Townships are spread throughout the United States and usually are responsible for a variety of civil functions. In areas where the rectangular survey system is used (generally settled after the Northwest Ordinance of 1787) there’s also a township referred to as a Congressional township. Congressional townships serve a different purpose. Congressional Townships are used to determine where a piece of property is located and were used for original surveying purposes when property was being settled in the federal domain. In many places Congressional Townships and civil townships have contiguous boundaries. Congressional Townships are assigned numbers to describe their location in relationship to base lines and meridians. Civil townships usually have names. The illustration shows one Congressional Township in Hancock County, Illinois (Township 7 North Range 7 West). That […]
A descendant of a person is their child, grandchild, great-grandchild, great-great-grandchild or someone further down the line of descent (by adding more “greats” in front of the word). If a person had no children, they have no descendants. They may well have other relatives, but in order to have descendants, a person has to have had children.
I have a digital copy of a court case from early 19th century Maryland that is 119 pages. There’s no way I’m ever going to get the entire thing transcribed. I just know that is not going to happen. What I have done instead is to create a document where I can take notes on the court case–indicating what page something is on in the original PDF file I have that contains the whole case. I’m extracting names, dates, key elements in the document. Sometimes I extract a paragraph here or there or I type an entire page or two if there’s quite a bit of information or I want to include context. In these cases, I always use quotation marks to indicate what has been taken from […]
Citation is an important part of the genealogical process. It’s often one that can get left to the side during the research process. The hope of finding something or the excitement of having just made a discovery can result in details being omitted. My own personal attempt to getting all the details for a citation without slowing down the research process too much is to take pictures or get images of the materials being used–especially when utilizing local records. Covers or spines of record books often can be used for this purpose. It’s a reason why when FamilySearch made microfilmed images of records they often filmed the cover. Just make certain you get all the details. County record books in some locations include the name of the county. […]
From a while back… Upon occasion, one hears fellow genealogists being slightly judgmental about a specific ancestor. Instead of getting bogged down in that line of thinking (which doesn’t help your research any), think “why?” Putting yourself in your ancestor’s shoes gives you a different perspective. If you were twenty-six years old, widowed, the mother of two small children, unable to speak English and living where you had no relatives, what might you do? You might marry the first German speaking single male around–one who would not have been your choice if you were twenty years old and still living at home with no children to support. If your great-grandfather “disappeared” consider where he might have gone and what he might have done in an attempt to find […]
When a person “just appears” in an area, one can be tempted to think that they were dropped off by a UFO or some such. 1–The person’s family lived in the area a very short time (maybe just renting a house or a farm)–during which time the person of interest met someone and got married. Their family of origin moved further west and left no records of their own in that place where the person married. I don’t know this happened with one of my Kentucky ancestors who married around 1818, but it’s very plausible. 2–The person’s marriage record is the first where they actually gave their own last name. It’s possible that in earlier records (census most likely) they are listed with a step-father’s name which was […]
This was posted to our Facebook page, but I decided to share it with readers here as well. There’s not right or wrong here, just something to think about. A female relative of mine had a short-term marriage in the mid-20th century. It ended, so I’ve been told because “he was mean to her and the relative’s mother told her to get a divorce (suggesting that his behavior was likely not to improve).” The marriage resulted in no children. This is not about the facts of what happened. This is about how much time and money I should spend trying to find his name and the date/place of marriage. The story about the marriage tells something about the family–even though there is no name. There are no statewide […]
An October 1852 issue of The Banner from Davenport, Iowa, included a list of recipients of “German Letters” that had been received the post office. Publishing lists of received letters at the post office was not uncommon during this time period. But what does it mean? Nicholas and Peter Willey are two of the recipients. The Willeys likely knew someone who spoke German and that person knew that either the Willeys could read German or could have the letters read to them. It means that at the time the writer mailed the letter they believed that both Willeys lived in Davenport–or close enough to it that they could get to the post office and would likely know of the letter having been received. The lists can be helpful […]
Throughout much of US history, a minor child whose deceased parent had a significant estate would have a guardian appointed for them. This guardian usually was to oversee the financial interests of the child and did not take physical custody (that was usually left to the mother if she survived). Typically this guardian was a male relative (grandfather, uncle, older brother, step-father, etc.). While not unheard of, it was atypical (especially before the 20th century) that the mother would be appointed guardian of the child’s estate. Mothers were appointed and could be appointed guardians–but it was not the norm. This was usually done if there was no male relative in the area who qualified as a guardian. So if the mother is appointed guardian of her child’s interest […]
In cultures where women take the last name of their husband, it can sometimes be difficult to know (without doing a search of marriage and other records) if a man had two wives with the same first name. This tombstone indicated that Nels Johnson had two wives named Mathilda–one was Mathilda S. and the other was Mathilda P. Other records do not always use middle initials and sometimes we are not so fortunate to know that there were two wives with the same first name. 1850 and later US census records may list the same first name of a wife, but details about age and origin may suggest the two same-named women were not the same. If you suspect a man was married to two women with the […]
Divorce records in the 19th century can be difficult to locate. While in the earlier days of the 19th century some divorces were decreed by a statewide legislative body, the reality is that most were decreed by county-level courts. The difficulty is knowing in which county of the state the divorce was filed. For families that moved frequently, determining where the divorce was initiated can be even more difficult. Residency requirements before filing for a divorce varied from one state to another and divorces were not easy or cheap to obtain. There’s usually no statewide index to divorce records, so their location requires knowing the county in which the divorce took place so that the appropriate court’s records can be searched. Initial searches should focus in the counties […]
I’m searching for an immigrant to the United States named Johan Antoine Willi who was born around 1801 in Switzerland or possibly Germany. That ends up being quite a few search variants to use when querying nationwide databases. To keep myself in line and not miss anything, I’ve made myself a list of search options for those sites that use a “*” as a wildcard: Joh* Wil* born in Germany Joh* Wil* born in Switzerland Ant* Wil* born in Germany Ant* Wil* born in Switzerland The drawback is that this approach catches many names are are not close to Willi–such as Williams, Willems, Wilhelm, etc. I could choose to use a Soundex or sound-based variant option on the last name as well. The key is that I have […]
I saw the item in my storage unit and could not remember whose it originally was. It was in my parents’ home. It was in the room my Mom used as an office. But when I first looked at it, I could not remember whose it was. A few hours later, I remembered that it belonged to my Grandma Neill’s sister–Lillian (Trautvetter) Short. We moved items from my parents’ home quickly after my father passed. I thought I would never forget who items originally belonged to. It became apparent that I easily could forget and that the risk of that was only getting higher as time marched on. What I should have done is quickly identified the pieces as they were either packed up from my parents’ home […]
If relative A and relative B didn’t speak for the last half of their lives, it can be difficult determining how much of that estrangement to include in your family history. One approach is not to mention it at all. The other extreme is to record every personal detail you know. Failing to mention it (when it is known) results in a story that is not complete. Including every detail (especially if you lived through it) may be overkill. Grandpa H. never really forgave James for leaving the farm and not following in his footsteps. They never spoke after James moved to town. Uncle N. accused his brother of stealing gas from his farm tank and they never spoke after that. The brother never set foot on the […]
I was working on a German immigrant to Davenport, Iowa, who arrived in the 1850s as a single woman. She married a few years later and an older man was enumerated with her family in every federal census through 1880. His last name was her maiden name. It turned out he was her father. That was my assumption and research later indicated it was a correct one. What I assumed was that her father immigrated by himself because there’s never a wife with him in a US census. That was a wrong assumption as I discovered him with his wife (whose name was already known from other records) in the 1856 Iowa state census. She must have died by the 1860 census enumeration. I assumed also that the […]
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