Thinking About How to Improve that Chart or Form

Quite a few years ago, we mentioned the use of discrepancy charts to analyze statements from different documents that provide pieces of information that disagree with each other. Looking at that chart now, there are some changes that I would make.

I would add a column for the date of the document so that the table could be sorted by when the information was provided. A column for perceived reliability would be helpful as well–as long as my reason for that perception is included.

Always be thinking of ways that any analytical tools you use could be improved. It’s not bad to keep thinking of ways things could be better. At the bottom of my table I add my conclusion about the information referenced in the chart–along with my reason.

The reason. Never forgot to document your reason.

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Will Date Vs. Probate Dates

The entry for Chapman J. Tinsley in “Virginia, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1652-1900” indicates that the will was dated on the same date it was admitted to probate.

That’s not how it works. The will date is the date the will was signed by the testator. The probate date is the date it is admitted to probate by the judge of the court that handles probate matters in the relevant jurisdiction.

Other reminders here are to look at the original and to find the actual book in which the item is recorded–as Ancestry references several books for this item (without a page number either).


Try a GenealogyBank Genealogy Search to see what you find.

Female Whose Marriage Didn’t Change Their Name

The will of an ancestor mentioned provisions for his children. The daughters all had surnames different from the testator–except for one who had the same last name as the will-writing ancestor. I assumed she was not married at the time the will was written.

I was wrong.

She was married. She simply married a distant cousin with the same last name as hers. For that reason her last name did not change upon her marriage and the lack of a name change made me initially assume that she was not married.

If it can happen in the Tinsley family, it can certainly happen in the Smiths, Browns, or families with more common names.


Try a GenealogyBank Genealogy Search to see what you find.

The Last How-To Book You Read…and Thought About

Many genealogists are self-taught for a variety of reasons. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as long as a person realizes that there may be gaps in their knowledge–of sources, methods, local history, culture, sociology, etc. Even genealogists that are not self-taught have gaps in their knowledge if they are willing to admit it.

It never hurts to read a book or guide to the area you are researching in, even if you skim it quickly–especially if it has been a while since you have read such material. You may pick up a new thought, idea, source, or suggestion–or may even think of how you would have done the book differently.

And if you find a suggestion or reference in the book that you think is wrong, double check before you assume the author was incorrect. It may be that the reader had just discovered a gap or error in their own knowledge. I also use pencil to annotate reference books in my collection as well as that helps with my learning and retention of material

This page on our site has a list of books that are on my genealogy bookshelf.


Try a GenealogyBank Genealogy Search to see what you find.

Periodic Photo Reminder

Consider this your periodic reminder to digitize those photographs, especially new ones that you may have recently obtained. This image of Virgil Rampley was purchased on Ebay. Digital images of it were made as soon as I took it out of the envelope.

Don’t delay making those digital images.

ABC Order is Not Your Friend

When an index or manual searching takes you to an ancestral entry in a census, tax, or other list entry in an original record, take times to look at the neighboring names. Are the names in rough alphabetical order? If so neighborhood clues can’t be inferred from the proximity of names.

That is unless all the “B” surnames lived in the same part of the county.

When You and the Camera Visit the Cemetery

It is never enough to take just one picture when at the cemetery. I try and take at least the following types of shots while there:

  • The entire stone as a closeup–including a variety of angles if legibility is an issue.
  • Closer closeups of any inscriptions that are unique or difficult to read.
  • Closeups of immediately adjacent stones.
  • An overview picture showing relative position of stone of interest to nearby stones. Do this from several angles to get all nearby stones.
  • A broader view that shows the location of the stone within the cemetery–near large trees, mausoleums, etc.
  • A picture of any notes I made while looking at the stone.
  • A picture of the entrance to the cemetery with the cemetery’s name.

WolframAlpha.com for Genealogy

It’s really a math website, but it will do a variety of things that a genealogist might find helpful, including:

  • Calculate the days between two dates–sample.
  • Specific number of years, months, and days before a certain date–sample.
  • Specific number of years, months, and days after a certain date–sample.
  • What day of week a date was on (and other historical facts about that date)–sample.
  • When a holiday was in a certain year–sample.
  • Popularity and other information about a first name–sample. Doesn’t work so well with unusual names.
  • Popularity and other information about a last name–sample. Doesn’t work so well with unusual names.
  • Information on a town in a specific state–sample.
  • Geographic conversions–sample. (Google’s good at these too)
  • Cousinship questions–sample. Their chart isn’t the best, but it gives an idea. Here’s a better question.

There are other things you may find helpful on WolframAlpha.com as well–including math stuff!


Try a GenealogyBank Genealogy Search to see what you find.

Clues in Schools

There are a variety of ways school could give you clues to your family. Old pictures of a school a relative attended could help jog their memory of school and other events and people. Knowing where someone attended school as a child could help find the family in a census or local church records, particularly for urban ancestors. And you could always document a chronology of school attendance as well.

Who Was the Administrator?

An uncle of mine died in the 1860s leaving no descendants and his siblings or the children of his deceased siblings as his heirs. The administrator of his estate was someone whose name I did not recognize and someone whose name also did not appear among the list of heirs.

After much research, I discovered that the administrator was married to one of the daughters of an heir of the estate–making him a nephew-in-law. I had initially thought he was a creditor of the deceased as those individuals sometimes get appointed to settle up the estate. That was not the case here as the administrator’s name did not appear on the list of individuals to whom my recently deceased uncle owed money.

He was a relative by marriage and since his wife’s mother (a sister to the deceased uncle) was still alive, the wife’s mother was the heir–not the administrator’s wife.