They May Want No Contact

Not every relative to whom you reach out will respond to your genealogy request. Some individuals maybe busy with immediate family concerns or unable to respond to your request for other reasons. Others, for a variety of reasons, may have no interest in their family history or any desire to communicate with family members.

Accept this and work with those who are interested. Others may eventually come around or they may not. But that’s their decision.

Repeated Names are Clues–Not Proof!

A reminder…

I’m working on a man named Andrew Trask who had a sons Edward and George and a daughter Harriet. There is a man named George living near where he did in the 1840s who can’t be his father, but that George had a daughter Harriet. That George had a brother Edward and a sister Harriet. There’s enough name “connection” to make me think that my Andrew probably has a connection to this family, but that name connection is not proof.

Just a clue that I need to follow.

Are Those Adopted Parents Biologically Related to the Child?

Don’t immediately assume that the child your ancestors adopted was not related to them in some way. Depending upon their ages and the ages of their own children, that child could actually be a grandchild. Others may have adopted a niece, nephew or other relative.

Adoptions can impact the DNA matches of any descendant of the child who was adopted. If descendants of the adopted child are DNA matches for some descendants of that child’s adopted siblings, consider the possibility that the adoption was “in the family” in one way or another.

Get Genealogy Tip of the Day–the book–for $17.

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Never Overlook a Map

I had quite a few relatives who homesteaded in Dawson County, Nebraska, in the 1880s. I have created maps that show the relative position of their homesteads. 

An uncle lived in the same county, but came a few years later and purchased his property from a landowner instead of homesteading it. I never bothered to see where his property was located. 

Turns out it was across the road from where his nephew homesteaded. 

Always map out those properties. 

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Details about the book here.

Uncatalogued Items

Libraries, archives, historical societies, and other organizations that hold records sometimes have materials that have been uncatalogued and uninventoried. It takes time, patience, and skill to sort, organize, and track materials that have been donated.

Even groups that have sorted and organized their materials may not submit them to online cataloging systems such as WorldCat. The only way to learn of the collection is to contact the organization directly. Some smaller societies may not even include such materials on their website.

After you have read what a library, society, or archives has listed on their website, consider reaching out to ask them if they have materials in their collection that are not listed on their website or in their inventories.

You might be surprised at what they have.

Get Genealogy Tip of the Day–the book–for $17.

Details about the book here.

Don’t Assume What Obit Does Not Say

Obituaries for a husband and wife couple to whom I am related mention their children who died as infants. The obituaries do not state where the children’s births and deaths took place.

And yet, there are online trees that use the obituary as a “source” for the location of where vital events in the infant child’s life took place. The obituary of the parents is a source for the name of the child, their relationship to the child, and the fact that they died at a young age well before their parents died.

That’s it. Don’t attribute something to a record that is not stated in the record.

Records of No-Stone Burials?

Genealogists often visit cemeteries, but sometimes it pays to go deeper. I’m not talking about digging up the body but instead determining if there are cemetery records, sexton’s records, or other similar materials that document who is buried in specific lots within the cemetery.

Knowing who else is buried on the same set of graves as your ancestor could be helpful. Not every grave has a stone and not every stone is still extant. It is important to remember that not every cemetery has such records, particularly cemeteries that are no longer in use or rural ones that are smaller and may have only been used by a handful of families.

Local historical or genealogical societies may be able to help determine who has records of the cemetery in which you are interested. The nearby library may know as well. Morticians or funeral homes in the area may also be aware of who has the records of who is buried in the cemetery in which you have an interest.

Those Witnesses

Witnesses on documents are names that should not be ignored.

However, one should not assume that witnesses are always relatives. Sometimes witnesses are other people were also in the office of the person who created the document that your ancestor signed. Witnesses who appear on multiple documents of your ancestor are more likely to have had an association or affiliation with your ancestor–potentially through biology or marriage.

Of course that witness who appears only once could still be a relative and witnesses who have the same last name as your ancestor (or their spouse) should definitely be investigated.

Just don’t assume that a witness has to be related. They don’t.

That Random Child Stone

That stone with the “wrong last name” in your family’s cemetery plot could easily be a relative of which you are unaware.

A recent visit to Kansas located the graves of a relative, his wife, and their two grown children. Buried near them was an infant with a last name I did not recognize. The infant was the child of the relative’s married daughter and had been buried in the grandparents’ cemetery plot. A few years later, the daughter and her husband left the area and are buried elsewhere.

Never neglect those stones with “wrong names” in your ancestor’s set of graves. They very well could be relatives of whom you are unaware.

Get All the Grave Markers

When taking pictures of tombstones that have separate or other markers nearby, do not neglect to take photographs of those items as well. Those markers may indicate military, fraternal, or other organizations of which the deceased was a member. Neglecting to photograph them could mean leaving a clue behind.

And if you do photograph them, make certain they are as viewable in the photograph as possible.