Quit Claim

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.

Formerly Late

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.

New Area…New Sources?

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.

Partial Newspaper References

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.

What Areas are Included and Extant?

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.

A Year Off?

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. 

What Are Sources?

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

Same Name People Problems

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.

Border Precision?

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, Illinois.

Do Not Write Right On It

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.