I realize county boundary changes can create genealogical research challenges, but there are times when it seems like some individuals think those changes are the solution to every research problem. It’s not. Just because an approach works sometimes or because you heard a professional use it a few times does not mean that the approach works all the time. An individual was having difficulty locating the birth certificate of their ancestor in a rural Illinois county in 1902. The first two responses to their question were: “did the county boundary change?” It is important to be aware of county boundary changes. There is no doubt about that, but context matters. By 1902 in most US states east of the Mississippi River (and quite a few others to be […]
Some researchers are anxious to begin their foreign research as soon as they learn they have an ancestor born in a foreign country. This hasty approach may cause you to look in the wrong place or to lack adequate information to perform your search “across the pond.” Research the ancestor in the area of settlement first, as completely as possible. Doing so may provide more detailed information about his or her origins and may also give you names of potential siblings or relatives who might be easier to track across the ocean. Complete research in the area of settlement (expanding into known relatives who immigrated as well) generally helps the researcher to pinpoint where “across the pond” they need to research. There are exceptions (my Annie Murphy for […]
We often want something “personal” about our ancestor and, when pictures are not available, signatures can be a great substitute. Just make certain that it really is your relative’s signature and not something written by the clerk or records official. In the US, record copies of deeds, wills, and other documents contain transcriptions of what was in the original document–including the signature. That’s the case with the “handwriting” of the Sledds’ in the illustration. It is from the record copy of the deed they signed. The record copy of a record is the official copy retained by the local records office. If you have located an image of the actual deed, will, etc. then that rendering usually is the actual signature. The 1889 signature of Ulfert Behrens (as […]
It can be easy to get bogged down in thinking you have a location of a genealogical event correct or that it “couldn’t have happened anywhere else” or it “couldn’t have happened there.” Thinking such thoughts can cause the researcher to make incorrect interpretations, overlook materials that could provide information, etc. Is it possible that the place of birth you have for an ancestor could be wrong? Look at the actual source of that information and ask yourself exactly how reliable is that type of record and what is the probability that the likely informant on the record actually had good knowledge of the information? Help support Genealogy Tip of the Day by visiting any of the following sites: Try a GenealogyBank Genealogy Search to see what you find. Newspapers.com FamilyTreeDNA AncestryDNA offers MyHeritage […]
A DNA test is not a pair of socks. A DNA test is not some coffee table book that will sit unopened gathering dust until your children clean out your house and donate it or throw it away. Once taken and submitted for analysis, a DNA test has the potential to unlock some details about your family’s past and start a lifelong trek of wonderful discovery. For those with little interest, it may be a fifteen minute diversion. Then there are other situations. A DNA test also has the potential to create extreme family distress and discord if it turns out that “close” family members are not “family” after all or that there are some “close” family members that no one ever knew about. DNA test results can […]
Sometimes relationship terms are also used as terms of affection, even if there is no biological relationship. Take care when a letter, diary, or a relative refers to someone as an “aunt” or an “uncle.” The use of the term may have been done out of respect and not necessarily indicate a biological relationship. Of course, you may gain some clues or insight by researching this person, but if you find no biological connection between the individual and your family be open to the possibility that “Grandma” wasn’t really “Grandma” after all. Those non-biological relationships mattered to our ancestors and they should matter to us as well. They give us a fuller picture of our ancestor’s life. They can help us overcome some of those research challenges that […]
Happy Thanksgiving to our readers in the US. I’ve been thinking about what genealogical discoveries I’ve been thankful for other the past year or so—and making certain that I’ve documented those findings, organized the material that I have located, and reviewed the material for extra clues contained in those items that I may have overlooked. That last part is perhaps the best: it’ll take me a while to review the Virginia chancery court cases that have been my best discoveries of the year. If you’re inclined to spend a little money over the post-Thanksgiving weekend, considering using these links as it helps Genealogy Tip of the Day when you do. AncestryDNA FamilyTreeDNA
So you interviewed your relative twenty years ago when you first started genealogy. Have you thought about interviewing them again? Maybe they remember something now they didn’t remember before or are willing to discuss something they didn’t want to discuss twenty years ago. You may have discovered new information you want to mention to them or ask them about. Relatives who “were the reason they kept quiet about certain things” may not longer be living and the reason to be quiet may be gone. It is worth a shot. Help support Genealogy Tip of the Day by visiting any of the following sites: Try a GenealogyBank Genealogy Search to see what you find. Newspapers.com FamilyTreeDNA AncestryDNA offers Books on Michael’s Genealogy Shelf
Why would an ancestor give a child $1 (or another token amount) in a will? Basically to show that they had not been left out. The child could have had a falling out with their parent, or perhaps the parent had already given them their inheritance, maybe when they got married, started some type of business, bought their first farm ground, etc. Don’t assume that a token bequest in a will means that the individuals had a falling out. Help support Genealogy Search Tip of the Day by visiting any of the following sites: Try a GenealogyBank Genealogy Search to see what you find. Newspapers.com FamilyTreeDNA AncestryDNA offers Books on Michael’s Genealogy Shelf
I discovered quite a few court case references to members of my families in Amherst County, Bedford County, and the City of Lynchburg, Virginia, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Because of that, I assumed that my family lived in the general area where those three jurisdictions meet. My research focused on those counties and cities met. Campbell County was a logical location to search for references as well. But apparently, one widow ancestor moved to Augusta County, some time before 1799 and a dispute over her estate was located in the Chancery Court records of that county. I had assumed that she had remained in the county where her husband had died earlier and where most of her children lived. I was wrong. One of […]
Kicking ideas or pieces of information around can help us to see additional perspectives that might not be obvious otherwise. But there comes a time when one has to stop kicking around the individual pieces and start to see if there is any trend that appears. Our first organization approach may not be as successful as in the illustration. We may have to try multiple strategies before a clear picture emerges. Organizing information chronologically (in a timeline), geographically (on a contemporary map), by perceived reliability of record, by record type, etc. are all ways to sort details in hopes that trends are noticed after the sorting. There may be gaps in any organization. Your ancestor may not have left records during a decade of his life, some records […]
Don’t assume that when a document lists the children of a deceased individual that the children have to be listed in any specific order. They may be listed from oldest to youngest. They may not. The boys may all be listed first in order of age and then the girls in the same way. The living ones may be listed first in order of age followed by any children who were deceased. If you think the children are listed in a specific orders and have a conclusion based on that perceived ordering–state your reason for the belief that the children are listed in a specific order in a certain record. Don’t just assume something is true based on a gut feeling. Help support Genealogy Tip of the Day by visiting […]
The consideration on a land record is what changed hands in order to pay for the real estate being transferred. If the consideration is “love and affection,” “natural love,” or a token money amount, try and determine what relationship existed between the grantors and the grantees. Land records with token amounts are frequently used to transfer land between family members, but not always. The challenge for the researcher is that these records don’t specify the relationship. After all, everyone alive at the time already knew what those relationships were. Help support Genealogy Tip of the Day by visiting any of the following sites: Try a GenealogyBank Genealogy Search to see what you find. AncestryDNA offers Books on Michael’s Genealogy Shelf
Individuals can be referenced in the court records of their “home county” or area long after they have left. James Tinsley left the Amherst/Bedford County area of Virginia around 1800 when he and his family headed for Kentucky. He played a part in a lawsuit in Amherst County, Virginia, that was eventually settled in 1841 and filed for record around that time–40 years after he left the state. In 1822 he made out a power-of-attorney to Robert Tinsley (his brother, but the relationship is not stated in the document) to deal with the case involving property Tinsley acquired from members of the Rucker family. Other documents in the case clarify Tinsley’s relationship to the Rucker family, clearly indicate who his wife’s father was, and who several of Tinsley’s […]
Don’t forget if you have found that will in the packet of probate papers for your ancestor that there might be a “will record” contained with the probate records as well. Not all jurisdictions kept these records (which are actually transcriptions of the will and served as the legal equivalent thereof), but many did. Perhaps if the will has a difficult to read portion, is partially missing, or open to interpretation, the transcription in the “will record,” done after the will was admitted to probate, will answer your questions. In the United States, probates are local records typically maintained originally at the county court given jurisdiction over probate matters. In some states they are recorded at another local level besides the county–generally in New England states and independent […]
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