Those Home Grown Place Names

Do you map out or record somewhere those names you have for places that you, and maybe only a few other people, know? Growing up we had names for various parcels of property that our grandparents or parents had slowly acquired over the years. Usually those names were for former owners. One name may have been for a former tenant on the property–I’m not exactly certain.

And one name was a severe mangling of the name of a previous owner. It took me a while to figure that one out.

But record those names. It may even be helpful to map them out as well.

Does the Heir Benefit?

Typically an “heir” is someone who is legally entitled to inherit property from someone if that someone dies without leaving a legally valid will.

Beneficiaries are generally individuals who are designated to receive property after a person dies. They may be named in a will, a trust, or other legal documents.

Legatee and devisee are two older terms that may be encountered in legal documents involving the settlement of an estate when there is a valid will admitted to probate. A legatee is someone who is named to inherit personal property. A devisee is someone who is named to inherit real property.

Final Settlement

When looking through a set of estate or probate papers, don’t neglect to look for a “final settlement.” It may list a final list of heirs to the estate–some of whom may not have been listed at first because some of the original heirs may have died during the settlement of the estate. The temptation may be to look for just the will and the estate inventory, but the final report may hold some clues as well. Seeing how the money was split up may assist in determining what relationship the heirs had to the deceased as in some cases that may not be made crystal clear.

Last Alive and First Dead

If you don’t have a death date for an ancestor, make certain you cite the “last alive” date. For some that’s the date they signed a will or last appeared in a census.

Of course there can be other records as well that document that “last alive” date.

Track the “first dead by” date as well. For some that’s the date from a court or probate record.

But always make it clear that these dates are not death dates.

Fans Do Not Operate in Vacuums

Every event in your ancestor’s life takes place in context. If your ancestor does something on a specific date, there may be other people doing that same thing on that same date:

  • other couples marrying on the same date as your ancestor may be relatives or close friends
  • other individuals naturalizing on the same day as your ancestor may be relatives, friends, or associates
  • men who deserted the army on the same date as your ancestor may have had a connection to him
  • people who died on the same date as your ancestor may have had the same contagious illness
  • and so on.

The commonality of the date may mean nothing. It may also be significant. Just don’t ignore it. Looking for “same day people”  is an excellent way to locate your ancestor’s friends, associates, and neighbors, what Elizabeth Shown Mills (author of Evidence Explainedcalls the FAN network.

Your ancestor didn’t live in a vacuum. Using the FAN approach requires some air <grin>.

Before You React to that Discovery

Before a document or record causes your research to spring forward into other sources or people, consider doing the following:

  • read the entire document;
  • make certain you understand all terms;
  • ask yourself “have I made any incorrect assumptions?”
  • make certain the records you have are really on the same person;
  • give yourself some time to let the new discovery “sink in.”

Certainty of Location?

When you cannot find a record in the expected location, ask yourself if you are really certain the event took place in that spot. Do you have good information to cause you to believe that or are you operating under a hunch? That hunch could be wrong. Did a couple go a distance from home to elope? Did your great-grandparents live in another state for a year and that’s where one child was born? Was great-grandma living with a daughter out of state when she died? The event may not have taken place where you think it did–especially if if happened one hundred years before you were born.