Your ancestor’s probate file may contain clues to their church membership. A will may mention a bequest to a church or a minister. The expenses paid by the estate may mention a donation made to a church after the funeral or a direct payment made to the minister who provided the funeral sermon. Other payments from the estate may suggest the denomination of which the deceased was a member. An inventory of the estate (if the location, time period, and denomination is right) may mention a pew in the local church. It is possible that there may be other indirect clues as to your relative’s religious persuasion in their probate file. Take a good hard look. Check out Ancestry’s DNA sale–maybe you can purchase your own kit or […]
When reviewing church records, make certain you have accessed all extant records that are available–not just ones of baptisms, marriages, and funerals. Those records are important, but there may be other church records as well. Some churches kept “family registers” where ecclesiastical information about the members of one family were grouped together. Some churches kept records of donations, communicants, confirmations, church joinings, dismissals from the congregation, etc. Any of these records could provide you with an additional clue about your ancestor. Remember that church records are private records and that you are not entitled to view them–so ask nicely. Some records have been microfilmed or digitized and may be available outside of the actual church. Places to locate information about the records of a particular congregation are the […]
When searching for individuals in records, consider the possibility that they are listed by their initials. This happens more frequently in newspaper and census references, but any record can list someone by their initials only. Full name searches are great, but initial searches should be conducted–particularly in newspapers.
Do not expect ages given in records to be 100% consistent. There are a variety of reasons why an age can be off in a record. People lie. People guess. People get mixed up. Clerks make mistakes. The individual providing the information guessed. Someone other than the “person being aged” provided the information. The list goes on. What you are looking for is consistency. Do ages all suggest a year or two of birth (or maybe a slightly larger time frame)? Is there one age that is significantly off from others? Is there one record you think may be less accurate for one reason or another? Is it possible that the individual in question did not know when they were born–if they were born in a time and […]
Encountered this shadow box with a christening gown for sale in an antique store in Iowa. There was no identifying information in the box. If you are creating a treasure of this type, attach something permanent to the item so that its identity is not lost. Memories fade. Taped pieces of paper fall off. Check out Ancestry’s St. Patrick’s DNA sale–maybe you can purchase your own kit or a test kit for that relative you’ve been wanting to ask.
I posted this missive about DNA matches and errors and thought it would make for a good tip. If you are on our Facebook page, you may have already seen it. Comments welcome. Your DNA matches can be used as clues even if their trees are wonky. I have matches on one branch of my family where a few people have assigned parents for an ancestor that have been disproven and are questionable from a geographic standpoint. But…they are still my matches. I know how they are related. It’s just that they’ve given my ancestor parents that are not right. I don’t have to use that information–they won’t change it either which is frustrating, but a reality. I can still see who I have as shared matches with […]
You are about ready to have a cousin take an autosomal DNA test. Make certain that they are aware that taking this test could expose family secrets. Most people are aware that a test could reveal that they have children others have not known about or that even they did not know about. But the DNA test could reveal more. It could reveal that a parent or grandparent is not their biological grandparent. It could also reveal that one of the testee’s relatives–including siblings, aunts, uncles, and others–either had children of which no one was aware of or whose biological parents were not who they thought they were. It is important to remind the testee that the secrets that may be revealed may not just be about them. […]
Many men who served in the United States Civil War did not enlist in the state where they resided. For a variety of reasons a man may have enlisted in a unit from a neighboring state. The usual reason was to help a state meet its quota or perhaps there was an enlistment bonus that motivated someone to cross a state line. Don’t dismiss a potential reference to your soldier ancestor simply because he’s from the “wrong” state. But don’t just assume that a John Miller from Illinois is the same one who enlisted in Ohio because it “could have” happened. That sort of jump is somewhat uncommon and will take some research to prove.
Ultimogeniture is an inheritance practice where the right of inheritance belongs to the youngest child (usually limited to the youngest son). It was practiced in some areas of Europe. It is in contrast to primogeniture. That is where the oldest child has the right of inheritance–again usually the oldest son.
One of my new AncestryDNA autosomal matches has the last name of Rucker–she has no tree. It’s also the maiden name of my 4th great-grandmother. The last name is not unusual and most of us are related distantly through an early 18th century immigrant to Virginia. Most, but not all. That’s the first thing to remember. There’s more. I do not want to assume that my new DNA match connects to me through her strict paternal line because I also have that name in my family tree. There are several things to consider. Rucker could be her married name, or the name of a step-parent who adopted her, both of which would change things immediately. Even if Rucker is her birth name, she could be related to me […]
From a while back… Some rural cemeteries, especially very small ones that are no longer used, may require crossing private property to access. If this is necessary, obtain permission from the landowner before attempting to access the cemetery. Cemeteries that are along a roadside or have public access are a different story, but there also may be restrictions about “visiting hours,” decorations that are allowed, etc. Check out Ancestry’s current DNA prices–maybe you can purchase your own kit or a test kit for that relative you’ve been wanting to ask.
Your DNA matches tell a part of your family’s history, but not all of it. There’s more to your family history than who shares a biological relationship with who, what potential illnesses you may share with your family (and pass to your descendants), and your physical characteristics. There’s where your family lived, how they lived, how the larger world impacted them, how they impacted their world, etc. Those stories are often discovered by locating as many records as possible for your relative and seeing what those records have to say. And some of the most important people in your ancestor’s life may have shared no DNA with them at all. DNA is an important part of your genealogical research, but it is not the only part. Check out […]
DNA matches can be confusing for a variety of reasons. For me, the main reason for the confusion is individuals to whom I am related to in more than one way. AncestryDNA had identified all the shared matches I had with one match as being matches to my maternal side. The matches that had been identified were consistent with that. Except for one. AncestryDNA indicated one of the shared matches was to my paternal side. A person could be tempted to think that AncestryDNA was wrong–and it’s possible that sometimes they are. This is not one of those times. It turns out that this match (which AncestryDNA identifies as being a maternal match) is actually related to me four ways–through three different sets of maternal ancestors and one […]
A marriage bann is usually a verbal announcement, typically in a church, that a couple intends to get married. In some cases, they may be published and publicly posted for people to read instead of being verbally announced but the banns are a chance for those who have knowledge why the couple should not be married to state that fact. A marriage bond is a legal document guaranteeing that the person getting married has no legal impediment to marriage. Marriage bonds usually have a stated financial value that is only to be paid if the person for whom the bond was signed was not legally able to get married. The person getting married signs the bond and usually one or two bondsmen sign it as well. The bondsmen […]
In any jurisdiction, determine how many courts heard cases during the time period your ancestor lived there. There may be one court that hears probate or estate matters, another that hears guardianships, one that hears criminal cases, one that hears equity cases, etc. It can be easy to overlook records if you do not do that. The FamilySearch wiki is one place to start learning about these records, but also reach out to local researchers, genealogical and historical societies for additional information. Questions to ask are: what court heard divorces? what court heard foreclosures? what court settled probate matters? what court heard property disputes? what court heard guardianship matters? and so on. Search NewsBank’s GenealogyBank for your ancestors.
Get the Genealogy Tip of the Day Book
Get the More Genealogy Tip of the Day Book