From a while back… If your ancestor was born in a small, out-of-the-way place, it may have been easier for them to give a nearby larger town as their place of birth instead of where they were actually born. If you can’t find them in the “town where they are supposed to be,” try the smaller outlying towns instead.
When viewing and saving images of digital records, take the time to capture relevant information in case it’s not on the document itself. This 1888 tax list from Gothenburg Precinct, Dawson County, Nebraska, did not include the location or the year on the record–despite there being a place for it. I used the tax records for several years and saved the images in the same order each time I made them–pages from the book, then the cover, pages from the book, then the cover, etc.–so I know the year and location of the record as that information is written on the cover of each book. That method of organization saved me time while making the images, but preserved those details which will be helpful in analyzing the images […]
When using any locally-created index to records, determine how the pages in the index are organized. Some indexes are strictly by first letter of last name. Some indexes are like the one in the illustration where first names are used to create the index as well (the image shown us the section where both the first and last names start with an “H”). Other indexes have slightly different structure Do not just start looking for your names without first knowing how the index is structured. This often leads to confusion and a failure to use the index properly.
When individuals use different names it can be confusing. It makes research additionally challenging when there is no direct statement providing evidence of the alias. Land, court, and probate records are some items that can provide that link–even if there was no direct name change. An 1836 deed in Nicholas County, Kentucky, indicated that some members of the Sledd family in that locality also went by the name of Slane. That’s not a spelling variant one would expect and while there were records that suggested the alias, I was glad to find a document that specifically stated the connection. Probate cases can also document aliases if the judge wants an explanation for name variations. Military pension records may also document variant names for the applicant.
When viewing any document or record, ask yourself if there is someone who is not listed that should be. In reviewing a petition to administrate an estate of a male relative, I noticed that the spouse–who supposedly survived the husband–was not listed. His children were listed. The wife was not. She should have been listed with the other heirs if she were alive and they were married at the time of his death. Her absence is something I need to research.
Even if you don’t know all the details of an item, include what information you do know about an item along with whatever provenance you have. Your information does not need to be written in formal academic prose. Your provenance does not need references to citations. What the information and provenance does need to be is recorded as completely as you have it. For the button in the illustration: This election button was found in the collection of materials in the home of Keith and Connie (Ufkes) Neill of Carthage, Illinois, after Keith passed in 2020. The unnamed candidate was running for Hancock County Treasurer (memory of Michael John Neill). He was a relative of Keith through his grandmother, Fannie (Rampley) Neill (memory of Michael John Neill). The […]
If you are fortunate enough to find an estate settlement for an ancestor that lists bills paid out by the estate, read through all those payments. It may be tedious, but I have found clues to religious affiliations, newspaper subscriptions, and other references that could lead to additional records and materials to search.
An old tip that’s still worth remembering… Ira Sargent is enumerated in the 1850 and 1860 US Census under the last name of his step-father, Asa Landon. Ira was born in the 1840s and his father, Clark Sargent, died around 1848. By 1850 his mother had married Asa Landon. Ira’s 1870 marriage record is probably the first document where he actually provided his name to the records clerk. Chances are someone else gave his name to the 1850 and 1860 census enumerator. Your relative might have known his “name,” but might never have had a chance to give it to the clerk, enumerator, etc. until after he was “of age.” Is that why you can’t find your person in any record until they get married?
This is your periodic reminder to back up your digital data. You’ll be glad you did if something goes wrong. And sooner or later, something will.
Always consider the possibility that your relative may be listed with only their initials in any document or record. Some individuals who did not necessarily prefer using their initials were still recorded without their full first or middle name anyway. Some census takers were particularly fond of using initials and the occasional newspaper editor resorted to using them as well. My great-grandfather Mimka John Habben often went by “M. J.” My paternal grandfather, shown in the picture with his truck, often used just his as well–he also occasionally signed his name this way as well.
Whenever you locate a deed of interest in a local county record book, look at the deeds before and after (at least two or three). Your ancestor might have recorded more than one deed at one time or the person from whom he purchased property may have recorded multiple deeds one after the other. Multiple deeds for your ancestor provide property details that will need to be researched further so you can have all records of real property acquisition and ownership termination for your ancestor. If the person from whom you ancestor purchased property recorded multiple deeds at the same time, there may be some clues there about your ancestor’s larger “network” of friends, associates, and relatives or about the person from whom your ancestor purchased the property.
If your ancestor’s chattel goods were sold at auction after their death, is there also a valuation of the specific property? Comparing the appraised value of items to the same value can be interesting. Actual prices can vary quite a bit, depending on the item, who is bidding on it, and how badly they want to purchase it. What’s more interesting is to see how the values of items purchased by close family members compare to the appraised value. I’ve seen a few cases where the prices paid by the widow were a fraction of the appraised value and items purchased by others were closer to the appraised value. The sale of items may have been a legal necessity, but in some locations, neighbors may have avoided serious […]
De Moss, Van Hoorebeke, Van De Walle, and similar names with “de,” “van,” and “van de,” have spaces between the prefix and the rest of the name. The problem is that sometimes they don’t have a space between the “van,” “van de,” or “de” and are all run together. When querying any electronic database for these names, make certain to search for DeMoss, De Moss, and maybe even just “Moss,” Different sites handle these names differently and what worked to locate the name on one site may not work on another. Occasionally Van De gets morphed into “Vander.”
We don’t normally do “news” on here, but the FamilySearch United States Wills and Deeds Experimental Search is worth a look. Automated reading of script reading of local record copies of land and probate records in the United States are included. Keep in mind that the material indexed is only what is in the FamilySearch collection.
I located a guardianship petition in Illinois in 1908. It mentions the two minor children, the guardian, and the guardian’s sureties. The documents indicated the ages of the children, but I got to wondering about the ages of the others on the document. The actual guardian being appointed was in his early twenties. His mother was living but his father (the original guardian) had passed away a few months earlier. The sureties on the guardian’s bond were his uncles, men in their fifties. One uncle is known to have had twelve children and probably had enough obligations as it was. If you have a document that involves several family members who were living at the time, have you thought about what stages they were at in their lives […]
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