Have you ever guessed about an answer on a form you filled out? Have you ever lied on some sort of record–particularly if the answer wasn’t really germane to the issue at hand (a wrong mother’s maiden name on a eighty-year-old mans’ death certificate is not the end of the world)? If you’ve guessed, lied, or intentionally left something blank on a record what’s the chance that an ancestor did the same thing?
If you ancestor lived relatively near the county line, is it possible that he appeared in a legal action in a neighboring county? Legal disputes can arise from a variety of situations and, depending on the other parties involved and the type of dispute, the resulting legal action may not be in the county where the ancestor lived.
A pastor whose first language was not English, but who was writing in English script, may have easily inserted a little non-English script into a record he was writing.
Does the local library in the area where your family used to live have old phone books? They can be helpful in tracking a person’s residence in an area. Some libraries may copy or send copies of limited numbers of pages if you are unable to personally visit. When using these phone books, remember that not everyone had a phone and some people who had phones chose to have their number not published in the phone book.
Genealogical writing needs to focus on being clear. Sometimes that means being technical, sometimes it means being pedantically tedious, and sometimes it means using phrases that may seem cumbersome. Occasionally it is all three at the same time. I’ve decided to avoid the debate about Grand-Aunt, Great-grand-Aunt, Grand-Uncle, by being more specific. My Mom’s Aunt Ruth Newman, my Granddad Ufkes’ sister Ruth, my Dad’s Uncle Ralph, etc. are more specific descriptions of the people to whom I am referring. In the case of Ruth, I have two grandparents who had siblings with that first name and one who also had a sister-in-law with that name–one has to be clear. To avoid the great/grand debate and cause less confusion, a little more verbiage is helpful. What’s clearer: Grand/Great Uncle […]
While state statute usually defines these terms, it is generally true that an heir of a deceased person is someone who inherits from the deceased based upon their biological relationship to the deceased. Who qualifies as an heir is defined by state statute. A legatee (or sometimes what is called a beneficiary) is typically someone whom the deceased has mentioned in their will or other papers with a directive that they are to receive certain property when the individual dies. Heirs are related. Legatees and beneficiaries may not be related biologically. Always make certain you know the definition of any term used in legal documents by your ancestor. Sometimes a layman’s definition is not the same as the legal one. Get Genealogy Tip of the Day the book!
From a while back… If your ancestor apparently picked up and moved to where he knew no one, is it possible he was responding to an advertisement? Speculators, land agents, promoted their projects and developments in a variety of ways–including newspapers. It might have been an advertisement that caused your ancestor to pick up and move to where he knew no one.
When heirs are selling property after a death, always look to see where the deed was acknowledged. The deed will have to be recorded in the county in which the property was located, but heirs may acknowledge the deed before a local official where they live. That local official will indicate the location in which he was authorized to act as a notary, justice of the peace, etc. That location can help you to determine where the person was living at the time the deed was acknowledged, even if the deed itself does provide any residential information on the grantors.
When analyzing a record or set of materials that does not make sense, get away from what you “want to prove” and try to think “what do these documents really say?” You may find that they do not say what you think they do. And not every record says what we want or expect it to say. Sometimes our preconceived notions are what is getting in the way.
I still have room in both of my group research trips this summer. Our trip does not include a bunch of non-genealogy activities and our registration fees are low. Time away devoted just to research can be a great way to get your genealogy research started. Additional details are on our announcement pages: Allen County Public Library in Ft. Wayne, Indiana  Family History Library in Salt Lake City
Sometimes it can be difficult to get an interviewee to remember when an event precisely took place. And it does not always matter. Instead of focusing on dates, ask what was going on at the time. If the event was a marriage or funeral, ask if they attended the event and who do they remember being there. What time of the year was it? Did snow at the cemetery make getting there difficult? See if they can put the event in the chronology of other events in the family (moves, graduations, marriages, divorces, etc.). Ask if the event took place before or after a well-known historical event. Don’t focus on the date of the event when talking to someone. Focus instead on what went on at the event, […]
Genealogists love to make charts and lists. If you have family members who were members of a religious denomination that practiced the rite of confirmation, have you thought about where your various ancestors were confirmed? This rite often takes place in the early teenage years. It can be a way to think about where your ancestor was living when they became a young adult. Not all denominations practiced confirmation, but if your ancestor’s church did, determining where this rite took place could help you fill in some blanks in your ancestors’ lives.
No matter what they tell you, no website lasts forever. Don’t expect a genealogy website to host your information until the end of time. Never put all your genealogy eggs in one basket.
From a while back… The key word here is “may.” Widows in pension cases sometimes had difficulty proving their marriage to the veteran. Sometimes the only witnesses to the wedding would be relatives who had lived near them for their entire lives. Sometimes the witnesses would be children of the marriage who could testify to their age and use that as an approximation of when the veteran and the widow married. Look at how long the witness has known the widow in a pension application. Does it suggest that there might be a relationship?
The grandson pointed to the toy and said he wanted me to draw something. I could not figure out what he wanted and decided to draw a cartoon character he likes instead. What I drew does not look like the character and it certainly does not look like a tractor. Did your ancestor not understand what the census taker was asking? Did the census taker do their best to write what your ancestor said, but their attempt to spell and interpret the name was highly inadequate? Good intentions or not, it is easy to see how it happens. The grandson wanted a picture of a tractor. That’s how a tractor came to look like a very rudimentary dog. It’s also how Ulfert Behrens got his name spelled Woolpert […]
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