It was ingrained in my head from a small child to always read something over before you signed it. It seemed like pretty good advice. Apparently Thomas and John Sledd, Sr. of Louisa County, Virginia, in the 1820s did not follow that same advice. John Sledd, Sr. was the grantor on the deed and his bill of complaint and the deposition of his son Thomas indicated that Sr. did not read the deed until after it was recorded. Oops. The deed included property that was not supposed to be a part of the transaction. Because the deed had been recorded, the Sledd’s apparent recourse was to have a “friendly suit” to petition for the court to correct the deed. There is no indication in the bill of complaint […]
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.
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Analyzing records requires that we think about how the original was created. This 1891 era death register page from Adams County, Illinois, may suggests that the entries were sorted by first letter of their last name in the register. That can be seen by noticing that the initial letter of each surname is the same. It is also clear looking at the certificate numbers in the left column that these items were not entered in sequential order. When looking at any set of records, try and determine how they were organized. Sometimes this will be obvious and other times it will not be. Sometimes the individual who microfilmed or digitized the items included the enough contextual information that the organization is obvious, sometimes they did not. Whenever a […]
For those ancestors who died in the last hundred years or so, consider these locations when looking for an obituary: place of death place of birth place of marriage any places of “significant residence” Obituaries or death notices may appear in newspapers in any of those areas. This is not true for most 19th century deaths, but you never know.
I’ll be honest. I do a fair amount of my genealogy research by brute force. That’s not always the most efficient way to go. I’ve been doing a fair amount of work lately on first cousins of my great and great-great-grandparents. Approximately one fourth of them lived a significant portion of their life in Adams and Hancock Counties in Illinois. There are digital newspapers available for several newspapers in those counties and in nearby towns in adjacent counties. Many of these are hosted on local library or historical websites. There are some newspapers available at the Library of Congress or on one or more of the fee-based sites. There are various digitized county records available at FamiySearch. Some of these are included at Ancestry or other sites to […]
Early in my research I located a divorce record for my ancestor. I assumed it was the only one and I never bothered to search court records for a longer period. That was a mistake. There were two divorces–both from the same man. My aunt’s separation and eventual divorce from her husband in Illinois in the 1918-1922 era resulted in three separate court cases: a separate maintenance suit, a partition, and an eventual divorce. I learned a long time ago to always search for more reference to an ancestor in most sets of records. Your ancestor may have purchased and sold a piece of property that no one later in the family was ever aware of (that’s how I discovered my relative owned a mill for about five […]
Knowing how your relative likely said their name makes it easier to know when you have run across a reasonable variant or to determine what variants for which to look. There are numerous genealogy groups on social media where you can find out how your Swedish ancestor said their last name, how your Irish ancestor may have pronounced his place of birth, or the way your German ancestor may have said his first name. This knowledge matters. Sometime before she died, I heard my great-grandmother say her grandmother’s maiden name of “Behrens.” It sounded somewhat like a combination of Burnes and Barnes with a little more “umph” to it that one would say “Burnes” or “Barnes.” But that is why I find the name written as Barnes, Burnes, […]
One can be tempted to avoid getting marriage records for those unions that do not result in descendants. That’s a mistake. The record itself may tell you something about the relative that you do not know. The spouse in which you are “not interested” may actually be a relative (in some other way) by marriage or blood and that could be a clue as well. And in some cases, like the one I’m working on now, the marriage that resulted in no children was to a Civil War veteran and that resulted in the wife getting a widow’s pension which may tell me more about her origins and her first marriage.
When there are quite a few small, weekly newspapers within “shouting distance” of your ancestral family it can be difficult to search all of them for references to your ancestor. We tend to focus on the newspapers that are the nearest to where the ancestor lived and perhaps the nearest daily paper that may have contained a reference as well. This clipping refers to a fire that destroyed my great-grandparents’ home a few miles from Basco, Hancock County, Illinois, in 1923. I have known about the fire since I was a small child. I’ve seen other newspaper references to it in weekly papers within ten or so miles of their home and references to it in the two nearest daily newspapers. But this reference in the Camp Point […]
Contacting relatives to see if they have family photographs or other ephemera can take time. Sometimes there is no response or a response similar to “no and I don’t know of anyone who does.” In my collection of family photographs and other items, I have a few pictures of first cousins of my great-grandparents and the first cousin’s family. I do not have a whole lot, but I do have a few. I was actually able to recently contact a descendant of one of these first cousins and ask them if they would like the photograph (after making digital images for myself). The correspondent was a great-grandchild of the mother and wife in the picture and I am a great-grandchild of the first cousin of the wife who […]
If your ancestor was a local businessman, an advertisement in a newspaper or other publication can confirm where the business was located, dates on which the business was operated, business partners, etc. Advertisements may even include biographical information on the business owners (check out the comments on this Rootdig post to see a reference to an advertisement in Kansas that generated quite a bit of information).
Two people can look at a picture of a relative and think that person looks like two different individuals who are unrelated to each other even though they are related to the person in the photograph. It’s because we sometimes see the connection that we want to see. It’s also because sometimes a person can look like more than one relative. That same “seeing what we want to see” can happen when we analyze a document or a record. When interpreting a record or a statement in a document, try and view it with as open of a mind as possible. View it with the mindset of “what does this say” instead of “what do I hope this says.” Check out the books on my Genealogy Bookshelf.
Early in my research, when I did not know any better, I just assumed my female ancestor who died in Linn County, Iowa, in 1867 left no probate. Her husband had died in 1861 in Indiana and she left that state for Iowa shortly after his death. Most of her children were already in Linn County, Iowa. Her moving there made sense. She would have been approximately sixty-five years old at the time of her move and I just assumed that she moved in with her children and would have had no estate to probate, no land records, etc. Melinda provide me wrong. She bought ten or so acres in Iowa and had a home built on it. She owned the property when she died. There’s a wonderful […]
Sometimes records are only accessible onsite and travel is not an option. Sometimes records are in a foreign language and someone who can read and translate them is necessary. Sometimes things just don’t make sense and you need someone with expertise and experience to review your materials and make suggestions or do some research. Before you even consider hiring a professional: organize what you have–go through it, put it together, find the “sources,” transcribe it, summarize it see if there are other ways to access the records you need see if there’s a Facebook group, email list, or other group where you can post your questions–or get suggestions for someone who may be able to help see if you can translate the records yourself--but make certain you are understanding words correctly in […]
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