The Nearest Big Town

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.

Haste Reminder

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 at a later date.

Index Organization?

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.

Evidence of an Alias?

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.

Who Is Missing?

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.

Informal Provenance

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 election likely was in the 1980s as I think I was still living at home when it took place (memory of Michael John Neill).

Not perfect, but better than nothing.

Rampley didn’t win the election.

Estate Bills Contain Newspaper Clues?

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.

When I First Gave My Name

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?

Back Up Reminder

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.

Just Initials?

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.