Deeds Before and After

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.

Appraised vs. Sale Values

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 bidding if a member of the family was trying to purchase something.

Do You Have a Space Name?

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.”

Documentary Perspective

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 at the time the document was being created? What events precipitated the creation of the document or the event it recorded? In this case, it was the death of the new guardian’s father as he had been the children’s original guardian.

Thinking about what caused the record and what was going on in the lives of the individuals at the time may give you some insight.

What’s Typical?

As genealogists continue to operate in a research climate where more records are available digitally, it’s important to ask:

What should I expect to find in this place and time for this record?

If I find an online record copy of a will in an Illinois in 1890, is that all there is? No. There should be a case file with a originals of probate documents–including the will.

If I find an online record copy of a will in Virginia in in 1760, is that all there is? There may be other references to the estate in court order books, but probably no case file of loose papers.

If a couple marries in Ohio in 1830 and I find an entry in a marriage register, is there likely some additional record? Probably not.

If a couple marries in Virginia in 1770 and I find an entry in a marriage register, is there likely some additional record? There may be marriage bonds.

The point is that we need to be aware of what records were typically kept in the time and place in which our ancestors lived. Sometimes what’s online is not all there is and many online image providers don’t indicate other records that they do not have.

A Cut Edge

The apparent jagged cut on this 1809 deed from Harford County, Maryland, was likely intentional.

The image in this post was made from the original deed retained by my ancestor–the grantee in this document.

Originally this deed was part of a larger piece of paper. The text of the deed was written twice and the special cut made to give one copy to each of the parties involved in the indenture. Then, if necessary, the two pieces could be put back together to authenticate the indenture. If two documents claiming to be the original did not match then one was fraudulent and it would be up to a court to adjudicate.

The cuts will only appear on the original. The record copy of this deed (on file in the land records of Harford County, Maryland) is a handwritten transcription of the text only.

Legal and Religious Marriage Dates

Did your ancestor or relative have both a legal and a religious marriage ceremony? If the dates of the ceremonies are different, make certain you indicate which is which in your research notes.

Don’t neglect researching both sets of records as well. There may be information about the couple in one record that is not in the other.

Junior High Yearbooks?

When I think of yearbooks, I think of ones from high school or college. Grades earlier than that usually do not come to mind.

That’s a mistake.

The image in the illustration is from a 1954 yearbook from John Deere Junior High School in Moline, Illinois. This publication included 9th graders and 8th graders. The original is in the possession of a descendant of one of the young ladies shown in their home economics classroom.

Historical societies or local libraries may have copies of these yearbooks or could give you direction in locating copies. Some of them may have been scanned and made available digitally online. Another search approach may be to reach out to online groups for the towns where the school was located and see if anyone has copies or knows of someone who does.

Some Thoughts about Knowledge

Yesterday’s tip was about children’s knowledge of their mother’s maiden name. Genealogy theory gurus would say that a child’s knowledge of their mother’s maiden name and date of birth is secondary because they were not there.

Yes it’s true that a child is not present at their mother’s birth. We’re doing genealogy, not writing time-bending historical fiction. I was not there when Mom was born in 1942. But in terms of her last name (and even my Grandma’s maiden name), I do have quite a bit of “first-hand” knowledge. Mom was always referred to as her parents’ child. Their siblings referred to her as such. Her one living grandmother referred to her as her granddaughter. That all counts for something.

Some children have a significant amount of interaction with their parents’ families of origin. That definitely impacts their knowledge of that family. Do they know when certain before they were born took place? No because they were not there. But they do have other knowledge about what relationships were acknowledged publicly during their life time.

Of course people can lie about who a child’s actual parents were; there were secret adoptions. Sometimes these things are kept from anyone outside the immediate family and people openly act like things are true that are not. There are times where the “truth” isn’t even what’s in the records. But the majority of time, the relationships that are acknowledged as being true in fact are. And, short of DNA analysis, if the records and “common knowledge” are consistent it can be difficult to prove otherwise.

Children are sometimes correct about their mother’s maiden name–even when we think they are not.

The best example in my research is the maiden name of a 2nd great grandma. Marriage records from 1868 (church and civil) gave one last name. Children all said a completely different last name. Short version is that the marriage records listed her step-father’s last name and the children gave the last name of her actual father–they knew their grandpa’s name. I thought they were wrong but records more contemporary to their mother’s birth confirmed the name they listed.

Just some things to think about.