir coming of age and finally being able to legally execute a document. A partition of an estate may have resulted from one heir needing money from the estate or a group of the heirs having disagreement about the property. Or the attorney may said that “now would be a good time to do this before there is trouble.”

Even a family photograph may have been the result of a graduation, visit of family from a distance, etc.

Once in a while things happen for no reason, but it is still a good problem-solving technique to ask yourself, “what might have been going on to cause this document to be executed and recorded when it was?”

And the documents don’t always tell us what “hamp.” Sometimes we have to do a little snooping–and there’s still no guarantee we find the reason.

The Best for that Place

My ancestor was born in Kentucky, most likely in 1818 or 1819. I’m not certain of the year. I may never be certain of the year and there is actually little chance that I ever find a reasonably reliable record containing his precise date of birth.

And that’s just fine. It’s also the reality of this time period and location. There were no civil records of births when he was born in Kentucky. No bible record has been located. He was not in the military so there’s no service record, enlistment papers, or benefit application that could be helpful either. The family was not a member of a church that kept any sort of records of dates of birth–or even ages. The ancestor died in the 1880s in Missouri and no death certificate can be located–it likely would not give date of birth any way. No tombstone is known to be extant.

I’m not really that concerned that I have no precise date of birth. Census records are relatively consistent with an 1818/1819 year of birth. My bigger concerns are: tying him to his parents, his spouse, and his children–all of which has been done with a variety of original records containing primary information.

Sometimes it simply is not possible to get a date of birth for some individuals. That’s not a “brick wall.” It’s reality.

Webinar on Getting Most from FamilySearch 28 Sept 2021

Getting the Most from FamilySearch 7:30 pm. central 28 Sept 2021 (note date/time change). Attend live (handout included) or pre-order recording and handout–registration information below.

The FamilySearch site contains images of records from around the world—most available right from your internet connection. This presentation will focus on the actual records that are on FamilySearch and the finding aids that have been created to some of those records. We will not be discussing the online trees in this session and will concentrate on the “digital microfilm” and how that information can be navigated and used for your research. We will break the material down into two large categories: indexed and unindexed digital records. Presentation will be made by Michael John Neill and will include:

Generalized search strategy. It is easy to become overwhelmed with what is on FamilySearch. We will start with a generalized organizational strategy to effectively and efficiently navigate what is on the site.

Searching indexed digital record sets: determining what records are in the database, determining what names from the records are in the index, creating effective search queries, and organizing and tracking conducted searches.

Searching the catalog for non-indexed record images: making certain all political jurisdictions covering a specific location have been searched, determining if locally created indexes were created to records, and tracking manual searches of unindexed digital images.

Requesting copies of records will also be discussed.

Live presentation—via GotoWebinar—on 28 September 2021 at 7:30 pm. US Central Time.

Register for live attendance—$16.

Pre-order recording and handout from session–$12.

Read the Original Before Incorporating that Transcribed Location

Ancestry, FamilySearch, and other online genealogical data storehouses attempt to make it easier to “grow your tree” by allowing the user to directly import a transcription from a record into an “event” for a person in their tree.

It truly makes it “point and click” easy to add events and locations to an online tree. It’s the reason why many online trees indicate my great-grandmother died in Wapello County, Iowa instead of Lee County, Iowa (because the location was transcribed incorrectly). It’s the reason why ancestor Focke Goldenstein is listed as having a variety of “first names” of which several stem from incorrect transcriptions of records (some come from his name being spelled wrong, which is a slightly different problem).

Read the original record before including something from that record in your tree. Transcriptions can be incorrect.

From Whence the Estimate?

Every date you enter for your ancestor’s life needs to have a source. That includes dates that are estimated.

If you are using the fact that a man got married without permission on 2 June 1891 when the age for a man in that location to get married without permission was twenty-one as evidence for his date of birth, then indicate that. In this case, you should state he was born before 3 June 1870, cite the marriage record (and in your notes explain the age requirement and the fact that no permission was given–it might even be a good idea to read quite a few other records besides those of the ancestor to see if any of them do have permission notated).

If you are using an ancestor’s 1850 census enumeration as their “last known alive date” cite that census for the “dead after” date and in your notes indicate what searches of other records have been conducted.

Never indicate a date is exact when it is not. Often in genealogical research we know an event took place before or after a certain date. Cite your source(s) and in your notes explain–particularly if the reasoning may not be obvious to someone else (or even to you later).