Manual Newspaper Searches Still Necessary

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.

Don’t Be Chicken–Look in the Back of the Directory

chicken breeder directory in a county-wide directory from 1918

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>.

Do You Need the Book?

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 also indicate how I searched the originals. Did I manually search all the records item by item or did I search only the indexes that were created by the original creator of the record? Is it possible that they missed an entry when their index was made? Is it possible that FamilySearch or Ancestry made an error or omission when creating their index?

If I have manually searched the marriage records item by item myself, then I likely don’t need the published book. But…I still might want to at least read the preface and see if it makes any commentary about the records that I do not know.

Another Copy of that Yearbook?

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.

Marriage Bonds are Potential Penalties

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!>.

Did Uncle Herman Really Disappear?

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.

My “Now” Wife

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.

Review What You Think You Know

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.

What I Already Know

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.

Home for a Baptism

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?