Your Knowledge of Local Geography

Are you aware of the local geography where your ancestor lived? Having access to maps is a great help, but having a certain amount of information “in your head” can save time.

For your city ancestors do you know the “name of the neighborhood” (if there was one)? Do you know names of nearby neighborhoods and towns? How close did your family live to the line that divided one city from another?

For rural ancestors the same thing applies? What were the names of adjacent townships? How close were they to the county line? Did they live in a part of the county that had a nickname (perhaps based upon where most residents were originally from)?

Failing to know some local geography may cause you to look in the wrong place for your relative.

Santa’s Goodies

May be an image of 1 person and indoor

The grandson left Christmas goodies for Santa on an old cookstove that originally belonged to his great-great-grandparents. The picture actually taken included the entire stove and the entire grandson and was appropriately labeled and identified.

Everyone was named in the caption. The words “Mom,” “Dad,” “Grandma,” etc. were not used. Names were used along with years of birth and death where appropriate, for example:

  • Ida (Trautvetter) Neill [1910-1994]
  • Keith Neill [1941-2022]

What little I know about the cookstove’s origins–that it belonged to my grandparents, that my Mom had it cleaned up and painted in the early 2000s, and that my parents had it in their home until they passed–was included. No pronouns were used in the description as sometimes “he,” “she,” “they,” etc. do not always clearly indicate to whom they are referring.

When you write photo captions, remember that you are writing for someone who does not know any of the people involved and for someone who will not be able to ask for clarification.

From Portrait to Landscape

Sometimes we need a different perspective. I’m not certain the rotating paper to landscape will solve all my problems, but I’m willing to try. There are times when I’m taking notes (or transcribing a document by hand) and I would like more room on a line. So after seeing a friend purchase some of these, I decided to try them for myself.

I’m not certain I needed the different colors, but on a whim I ordered them. Actually the different colors might be helpful when taking notes on a research trip as I could use different colors for different families, types of records, or whatever. Color could be a sorting mechanism.

A 90 degree rotation isn’t going to solve all my problems, but the paper is a good reminder that sometimes a different approach may be necessary.

The paper I purchased can be seen here.

Mr. and Mrs. Attend a Funeral

The local newspaper gossip column from the 1920s stated that Mr. and Mrs. Dale Loren attended the funeral of “a cousin last Friday” in a town approximately thirty miles away. The cousin is not named.

My first task will be to try and determine who the cousin was. The best place to start would be with local newspapers in the town where the cousin’s funeral was held. Since I have the date of the newspaper in which the funeral attendance was mentioned and that the funeral was held “last Friday,” I have an idea of when to look in the papers of that town thirty miles away. That will make it easier to potentially determine the funeral Mrs .and Mrs. Dale Loren attended. The Lorens may be mentioned as guests in the local newspaper.

It’s important to remember that the cousin relationship may not be that of a first cousin. The connection may be more distant. It is not clear whether Dale Loren or his wife is related to the deceased. It’s possible the relationship is by marriage or affinity instead of biology. It’s also possible that both Mr. and Mrs. Dale are related to the deceased. That also can happen.

Ordering Up a Chronology

Reminder as we have mentioned this before: chronologies and chronological order can be helpful in sorting out your ancestor and her records.

Put the dates of events in your ancestor’s life in chronological order. This can be a good way to very quickly get a broad overview of what you know about the ancestor and see potential gaps in time where no records have been located. The scaffold of a chronology can be a starting point to writing an ancestral biography.

You may even want to include more than just one ancestor in a chronology–perhaps an entire family or a few key relatives.

Putting documents from a military pension, court case, probate file, etc. in chronological order can also help you to see the flow of process and paperwork over time.

What Are You Not Telling?

When explaining something to someone or creating a post, make certain that you include all relevant detail. In an old tip regarding the “parents’ home,” it wasn’t mentioned that the father had died nearly ten years before the daughter married and that the mother had moved over 100 miles away shortly after his death. The parental home the daughter lived in was one where her mother had lived, but the father never had.

But be careful when deciding what is relevant and what is not. The weather on the day your ancestor was supposed to get married could impact the marriage and may be relevant. The fact there was a wine stain on the altar carpet and your father noticed it during the ceremony probably isn’t.

Where Does that Document Fit?


From a while back..

Every record fits in a larger chain of events and records.

When you locate a document always ask yourself:

  • was this document created as the result of some life event that might have created other records?
  • were other documents created that might have caused this document to have been created?
  • would this document have caused other records to have been created?
  • what would have happened to my relative for this record to have been created?

No record was created in a vacuum. Don’t analyze it in one either.

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