We’ve mentioned quit claim deeds before, but it’s worth a quick reminder. A quit claim deed is one where the grantor is giving up whatever claim they have to a piece of property. Their claim may not be valid at all. Their claim may not have been validated or adjudicated to be valid by any judge or court. A grantor on a quit claim deed is literally saying that they are quitting (or giving up) their claim. Quit claim deeds can be drawn up quickly, but they are quit claim deeds not “quick claim” deeds. The majority of quit claim deeds are drawn up to: settle an inheritance, settle up a divorce, straighten out a property line between owners of adjacent properties, or renounce an incomplete land claim.
A reference to “John Smith, late of Bedford County, Pennsylvania,” probably means that Smith used to reside in Bedford County but no longer does. It does not necessarily mean that Smith was deceased. “John Smith, formerly of Bedford County, Pennsylvania,” means that Smith used to live in Bedford County, but that he no longer does. Occasionally “late” and “formerly” may refer to a name used by an individual, such as “Karen Smith, formerly Jones.” “Deceased” usually means dead. “Late” does not have to mean dead. Sometimes contextual clues will make that obvious and other times they will not.
Different areas can easily have different sources, especially if the “new area” is in a different state, an area with a different population density, an area with a different ethnic background. Never assume what’s available in one area will be available in another. Thinking you know is different from actually knowing.
Is it possible that your ancestor is listed in a newspaper with an incomplete reference to their name? Adults may be listed as “Mr. Neill,” “Miss Trautvetter,” or “Mrs. Ufkes.” Children sometimes may only be listed with their first name and if they are referenced without their parents, the reference may be difficult to find.
Recently I was searching the 1855 New York State census for relatives from Clinton County, New York, by querying an index. No amount of clever searching, Soundex options, and wildcards were effective. It was when I went to read the census manually that I realized the problem. Clinton County’s 1855 New York State Census enumeration is not on Ancestry.com (where I initially searched). Reading the description of the 1855 New York State Census indicated Clinton was one of the counties whose enumeration is not extant. No amount of database querying is going to find those Clinton County relatives in that census. Make certain the database is complete or at the least includes your probable areas of ancestral residence before searching.
Legal records that state a person’s age may indicate their age as of a certain date or state what the person’s age will be on their next birthday. Read the document carefully to make certain you interpret the age and when it was effective correctly. Otherwise you may inadvertently create a birth year discrepancy where none actually existed. 
Generally speaking, genealogists who write and lecture extensively about genealogy research and methodology put sources in one of three categories: Original-the first time the document was recorded. Derivative-when the document was reproduced, whether by hand or some sort of “image reproduction” Authored Narrative-usually a written compilation of original and derivative records along with analysis, interpretation and summary This classification scheme is not perfect. No scheme is perfect. This classification scheme does not comment on the accuracy of the record. That’s the job of the researcher as some original sources are virtually worthless and some derivative sources are excellent. For more about record classification and analysis, consult  Evidence Explained. 
In families where the same name was used repeatedly, it can be easy to: merge two different people with the same name into being the same person confuse two different people with the same name and assign the wrong record or event to the wrong person overlookyet another relative with the same name–there could always be one more Correctly sifting out people with the same name can be difficult. Look at records that mention: age middle initials–if they even have them spouse occupational clues specific residence or residential clues relatives And look at every record you can get your hands on in the area where all these people with the same name lived.
Some locations have precise geographic borders. Those borders may change over time, but often are reasonably well-established. Some places, particularly those whose names are informal and known to locals, may have more fluid boundaries or just be a general area. Ethnic regions of some urban areas can change over time and have boundaries that are in a constant state of flux or have no precise definition. In some rural areas, certain areas may have a name that known to locals but does not appear on any map, post office list, or other geographic finding aid. Frequently these items are mentioned in newspapers, family letters and correspondence, and other unofficial records. Some thoughts on locating such places can be found in our recent post on Prairie Precinct in Winnebago County, […]
A reminder from the past: Don’t write on your only copy of a document in an attempt to make it more legible. Transcribe it, make annotations on another copy (in the margin), etc. But do not write right on the copy itself. You may be wrong in your initial interpretation.
Those “missing” relatives could be hiding under a first name of which you are not aware. I have two great-aunts (one by birth and one by marriage) had actual first names that they never used past their childhood. They used their middle names as their “legal” name. That middle name is on all their documents, their tombstone, etc. Except in records before they were married–those all list them by their “real” first name. Is someone hiding in records because they have another name of which you are not aware?
The 1820 United States Census contains two age categories that overlap: males of 16 years but under 18 years males of 16 years but under 26 years
If you scratch out relationships or other genealogical connections, make certain you take a piece of that paper and file it with other information on the family. The sheet may be lost and your memory will fade with time. Even if you scratch work does not include sources–get a picture of it for your own records. I would also add the compiler and the date of the item to the illustration shown in the picture.
When using any historical record for genealogical research, it is imperative to know how individuals came to be listed in that record. It is impossible to analyze the person’s presence in the record and interpret it correctly if how the names came to be in the list is not known. Some lists are easy to understand: real property tax lists contain names of landowners, lists of voters contain names of individuals who were eligible to vote in that time and place (find out those rules if you are unaware), list of church members contain names of individuals who were members of a specific church. I was reminded of the importance of the list’s purpose when I encountered a list of names of church members. I wondered why the […]
The grandson recently asked me if it was raining outside. When I answered “no,” he immediately said it was sunny. It wasn’t, but in his mind the two things were opposites. The opposite of “it is raining” is “it is not raining.” I was not going to have that discussion with him as it was not age appropriate. It was better to simply state the specific truth at the time: it was cloudy. Some times genealogists fail to understand that there are other possible ways to interpret a record, family dynamic, or situation than the one or two ways that may initially enter our mind. The simplest example is that someone who is not listed in a US census record is not necessarily dead. There are other options: […]
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