Civil & Church Records of Marriage

Remember that if the civil record of a marriage indicates your ancestor was married by a minister, there may be a church record of the marriage as well. That record may provide additional information besides what is on the civil (government) record of the marriage.

The Grandparents My Grandparents Knew

I remember three of my grandparents. That got me to thinking about the grandparents that my grandparents might have actually know. This was a good little exercise that got me to thinking. Overlapping lifespans are not the only factor that can impact how well someone knew a grandparent. Geographic proximity, health, and family dynamics can also play a role.

  • Cecil Neill (1903-1968). Two grandparents died before his birth. Remaining ones lived near where he grew up and lived. One died when he was eight and the other when he was twenty-one.
  • Ida Trautvetter (1910-1994). Two grandparents died before her birth. One died when she was six, but was hospitalized much of that time. Other one died when she was seven and lived nearby.
  • John H. Ufkes (1917-2003). Grandmothers died before his birth. One grandfather died the year he was born. Other grandfather, who lived nearby, died when he was five. A great-grandmother died when he was seven.
  • Dorothy Habben (1924-2008). Maternal grandfather died before her birth. Maternal grandmother died when she was eight (lived thirty miles away). Paternal grandfather died when she was fifteen and paternal grandmother died when she was seventeen. They lived a few miles away.

Relative age within the family can play a role as well in whether or not someone knew their grandparents. How many of their grandparents did your grandparents know?

Chart Double Relationships

Charts serve to organize and summarize what we know. They can also be a ready reference when we cannot keep things straight in our head. I have quite a few relatives to whom I am related in more than one way. That can compound challenges when working with autosomal DNA test results as the shared double connections (at least for me) are often 5th great-grandparents or closer.

These double connections can impact the amount of shared DNA we have (not necessarily doubling it at all). It can also impact the shared matches. Some of the double relationships I have in my head, but it’s impossible to keep them all at the ready mental reference.

So I made a chart. The relationship is not completely stated, but there’s enough detail in the chart so that I know what couples I have double connections with and a general idea of how both the wife and husband are related. I can refer to additional information if necessary. The chart just serves as a quick way to know if both the husband and wife in a couple are related to me.

The illustration is just a partial list.

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Who Cared for the Kids?

[posted to our Facebook page and am sharing because I think it’s always worth thinking about]

Who watched the kids?

Have you thought about who took care of your ancestor’s children? If the mother died young, what happened (since typically the mother had childcare responsibilities)? If the mother worked outside the home, who took care of the children? If the father died young, was the mother able to support them herself? Were there relatives close enough to watch them without them having to leave the home? Were there older children who could help out? What if all the children were too young for one of them to help care for the others?

This is something to consider no matter the time period or location of your research. Families with more financial means usually had more options and potentially less disruption for the remaining family members than did those families with fewer financial resources. When my male ancestor in his late 40s lost his wife in 1888, there were young children in the household, but there were daughters in their late teens who I am assuming helped with childcare. This family, while not “well set,” did not live a hand-to-mouth existence. Another male ancestor, about the same age, with two children under ten lost his wife about the same time in about the same location (rural western Illinois-USA). There were no children old enough to help out and this family lived pretty much a hand-to-mouth existence. There were no relatives in the area and his two daughters ended up being raised by neighboring families as foster children. Women usually had additional challenges. A 50-something female ancestor lost her husband in 1913. Her children ranged in age from ten to nearly thirty. She had a small farm, paid off, and children to help her with the labor. She never remarried and managed the farm herself. I have other female ancestors who were not left in such a situation and for many another marriage was the option. It just depended on the situation. My thirty-something female ancestor whose husband died in Kentucky in 1815 never remarried and farmed the land with her children–her two oldest sons at the time would have been in their mid teens.

Have you thought about who took care of the children? It should always be on your genealogy plate if a parent dies (or becomes incapacitated) when there are still young children.

Estate Inventories are Usually Grouped

Transcribing old estate inventories can be a challenge. The handwriting can be difficult to read. The spellings can be phonetic and sometimes based on a pronunciation that is foreign to a modern speaker of the same language. The items may be household or farm items that have not been used in centuries.

Google searches will not resolve every difficult to transcribe item. While items can be listed in an estate inventory in any order, they are usually grouped–either by purpose of the item or where they were located on the property. This is more likely if you are using the estate inventory appraisal and not the list of estate items sold. The appraisal of the estate was more likely to be done by walking around the property. This can sometimes be visualized when thinking about the items as you are transcribing them.

Are they in the house (and the kitchen, living area, etc.)? Are they in the barn? Are they walking around the field? Where would the other items listed near this item probably be located on the property?

Estate inventories, like other records, are best analyzed when one thinks how was this item originally created?

I’ll Always Remember That

A friend from high school asked me how many class periods we had “back in the day.” My memory was not clear. Funny thing was “back in the day” I thought that was something I would never forget.

It’s a trivial detail, but it reminded me that the time to write down what we remember is now, not later. That’s true for genealogy conclusions we reach, things we remember about our grandparents or other relatives, and things we remember about our own lives.

Memories fade.

Details do matter. They help us to flesh out the lives of our ancestors and of ourselves. My friend Joe wanted the detail for a short story he was writing and he wanted the details right. Genealogists want the same thing. In fact this friend, who is not a genealogist, read my first Genealogy Tip of the Day book to snag errors and statements that weren’t quite clear–which was a great help. It always helps to have someone read what you have written, even if they aren’t a genealogist.

Joe writes fantasy fiction based in the relatively recent past and sometimes his memory of our hometown isn’t always perfect either. I’ve reminded him a time of two of things he could not remember and even made him aware of local newspapers available online for free. You can visit Joe’s author page on and learn more about his work.

But do write down your own memories and anything else you might forget because sooner or later you will forget.

Was the Newspaper Being Snarky?

Theoretically newspapers are supposed to stick to verifiable facts. That does not always happen–particularly in the gossipy correspondent columns that appeared in some weekly newspapers. My ancestor, when he married his second wife, is referred to in the newspaper as a “well-to-do citizen” of a neighboring township. Based upon what I have learned about his life before and after this marriage, the reference seems to be slightly facetious.

The date and place of marriage was correct. The additional reference, which I included in the transcription, is taken with a grain of salt.

Say It Out Loud

When transcribing a document (or trying to interpret creative spelling that is clear to read), consider reading the item or document out loud. Sometimes words that don’t click when read silently do when heard aloud.

Talking to yourself may have the added benefit of others in your household leaving you alone–allowing you to focus on your research.

A Reunion Activity

Do you know who all those people are at the reunion?

A genealogy exercise that may yield some discoveries is to go through a reunion announcement and determine how the attendees are related. At some reunions, relative by marriage, current friends (especially significant others) and former neighbors may be in attendance. Do not assume everyone in attendance was a biological relative. But going through the names in an attempt to determine “who they are” may help you locate some new clues

And since most of these announcements are twentieth-century documents, they may help you figure out a few DNA matches as well.

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The Brick Wall Break

If you are not making progress on that brick wall, considering doing one of these alternate genealogy activities:

  • digitizing something you have that has not been digitized before;
  • putting identification information on digital images of pictures;
  • writing up one of your solved problems;
  • organizing and cleaning your digital genealogy files;
  • reviewing a family you thought you were “done with;”
  • finding ways to preserve and share answers to questions you have already solved;
  • reaching out to that family member you have been avoiding for information;
  • improving your genealogy skills by reading an article, watching a webinar, looking into classes, etc.;
  • washing the dishes.

That last one was a joke. There are a variety of genealogy things you can do when you have “genealogy time,” but that brick wall has you frustrated.

Come to think of it, washing the dishes (or doing one non-genealogy task) might be the temporary distraction you need.