For the genealogist, there’s nothing like visiting a cemetery–especially one a distance from your home where your ancestors are buried. I love to visit and get my own pictures, even if there may be better photographs available elsewhere. But think about what you leave behind you on that visit. I will go and get flowers to leave on the grave, but the only flowers I get are a small group of fresh-cut ones with no metal or plastic as a part of them. That way all I am leaving at the stone is a small amount of plant material that will wither and decay just like the grass clippings. I do not like to leave something that someone else will have to pick up, will get caught in […]
If your ancestor owned property and rented it out, it can be difficult to determine who the renters were. In the United States (and likely other areas as well) rental agreements and leases were not filed with any court on a regular basis. One place to potentially learn names of tenants is in court records. The 1907 estate partition for the estate of John C. Rampley in Hancock County, Illinois, indicated that the farm tenants were Robert Lowery, Phillip Schafer, and Charles Staff. In this case, the details of their lease was not known to the widow, but they were mentioned in the court case because they had an interest in the proceedings as they were tenants on the property that was subject to the partition suit. That’s […]
If you are fortunate enough to have ancestral ephemera, don’t forget to preserve those items that are artistic in nature when you are preserving newspaper clippings, photographs, and other paper items. I have three pieces of framed artwork created by my Grandmother. Paintings are not the only artwork you may have. Quilts, sketches, knitted or crocheted items, poems, and other handmade keepsakes should be preserved as well. Did Grandpa carve something you have in your possession? Remember that not all handmade items may be considered by purists as art. That’s fine–you’re not running an ancestral art gallery. Take a picture of the item. Share the images. Digital images are a great way to share the item without actually sharing the original. These images may potentially help to preserve […]
Do not assume that a reference to your relative as a “foreigner” means that they were from a different country. There are times and some records (eg. some town records in New England) where a reference to someone as a foreigner may simply indicate that they are from a different town or state. My uncle’s will was probated in Indiana in the 1980s and was needed to settle some property in Illinois where it was mentioned as a “foreign will.”
It’s hard to boil down genealogical “proof” into one short tip of the day, but one document by itself is usually not considered “proof” of anything. One document may contain evidence in support of a conclusion, but it’s important to remember that any one document can easily be incorrect. Proof, in the genealogical sense, is usually considered to be the written summary of the conclusion that is reached when a body of evidence (statements taken from individual documents) have been analyzed.
Want to gain insight into the time period in which your ancestor lived? Consider reading the local court order books page by page. This can be especially helpful in the United States before 1850. Court order books provide a journal of what actions the court took, when court was actually in session, etc. Many local court order books are online at FamilySearch. It will give you a better feel for what types of things you may find in these records, some insight into life during the time period, and help you to interpret the entries you have found for your family of interest. I gained quite a bit of local knowledge reading one for my Virginia county in the late 18th century. And my ability to read the […]
A codicil to a will is an amendment to an original will. It may create a new bequest or clause, it may cancel a specific section, provide additional clarification to a section of the will, or may modify a specific clause of the will. Codicils were more popular when wills were entirely handwritten or typed and rewriting an entire document for a seemingly minor change was more of a challenge than it is today. I have an ancestor who had a will and several codicils that were approved by the court in the 1930s. His codicils only addressed his will’s mention of property given to his daughter. There were separate codicils when her husband’s financial situation worsened, when her husband eventually died, and when the daughter died (having […]
Write down any piece of genealogy information before you forget it. Record any snippet of genealogy information in your genealogy database when you come across that information. If you use records to reach a conclusion, record that conclusion in the appropriate part of your database. You will forget things you think you will remember.
A will gives some children significant cash or real estate. Other children are given a dollar or some other token amount. Is that evidence the testator was “on the outs” with the children to whom a token amount was given? Not necessarily. It could easily have been that those children had already received their share and the token amount was included just so they could not later claim they had been forgotten. A token amount, particularly without any independent information suggesting the “falling out” between the testator and the heir in question, does not always suggest their had been a disagreement between the parties in question. Children can be omitted for the same reason (they’ve already gotten theirs). Typically though, if there are children to whom a token […]
I’ll wait until I have time. I’ll wait until I retire. I’ll get my things organized first. I’ll decide how everything will be organized first. Here’s my answer to those four statements: Don’t wait. Life intervenes. There won’t ever be a “right time.” Retirement will end up being full other activities. Really? That’s may take forever. Again…that’s going to take forever. Friend and fellow genealogist Kerry Scott issued a plea for her fellow genealogists to just go ahead and scan their personal family ephemera sooner rather than later. Wildfires in her area drove the point home to her that scanning items could not wait. I’m in agreement. My advice based somewhat on Kerry’s comments and my own experience with a significant collection of photographs and other items–do it […]
From 2018… Part of genealogical research is evaluating what you have and altering conclusions when new and more reliable information warrants. Early in our research when we are inexperienced, it can be tempting to rely too much on family information. It can also be easy to rely on incomplete information–especially before we learn that “official” records can be incorrect or inconsistent. And sometimes DNA and other information will cause us to re-evaluate what we thought was true even when we had a number of records and completely analyzed them. My children’s great-great-grandfather (father of their great-grandmother) has morphed through many iterations over the nearly thirty years that I have researched him–always because I have located new information: a Greek immigrant to Chicago, Illinois, born in the 1880s–turned out […]
It’s easy to make digital images of documents today and those items can be shared, stored, archived, attached to files, etc. Storage of those digital images requires less physical space than paper and are more easily portable. But don’t let that cause you to not transcribe those documents. Transcribing a document forces you to look at it in detail and not overlook words which can easily happen when silently reading a document. Determining what every word is when transcribing is a great way to start figuring out what all those words actually mean and a way to help guarantee that you do not overlook clues. It is also easier to perform text searches of transcriptions for key terms or names than can be done with digital images of […]
Be careful using relationships from obituaries as your sole source of information for your database. Modern obituaries especially may: not mention all children may not distinguish children from step-children may not indicate which spouse was the parents of which children Any of these things can confuse later genealogists if it is assumed an obituary was entirely correct. This is another reason why a researcher should always source each date and relationship in their database. Every fact entered should have an indication of where that fact was obtained As far as the obituary, the best bet is to transcribe it exactly as it was written (or scan it) and look for other materials to back it up. If errors are discovered, they could be annotated as such at the […]
If there is a period of time where you are not certain where your ancestor was living or what he was doing, then you have an opportunity. Short gaps where a person is “missing” could mean military service, an out-of-state job, a short-lived marriage, a trip in search of gold, etc. Or it could simply mean they never moved and simply didn’t leave any records for a three year time period. But if you never look one thing is certain–you’ll never know. Get Genealogy Tip of the Day–the book–here!
A few years ago, I took pictures of a documents in several court case files at the Library of Virginia. The various briefs, filings, affidavits, etc. were of varying lengths. Images were made of each entire document. I photographed them consistently as best I could, the “cover,” the individual pages, any blank pages, etc. The images could be sorted based upon when they were taken and that was helpful. But because the documents are of inconsistent length it can occasionally be easy to confuse them. It dawned on me what I should have done when I finished photographing a document: taken a picture of the blank table or a blank piece of paper–anything to indicate a break between documents.
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