Repeated names can be clues to names of earlier family members. Repeated names are not guaranteed to mean that any given ancestor had a particular name, but names used over and over may mean something. A relative who died in the 1880s had several grandchildren who either had Riley as a first or a middle name. It may be a clue that there is a connection to someone with that name. It may just be a coincidence. If there was a child named Riley in every set of that relative’s children, it would be an even bigger clue. But it would still just be a clue. It’s not even what we would consider hard evidence. Don’t just look in your direct line of descent for name clues. Make […]
Remember instead of trying to prove that James is the father of Enoch, see if you can find everything you can on both James and Enoch and see what turns up. Analyze all that information you have located. Looking to prove a specific fact can cause you to overlook things that show that fact isn’t correct. Join Michael at either the Allen County Public Library in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, or the Family History Library in Salt Lake City this summer!
State statute defines who qualifies as the legal heir of someone who has died. While we can’t go into all possible scenarios in a short tip, generally the first heirs are a surviving spouse and any children or descendants. In the absence of those individuals, the qualifying heirs typically come from “further up the family tree,” starting with parents of the deceased and siblings of the deceased–or their descendants. State statue will dictate the specifics of who qualifies as an heir, which heirs have higher priority, and how far up the family tree the court has to look. Heirs have an interest in the estate, but a valid will, legally admitted to probate can direct that property be given to legal heirs, some legal heirs, or other individuals […]
One of the first questions I ask someone when they say they are stuck on an ancestor is what records they have accessed that may mention that ancestor. It’s an important question to ask and an important question to answer. Determining if you have “everything” is not always easy. There’s the records that are typically easier to access, such as vital records and census records. There may also be land records, probate records, court records, newspaper references, church records, naturalization records, military records (including pensions), a variety of federal records (besides census records), cemetery records, funeral home records, etc. One approach is to list every document you have that mentions an ancestor on which you are stuck. Then ask someone familiar with research and records in the areas […]
When you read through your research notes, summaries, commentaries, etc. is it always clear to whom you are referring when you use the word “she,” “he,” “they,” etc.? Pronouns are great, but if you are writing about several people and then starting using “she” or “he” are the references clear from the context? If not, consider re-writing or re-phrasing. Thomas Smith and Henry Johnson arrived in Colusa County, California, in 1856. Then he married one of the daughters of Jackson Brown and they moved to Oregon. Who got married to the daughter of Jackson Brown? It’s not clear, is it?
Have you ever read the probate section of state statute for the state in which you are researching? At the very least it may put you to sleep. On the other hand, you may learn something.
Stuck on a certain problem or document? If your computer is always “online,” consider temporarily turning off your internet connection while concentrating. Maybe even turn off the cell phone. Recently I was working on a christening record from the 1870s. It was written in German and mentioned two families. The temptation was to start surfing for information on the families before I really completed my attempt to translate the document. Sometimes it is good to brainstorm and jot down ideas one after the other when you cannot immediately do some of them. Being able to search immediately can easily get you distracted and cause you to lose focus on what you were originally trying to figure out. Without constant interruption or the temptation to be distracted I was […]
The abbreviation “inst.,” as in “7th inst.,” refers to a date in the present month. “Ult.,” as in the “8th ult.,” generally refers to the previous month.
Yesterday’s tip was a reminder to make digital images of those paper copies you may have sitting around. In my case, a large stack of those copies are of entire case files from court records. The copies were all stapled together because some of them were from multi-page documents, affidavits, statements, etc. I removed the staples. To keep me organized, prevent some confusion, and keep things together, I assigned a letter to each document and placed that in the corner of each page in any multi-page document. The extreme corner so as not to confuse the letter with any text on the document. I should have put numbers after the letters.
This “bond” was signed on 10 January 1827 to guarantee that the five individuals named would appear to give statements regarding a court case in Fleming County, Kentucky. The last three individuals appear to have actually signed the document. The first two individuals, James and Enoch Tinsley, do not appear to have actually signed the document. Their signatures look too similar to each other and to the writing in the text of the document. I don’t know why the Tinsleys did not actually sign the document themselves. One other individual, Margaret Reeves, made her “X” on the document. Based on that, inability to write does not appear to be the reason for the Tinsleys apparent failure to actually sign the document themselves. James could sign his name and […]
Nearly thirty-five years ago, I obtained approximately one hundred and fifty pages of photocopies of court cases from a county in Kentucky. The copies were high quality and are still legible, but I was reminded when looking through them that nothing lasts forever. It’s time to digitize them to preserve them. The staples that were used in some of them have rusted. The copies are from the court case files and are not available digitally. I need to preserve the copies I have. Digital images will make it easier to complete my transcription and analysis project. It will also make it easier to share the records with others who may be interested in them. What paper copies do you have that need to be saved in digital format? […]
One can be tempted to avoid ancestral court cases that focus on an ancestor’s business dealings. They are less likely to give family relationships than other cases–that’s true. But they can help you place a person in a place and a time. They can help establish who some of his business associates were–who may be relatives. There may be testimony about how his business was operated–providing interesting social history information. There may be details on his business or personal finances–providing potential information on his lifestyle or even suggesting other records to search. And if the business was a family business, those records could be even more interesting.
This Friday (15 April–a good diversion from Tax Day here in the US) we’ll be doing a follow up to our 1950 Prepping for the Census webinar with one on using the websites, searching, analyzing, and more! Details here.
The entry in my Mom’s calendar for 21 July 1994 says: Keith found G. Neill made funeral arrangements I can easily interpret the two lines because I know what happened on that date. I know that “G. Neill” is a reference to Grandma Neill and not some relative named Gerald or someone else whose name begins with the letter G. It’s when we don’t already know the information to which something is referring that interpretation can be difficult. “Found” in this case does not mean that she had been lost. It means that she was deceased when my father found her. The comment about making funeral arrangements is suggestive of what “found” meant in this case. That’s a good reminder to always look at things in context. When […]
Hasty research increases the chance that incorrect conclusions are made and that we include records for our “person of interest” who is not really our person of interest. To reduce the chance mistakes are made, take the records that you “know” are for your person of interest and estimate whichever items you do not have specifically: a time frame for when they were born an approximate location for where they were born a time frame for their marriage an approximate location for their marriage a time frame for their death an approximate location for their death For all of these approximations, include your reason why you think the time frames and locations are reasonable–you should have at least one source document. These reasons combined with the records are […]
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