If Uncle Herman (or Aunt Hermina) disappears after they reach young adulthood, consider the fact that they might not really have disappeared? In some families if a child was “not right,” they might have been institutionalized and never mentioned again.
Just because your ancestor uses the phrase “my now wife” in his will, it does not mean he had to have been married twice. A man might use the phrase to make it clear to whom a bequest was being made. If his will said “to my now wife I leave my farm for her life and if she is deceased it is to go to my children” that meant his wife at the time he wrote his will. He might have been concerned that if he remarried and his “then wife” married again that his real property might fall out of his family’s hands.
What is the biggest mistake you can make when going back to work on an ancestor you have not researched in years? Not reviewing what you actually know about that ancestor. Sometimes our memory of an ancestor is not correct and researching based on incorrect facts can lead to more confusion. Review what you actually know about an ancestor before you start seeing if you can locate new information about them.
Sometimes researchers wonder why they should get something when “it’s only going to tell me what I already know.” That’s a valid concern, but there are times when that record that “repeats” what other records say can be helpful, such as: the first record has a questionable informant the first record really doesn’t make sense the first record is difficult to read the first record is one that may be inaccurate And there is always the chance that the “record that tells what you already know” has information that you’ve not located elsewhere. You don’t know until you look.
I was stuck on a certain relative who apparently left the area where she grew up sometime after she was enumerated in the 1910 census in Hancock County, Illinois. She seemed to evaporate and appears in no later records. In 1915, in the church she attended as a child, she and her husband have two of their children baptized. The baptism records list the maiden name of the mother. While I’m not yet 100% certain it is her, it’s a very good lead. One child has her maiden name as it’s middle name and the other child has her mother’s maiden name as it’s middle name–another good clue. Did you relatives bring the kids “back home” to be baptized?
Are you using place names to describe where an ancestor was born, died, or was buried, that are not listed in any gazetteer? Make certain that you also include a more reference (eg. GPS coordinates) to assist others in finding the location. “Old names” or colloquial names for locations are fine in your notes and in your records–as long as you explain exactly what you mean. On a trip to visit my parents, I had to take my brother lunch where he was discing–“on the McNally place, you know past his forty, which is past McGaughey’s and turn south.” Of course those names would be on local plat books and other records, but sometimes those descriptions are only in people’s gray matter–particularly if the families for which a […]
Newspapers can easily get a fact wrong in the rush to meet a deadline or simply because details are not double checked. Online searches of digital newspapers need to take this into account. If looking for a reference to a specific person, consider using just their first or last name and a key detail of the event or narrow down the search for the approximate time of the event. Think of other key words that may be mentioned in the article besides the name–occupation, type of event, street name, etc. There is also the chance that your person of interest is mentioned without their first name or without their name at all. If a newspaper mention of a relative suggests that there might have been earlier writings about […]
There is always the possibility that you are related to a DNA match in more than one way and those multiple ways may be in totally separate geographic regions. Don’t always assume that you’ve got the connection figured out just because you find a shared name in your tree. Look at your shared matches and make certain they are consistent with the connection being from those ancestors. We’ve written about this in more detail in a post from a few years ago on my Rootdig blog.
This tip from 2017 is still relevant. Locations can cause all sorts of research difficulty, especially when an indexer or database creator uses a location that’s not quite the “correct” one or at least not the one the locals know. Several of my ancestors attended a Lutheran church a mile from where my grandparents lived in Hancock County, Illinois. It was near the town of Basco and locals referred to it as the “Basco church” to distinguish it from the Lutheran church in the county seat of Carthage a few miles away. When Ancestry.com included the records of this church in their “U.S., Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Records, 1875-1940,” they used Carthage as the location, not Basco. I never thought of the church as being in Carthage–largely because it […]
Our latest webinar–on Federal Land Records–has been released. If you pre-ordered, the download link has been sent (email me if you don’t have it). If you’d like to know more about this webinar, which can be purchased for immediate download–check out our announcement page.
Success at Wordle depends on three general things: your choice of a first word, your vocabulary, and your ability to problem-solve. Genealogy research is the same. Our success (or lack thereof) depends on how much we originally know and how correct that information is. Just like Wordle challenges sometimes go better if we get lucky on that first word. Our success in genealogy research also depends not so much on our vocabulary (although knowing what legal words mean really helps), but more on how much we know about sources in the area where our person lives and if we are able to apply sound and organized research methodology. And our ability to problem-solve is inordinately helpful. Sometimes success at Wordle depends on our ability to get our first […]
Many funeral homes have a register for guests can sign as they arrive to pay their respects to the deceased. These registers can be a great to get names of potential relatives and associates of the deceased and to know that they were alive at the time of the funeral. They can also be a great memory jogging tool when interviewing relatives of the deceased for additional information. Names of some individuals may be difficult to read and all you usually will have is their signature. It’s worth noting that many times individuals go into the funeral home or mortuary together–look at adjacent names for clues as to what the difficult-to-read name might be. “Relatives” who signed are often part of the larger family network, often related by […]
A reminder from 2016: Genealogists try to be specific when stating relationships between individuals. Your relative from Omaha might not be as specific when discussing family members. Grandma may have written “Cousin Myrtle” on the back of a photograph. If the person referring to their cousin is still alive, try and get them to be more specific about the relationship, if possible. Don’t suggest what the relationship is. Sometimes “cousins” were were actually cousins (just further down the line than you thought), were related by marriage, or were just neighbors with whom the family was close.
A few reminders about your DNA matches: You will not get as many inquiries from DNA matches as you think. Many of the messages you send to your matches will not get answered. A good number of your matches will have no trees. Much of your DNA analysis you will have to do yourself or with the help of other genealogists who are not your matches. DNA can solve problems that records alone cannot. DNA can solve problems that you thought would never be solved. DNA match analysis is not always easy. DNA work does not replace work in paper records. Many people test and never look at their matches. DNA match analysis is not quick and easy.
When viewing legal records for an ancestor, it can be frustrating when certain details are not included in a record, deposition, or affidavit. But some times there is a reason those details are not included–they may not be germane to the case at hand (often in the case in certain legal records) or they may have been common knowledge and not really “news” (in the case of newspapers). Probate records are usually not concerned with the cause of death for the person whose estate is being settled (unless an heir murdered the deceased). It matters not one bit to the probate settlement whether the person died of a stroke or pneumonia–dead is dead. A newspaper account of an event may not state details that the genealogist a hundred […]
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