An Unknown First Name?

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?

Counted Twice in 1820

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

Pictures of Notes

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.

Purpose of the Record

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 spouses of a few relatives were not listed–as I knew they sporadically attended. The list was one of baptized church members–which explained the absence.

The purpose of a list or a record matters and can explain why certain individuals may not be on that list.

No Rain Means Sunshine?

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: moved for a short time, overlooked, and name completely butchered by census taker, are just some ways this could have happened.

If it is not raining, it could be sunny. It’s good for a child to know that if it’s not raining that it could be sunny. Grown genealogists need to remember that there are other options as well.

The “I”‘s Handwriting

From a while back…

Sometimes it takes a while for things to dawn on us. I had this photograph for years before I realized that the “Mary and I and our old home church” was written by my great-grandmother. After all she and Mary are in the picture so “I” must be her. This was one time when I was glad that “I” was used on the back of a picture instead of the name. Fortunately someone was able to identify the people in the picture for me. 

The JP’s Jurisdiction

In the United States, Justices of the Peace performed a variety of legal functions, but were authorized to execute their duties in a specific geographic location.

That location can be a clue as to where your ancestor lived or at least were at one point in time. If your ancestors acknowledge a deed before a Justice of the Peace, that acknowledgement should be recorded on the record copy of the deed and it will say where the JP was allowed to work.

If a document your relative acknowledges includes the JP’s name and location, use that as a geographic clue to search for your ancestor in other records.

Can I Get a Witness?

Before I extensively research individuals who appear as witnesses on ancestral documents, I keep in mind a few things:

What is a witness?

A witness is simply saying that they saw the signer of the document sign it.

Who is a witness?

A witness usually has to be of legal age at the place and in the time where the document is signed. They could be a relative of the person signing the document. They could be another warm body nearby when the document is signed.

The witnesses in ancestral documents that I research first are those whose names appear most often or who witness documents an ancestor signed in different geographic locations. People in those two categories have the highest chance of having a significant connection to my ancestor.

That doesn’t mean that someone who appears as a witness one time is someone I should ignore. But the “one-off witnesses” are less likely to have a significant connection to my ancestor.

Genealogy Tip of the Day book can be ordered here.

Classifieds May Address Your Person

From a while back…

Your ancestor’s name may not appear in the city directory or directories may not be available. Classified ads in the newspaper may tell you where the person lived or had a business establishment. They may also help you confirm addresses for people who moved around quite a bit–sometimes one step ahead of the rent collector.