Was the Newspaper Being Snarky?

Theoretically newspapers are supposed to stick to verifiable facts. That does not always happen–particularly in the gossipy correspondent columns that appeared in some weekly newspapers. My ancestor, when he married his second wife, is referred to in the newspaper as a “well-to-do citizen” of a neighboring township. Based upon what I have learned about his life before and after this marriage, the reference seems to be slightly facetious.

The date and place of marriage was correct. The additional reference, which I included in the transcription, is taken with a grain of salt.

Say It Out Loud

When transcribing a document (or trying to interpret creative spelling that is clear to read), consider reading the item or document out loud. Sometimes words that don’t click when read silently do when heard aloud.

Talking to yourself may have the added benefit of others in your household leaving you alone–allowing you to focus on your research.

A Reunion Activity

Do you know who all those people are at the reunion?

A genealogy exercise that may yield some discoveries is to go through a reunion announcement and determine how the attendees are related. At some reunions, relative by marriage, current friends (especially significant others) and former neighbors may be in attendance. Do not assume everyone in attendance was a biological relative. But going through the names in an attempt to determine “who they are” may help you locate some new clues

And since most of these announcements are twentieth-century documents, they may help you figure out a few DNA matches as well.

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The Brick Wall Break

If you are not making progress on that brick wall, considering doing one of these alternate genealogy activities:

  • digitizing something you have that has not been digitized before;
  • putting identification information on digital images of pictures;
  • writing up one of your solved problems;
  • organizing and cleaning your digital genealogy files;
  • reviewing a family you thought you were “done with;”
  • finding ways to preserve and share answers to questions you have already solved;
  • reaching out to that family member you have been avoiding for information;
  • improving your genealogy skills by reading an article, watching a webinar, looking into classes, etc.;
  • washing the dishes.

That last one was a joke. There are a variety of genealogy things you can do when you have “genealogy time,” but that brick wall has you frustrated.

Come to think of it, washing the dishes (or doing one non-genealogy task) might be the temporary distraction you need.

Out-of-Towners Can Pay Taxes

When viewing real property tax records, remember that landowners are the ones who pay property taxes and landowners may not live on the property they own.

Just because you see Nicholas Schnieferdornman paying tax on real property in Amherst County, Virginia, in 1813 does not necessarily mean that he resides in Amherst County at that time. It is possible that he is a non-resident landowner. Individuals who are taxed on personal property in an area are usually residents of that area, but there can always be the occasional exception.

Tractor Wars

It’s not an end of the world movie fought by tractors. Tractor Wars is a book about the development of the farm tractor and the individuals and companies instrumental in that development.

If your farming ancestors lived in the United States in the very late 1800s and early part of the 20th century, then this book may be of interest. The tractor changed farming in many ways and was one of the factors that eventually lead to larger farms and fewer farm families. The book is about the development of the tractor industry itself and focuses on the key players and companies in that industry. How the tractor changed farming is mentioned in general and in passing, but this book is not a detailed study of how the tractor changed farming. There’s a wonderful bibliography of materials that were used in the compilation of this book.

But it’s an interesting read for those curious about the development of the tractor or how three big players in the tractor industry (Deere, Ford, and International Harvester) competed with each other in the early days.

Genealogists are always looking for historical background. This is one of those books that provides that–and the sources will no doubt make for some great reading material.

Tractor Wars was written by Neil Dahlstrom. It’s available on Amazon.com.

One Good Source

I don’t need four repairmen coming over, I just need one who knows what he’s doing.

Citation and documentation matter in genealogical research. But “sources” are more than just citing them and the number of them you in an attempt to prove a fact about a deceased relative. It is the accuracy of those sources and whether or not they are truly independent that matters.

A person may have four original documents that provides the same piece of information: a place of birth. But if those documents (a death certificate, a marriage application, an obituary, and a biography written by the same person) all have the same informant, it’s really just one piece of information that is dependent on how reliable that person is.

A place of birth on a birth record completed by the doctor or someone else in attendance at the event or who would have had reliable first-hand knowledge may be better than numerous other sources written by someone whose knowledge of the event is second hand–especially when those sources did not agree.

It’s not how many sources you have that is as important as their perceived reliability.

Were the Records Really Destroyed?

No genealogist wants to hear “the courthouse burned and all the records were destroyed.” The reality is that sometimes that statement is only partially true. Other times there are partial workarounds to those times when a courthouse and its records were really destroyed.

The first thing to do is to determine what actually was destroyed. This may mean reaching out to others besides the local records offices. In some locations research guides to the area in question may indicate what materials really were destroyed and what ones are still extant. Local libraries, genealogical/historical societies are a good place to start asking about what records are available.

Individuals familiar with research in the area can be another great resource. These people may not live in the area and may not be members of local societies. Ask around if there is anyone who has done extensive research on families in the area and see if it is possible to reach out to this person.

State or regional archives may have materials related to the area in question. FamilySearch may have copies of some materials as well.

In some cases, after a facility’s records were destroyed, local individuals may have been told to bring in their original deeds or other items that had been recorded to have them recorded. Others may have documented land ownership through affidavits and depositions.

Finally, state or federal records may provide some information on your ancestors as well as newspapers, cemeteries, church records, etc.

Follow Up on the Ex After the Divorce?

Do you completely research all the ex-spouses of your ancestor after they and your ancestor divorced? Records after the divorce may mention your ancestor, their children, or provide research clues that help with your actual ancestor.

And you never know, you may just find a really interesting story–even if your ancestor is not mentioned. I did. It included a fall down an elevator shaft and a box of missing estate documents that were never found. And the probate ended up mentioning the ex-wife.

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Not in the File, but in the Paper

The widow never did find the box of papers.

Thomas Price supposedly left behind a lock box with valuable papers related to his estate when he died in Quincy, Illinois, in 1923. It was never found.

The probate packet made no mention of the missing papers (because they were not found), but there were at least two newspaper references to the missing items. One reference indicated that Thomas had been married before and had children with his first wife.

Always search newspapers for references to an ancestral estate. They will not always be mentioned and the references may not be as sensational as this one, but additional family details may be alluded to in the newspaper.

The widow hired an attorney and three fortune tellers to help her find the box. She had no luck.