The story was that my second great-grandfather’s sister and her husband had adopted the child of a neighbor some time before they moved to Nebraska in the 1870s. The child was born a few years before their marriage and the story sounded reasonable. I had traced a few generations of the adopted child’s descendants. I was surprised when one of the child’s descendants showed up as an autosomal DNA match to me. They had a reasonably complete tree going back five generations and, from what I could see, it looked accurate, but the line going back to the adopted child of my second great-grandfather’s sister stopped at that child. The rest of the DNA match’s tree contained family from Sweden and other areas where I had no family. […]
Putting a “+” in front of search terms in the full-text search interface at FamilySearch Lab’s full-text search seems to force that term to be in your search results. This allows you to narrow your search results much easier. Thanks to webinar attendee XXX for mentioning this. You can learn more about our recent FamilySearch Lab full-text search webinar here.
Searching for your ancestors in databases and websites is not like taking a test, but a “cheat sheet” of sorts may still be helpful. In a word processing document or on paper, keep track of what search tricks you used on a specific website so that you’re not left re-inventing the wheel when you go back and use the site later. For example, does the site allow you to use wildcards (such as *, _, ?, or %)? How many wildcards can be used in each search term? Does putting a + or a – in front of a search term impact the search? Does the site have a series of records between say 1800 and 1895, but appear to be missing the records between 1840 and 1842? […]
We’ve released the recording and handout for my new presentation on the full-text searching of local land deed and probate records at FamilySearch. Details are on our announcement page. Introductory price available–save $7. Presentation can be viewed multiple times. No streaming.
Many local records had indexes that were created by the office that originally created and maintained those records. Sometimes these indexes get overlooked by later finding aids. That can be a mistake when searching any record, but particularly when searching land deeds. Your genealogy goal with land records should be to have documentation of how your ancestor acquired his property and how it left his ownership. The acreage acquired should equal the acreage “unacquired” (with a slight discrepancy perhaps for survey and measuring variations). Grantor and grantee indexes to land deeds (created by the office that originally had the records) can help with locating all of these materials, keeping in mind that these indexes usually only referenced the first grantor and the first grantee. There may be other […]
There are many reasons to organize your genealogical data, including: – noticing clues you did not notice before; – finding gaps in your research; – making it easier for you to share your research; -reducing the number of times you locate something you already have; – making it easier for you to publish your information (if that’s your goal); – making it easier for someone to preserve your information after your death; – making it easier for someone looking at your information to help you; and – saving money if you hire a professional–they will have to organize it for you before they can help.
Some ancestors changed religion the way some people change clothes. Other families pick a religion and stay with it for centuries. For your ancestor who changed religions, do you track the approximate years they were a member of each denomination? For relatives who were members of churches that kept track of various acts such as baptisms, first communions, confirmations, and funerals, do you know when those events took place? Are you aware of the typical age members of your ancestors denominations were baptized, had their first communion, or were confirmed? Could be a clue there.
The vast majority of land descriptions in federal land states in the United States (where townships and sections are used) do not mention names of neighbors. Sections, survey markers, township lines, and the occasional metes and bounds description is used—usually without specific individuals listed. As a result, some genealogists are in the habit of not using land records or of not really reading the land descriptions given in land deeds. That’s a mistake. Sometimes there are details about how the land was acquired, specific court actions, or other items impacting the title. And occasionally neighbors are mentioned. Those circumstances are rare, but they do happen. And you won’t find them if you don’t read the entire deed–legal description and all.
There’s a 1940s era picture of my great-uncle’s car that I have in my possession. I only know it is his car because someone wrote “Herschel Neill’s car” on the back. The person who wrote it was my Mother. I doubt if she ever saw the car. The uncle was not her uncle. It was my Dad’s uncle. I can’t ask her how she knew because she’s passed away. I can’t ask my Dad. I can’t ask my Dad’s uncle. The picture was in an album of pictures from my Dad’s family. I’m surmising that Mom bought the album after Grandma died and put the pictures in it and that someone else told her what the picture was of. The point is that her knowledge was not first […]
Probate is the process of settling the affairs of a deceased person and transferring ownership in any property they had to their heirs or individuals named in a valid will. In the United States, probates are local court records. The place to start looking for a probate is where the person owned the most of their property. But that may not be the only place where probate proceedings were filed. If the person owned property in other counties in the same state, there may have been a probate filed there as well–at least a minimal one. Keep in mind that typically if a person owned property in two separate counties in the same state that usually the probate case is heard where the bulk of the property is […]
You located a burial for a relative in FindAGrave. Have you determined where the cemetery was physically located compared to where your ancestors lived, where their farm was, where they went to church, etc.? Finding a grave on FindAGrave is just the first step. Knowing where that cemetery is located is also crucial.
A “clerk’s copy” of a document is usually the recorded copy created by the clerk tasked with the duty of maintaining copies of official records. The handwritten copy of the will in a record book is the clerk’s copy. Your ancestor’s deed for a piece of real estate you found at the courthouse in a bound ledger is the clerk’s copy. These copies are usually legally equivalent to the original document. That’s why it is important for these copies to be exact and why as technology for document reproduction has improved, the way clerk’s copies are created has improved as well. But that clerk’s copy is not the same thing as the original. It’s a derivative copy, but generally a clerk’s copy includes any errors that were included […]
For an ancestor who had multiple spouses, always consider how much time takes place between the ending of one marriage and the beginning of another. Was there enough time for another marriage? For years, I thought a female relative had two husbands–George and later Henry. I didn’t know when the marriage with George ended and the marriage to Henry had the bride using George’s surname. Turned out there was a marriage between George and Henry to a man named Adam that went sour about three months in. The wife reverted to George’s surname, but was married to Adam long enough to be enumerated with his last name in the census. Did your relative have a marriage of short duration that could be confusing your research? It could even […]
On any search–try wildcards (the *, %, ?, or _ ) to see if they work. Some sites will explain whether or not wildcards can be used and what operators are used as wildcards. Some sites do not, even if they allow them. Some sites that allow them only let you use one. Sometimes you can use more than one. Sometimes you can use more than one type of wildcard in a search. Sometimes experimentation is the best way to go. Try a Traut*etter or a Tr*t*tter for Trautvetter. Try a K?le for Kile. And so on. See what happens.
Searching and finding information is great, but do not neglect to enter information in your database, organize information and images, create crude citations, and do some analysis as you find things. It can waste a great deal of time looking for things again online, not being able to find what you saved, or trying to remember why you were looking for a person in the first place. You also make fewer mistakes if you record details and information as you find it. I also find taking some notes on paper helpful and, if there’s enough analysis on them, I take a picture of those notes and save that as well.
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