From a while back… My relative purchased a farm in the late 1860s. It still owned by a descendant today. The last deed to the property recorded in the local recorder’s office is that deed of purchase in the 1860s. There are no other deeds. That’s because every transfer after that time has been through a bequest in a will when the current owner died–in 1877, 1939, and 1969. The wills served to transfer title. There’s no missing deeds, it’s just that at the time the will served as the “deed” because it transferred title. (This tip is partially due to a reader’s comment on an earlier tip. Thanks!).
Just because a date is inscribed in stone does not mean it is necessarily more accurate than any other source containing a different date. Errors can still be made. Stonecutters may be working from handwritten notes that are difficult to read. The informant may have been misinformed. The stone may have been cut and erected decades after the person died. The inscription may be difficult to read. The purchaser of the tombstone is usually responsible for the information it contains. A tombstone is a source like any other.
The genealogist may be frustrated when an obituary indicates someone is survived by “many grandchildren.” But there are reasons why a family may choose to use this phrase instead of listing all the grandchildren (and great-grandchildren) or using a specific number. A family may wish to not name all the grandchildren for reasons of privacy, because publishing the entire list is cost-prohibitive, or because deciding who to count as a grandchildren can (in some families given some personalities) create family discord (should a former step-child of a child be counted or not?). It’s important for genealogists to remember that documents are not created for us. They are created for others, often for non-genealogy purposes, and genealogist use them because they are what we have.
Many genealogists have seen old photographs where one person’s head has been removed. The joke often is that in the “old days” this was how people were unfriended. It’s not quite that simple. There no doubt were times where a person’s image was removed from every picture another person had of them. The removal was symbolic and may have been cathartic as well. But it’s also possible the removal of the person’s face was due to continued affection and not the end of it. The removed photograph may have ended up in a locket instead of a burn pile. Assuming the removed person had a falling out with someone is incorrect. The opposite could have been true. Now if every image of that person has been cut out […]
From a while back: You are researching your ancestor in a new location. Unless your ancestor moved from the upstairs bedroom to the downstairs bedroom, there’s the chance she crossed a political boundary. Crossing that boundary means: Learning about these things in the new location will help your research. Don’t assume that the address was the only thing that changed when your ancestor moved.
It bears repeating: research not only the people you are “interested in,” but also their extended family–particularly their siblings, nieces/nephews, aunts/uncles, step-siblings, first cousins, long-term friends, etc. I don’t think it’s usually necessary to research the third and fourth cousins of your focus person, but many times something on those close relatives may tell you something on your focus person that you are unable to locate elsewhere. When you find these people on census enumeration, passenger list, or similar record, look at the “paper neighbors” on that record–you may find your actual person of interest.
County and local histories published in the late 19th century often contained biographies of residents. These writeups were often submitted by the subject of the biography or their immediate family and usually required payment. If your ancestor did not have the means to pay or did not have the inclination to pay, the chance they have a biography in some of these books is minimal. There also was little or not fact-checking of the material contained in these books as well. Use the data as clues and validate where you can from contemporary sources with reliable information. What’s in the book may very well be correct, but as the time covered moves further into the past the chance of errors increases.
A call name is a name that a person normally uses. The name in his baptismal record and other church records may be Johann Erasmus Trautvetter. The rest of the time (the vast majority of the time) he went by Erasmus. Erasmus was his call name. He never used the name Johann.
Marriages may not always get recorded as officiants do make mistakes. But if spouses are required to be on a land deed relinquishing their interest in the real estate being transferred, that reference usually is not overlooked. The reason is that a purchaser may have issues with their title if the wife of the grantor (seller) does not relinquish their dower interest in the property. Such was the case with Gustaf Herbert of Hancock County, Illinois. A marriage record for him could not be located in the county where he lived or in the nearby counties. Assuming he was not married would have been a mistake. There on a deed from 1880 when he sold forty acres was the name of his wife at the time of the […]
Your ancestor may have had a variety of jobs during his life. For some individuals their jobs all followed the same career path or involved the same type of work. For others, the type of work varied. Don’t assume that your relative had one job or type of job his entire life. The 1906 deposition shown in the illustration indicated that the deponent’s husband, Omaha, Nebraska, resident Frederick Fuller, drove a wagon for a brewer, worked as a policeman, ran a saloon, and then travelled selling groceries in the 1882-1895 time frame. After that he moved to North Dakota and worked as a farmer and rancher. Before living in Omaha, Fuller also worked as a farmer. Documenting these occupational changes can be difficult. Census records provide periodic information. […]
There is no doubt that in the early days of settlement in a location, when that area was on the “frontier” with potentially rapid changes in population that county lines changed as new ones were formed out. There is also no doubt that even after an area was settled, the occasional new county would be formed or a county line would be slightly modified for one reason or another. It is even possible that a line may be corrected when a new survey is conducted. One set of my great-grandparents farmed in several different locations for the first twenty or so years of their marriage in the very early 20th century. These farms were on different sides of the county line. Some children were born in one county. […]
Do you know what information is typically included in a marriage record when your ancestor married? Do you know what is usually found in a death record when your ancestor died? If you have family who lived in an area for some time, do you know what typically is included in a probate file? Do you know if the occupation of a grantor is typically included in a land deed? Being familiar with the records in a place and time–including what information they usually provide–can help direct your research process. If you are working on a group of families in Amherst County, Virginia, in the early 19th and late 18th centuries, you should know that marriage bonds may provide parental information. If you are working on a group […]
I’m working on a family where three fairly close relatives married men with the last names of Herold, Herbert, and Herzog. A cheat sheet (actually three different colored post-it notes) contained their name, year and place for their birth and death and the name of their wife. It was a low-tech approach, but helped me to keep them straight.
A relative, John Herbert, purchased property in Illinois in the 1850s from his wife’s parents. He sold it on 4 March 1861 to his wife’s brother. There is no “release of dower” signed by the wife, which is typical for the time period and location. I do know that by 1870 he was married to another wife and family tradition is that he was a widower before he married again. There are no death records in Illinois for the time period in question. Since normally a wife would have signed a release of dower on a deed in Illinois in the 1860, it seems reasonable that John’s wife was dead by the time the deed was executed on 4 March 1861.
In 1879, my uncle George Adolph Trautvetter, purchased 40 acres from Julius and Mary Bierman in Hancock County, Illinois. I recognized the names of the grantees immediately: Mary (who signed as Marie) was a first cousin to George Trautvetter. Always do at least a cursory search of the other individuals involved in your relative’s land transactions. It was not uncommon for people to interact with extended family members in real estate transactions. These documents won’t name any relationships on the deed–unless they all happen to be heirs or already have a joint interest in the property. Deeds are about transferring title to property–not documenting family relationships (unless for reasons already mentioned).
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