Genealogy terminology can be frustrating for beginning and experienced family researchers. However a certain amount of understanding is helpful so that one can understand what others mean and because that understanding can make your research stronger. Primary information is one of those terms. “Information” isn’t often defined in the genealogical literature and we’ll save a discussion of that for another day.. However, primary information is information obtained from someone who had first hand knowledge of the information they are conveying. Ideally, they are sharing that information while their memory is accurate. Any other information is said to be secondary. Whether a given piece of primary information is correct is another story. 
From a few years back… Don’t just grab the first record that seems to match the names of the individuals for whom you are looking and assume that it’s the “right people.” It may or may not be them. There can be husband and wife couples with the same or similar names living in the same country, state, county, parish, etc.–particularly if the names are relatively common. Those couples can be unrelated to each other, particularly if the geographic distance is significant. They couple be cousins of the couple of interest–which still means that you’ve got the “wrong people” just wrong people who are related. Records in the United States all indicate that my Irish immigrant forebears were in Canada by the mid-1860s and that they started having […]
Years ago, I had a quick translation done of this postcard. Over the years the translation became separated from the card. I should have appended the translation to the image, put them both in one PDF file, or stored them in a separate folder as two separate documents-the image and the translation. Make certain that documents that really need to be filed together are filed together in a way that they won’t get separated. 
Individuals whose birth was not recorded when they were born may have filed for a delayed birth certificate when they reached the age of majority, realized they needed a certificate and did not have one, applied for a social security number, or a combination of reasons. The majority of delayed birth certificates in the United States were filed for individuals who lived into the 1930s and beyond. How the delayed certificates are filed depends on the location. Some kept an entire separate set of certificates that were filed some time after the fact. Some areas just filed the delayed certificates with the original certificates filed when the individual was born. Some changed their procedures over time. Find out how areas in which you have an interest filed these […]
For years, the local plat book showing where landowners properties were located in the county where I am from contained at least one error of which I was aware. I was aware because I heard it from my parents. The creator of the plat book had switched the locations of two properties: some pasture ground my parents owned and a local subdivision. The error remained in the plat book for nearly thirty years. Did it really matter? No. The local plat book was not an official record and most relatively modern plat books showing locations of real property and their owners include caveats regarding the potential for errors in their publications. Even if the maps were created from official records, these privately published plat books are not legal […]
It does not matter whether you are a professional genealogist, an occasional “hobbyist” researcher, or somewhere in between: Your ancestors’ stories deserve to be told as accurately as possible. It does not matter how fast you research them. It does not matter how much information you discover or collect. It does not matter how long it take to obtain information, sort it out, and compile it. What does matter is working to collect information that reflects their life and their story as accurately as you can. That means not just copying information from other trees or sites without analyzing it and thinking about it. That means not sharing or disseminating information that is mere speculation without some sort of source or documentation to back it up. It also […]
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If a document refers to your ancestor as the lessor on lease–he owns the property that is the subject of the lease. If your ancestor is referred to as the lessee, he is the person being given temporary use of the property. The lessor owns it, the lessee borrows it–generally speaking. Leases are not often recorded. If there was a disagreement about the interpretation of the lease or if the lessor or lessee refused to live up to their obligations under the lease, a court action may have been the result. In that case the lease may be contained in the court records.
A reminder from a few years back: Putting a clause in your will that “my genealogical papers are to go to the BlahBlah Library” without some advance planning could have unintended consequences. Some thoughts on preserving your “files” and papers by donating to a library or archives: libraries may not want or be able to maintain random copies of public records that are available elsewhere libraries may not want or be able to maintain random copies made from published books unorganized materials are difficult for libraries to inventory and manage and they are difficult for patrons to use photographs, personal certificates, and other “unique” items are more likely to be preserved and collected, but it can be difficult for some facilities to afford to maintain these collections–consider leaving […]
When someone does not come up in an index, here are some things to think about: have you considered all alternate spellings? have you double checked what you put in the search boxes (right names in right boxes, no boxes with information from “old searches,” etc.)? could the person be in the record under a different last name (step-father, new husband, etc.)? have you used wildcards to expand your searches? do you know the index is complete or is it in “process?” are you certain the person really should be in the record? do you know how the original records were organized and preserved? have you performed a manual search of the records? have you asked someone else for a suggestion?
Do not rely only on keyword searches to find items in digital images of newspapers. Some digital images can be difficult for the optical character recognition software to interpret correctly. The 1888 obituary in this death notice was located by a manual search based upon the known death date. Take a manual look at the newspapers being searched by your keyword searches. The original images may make it easier to see why some things cannot be found with the index.
Residential or business directories may contain sub-directories of specific occupations after the “main directory.” These directories may contain additional clues about your ancestor. Don’t just find your ancestor once and quit. There may be smaller directories in the back. The illustration shows a list of Silver-Laced Wyan-Dotte chicken breeders in Hancock County, Illinois, in 1918. Look in the back. Don’t be chicken <grin>.
There’s a published “marriage book” for a county where I have quite a few ancestors. The book was made by using the local marriage records contained in the county records office. The book indexes the names of the bride and the groom. Other names are not included. The original records from which the published marriage book was compiled are online. FamilySearch and Ancestry have indexed the records as well. Do I need to view the book and look for my relatives for whom I have already searched in the actual records and in the indexes at FamilySearch and Ancestry? Probably not to be perfectly honest–but there is a caveat. What I should do is track for whom I have searched the originals and the online indexes. I should […]
I have copies of my parents’ high school yearbooks, so accessing them digitally online is not a necessity. Recently, partially out of boredom, I decided to look at Ancestry’s digital images of the yearbooks I already have paper copies of. There were a few notations as to the married names of some of the female graduates. Is there a chance that the digital copy of a the same book you have has annotations, comments, or even signatures that your copy does not? Year books are probably the best example where the copy that was used to make a digital image may contain personalizations that are in no other copy, but genealogies and other books can have remarks and other commentary added as well.
Many Southern US states required marriage bonds into the 19th century. These bonds were not paid in order for the couple to get married. They represented a potential fine or penalty if after the couple married it was determined that one of them had a legal impediment to marriage. That’s what the stated value of the bond represented. The individuals who signed as bondsmen were generally “worth” at least that amount in real and personal property and knew that the couple had no legal reasons why they could not marry. Or at least thought they were certain there was no reason the couple could not marry <grin!>.
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