Our goals here at Genealogy Tip of the Day are simple for the most part. They are generally to get readers thinking about:
the research process
what they find
analyzing what they find
their assumptions about research and their ancestors
terminology and language used in records
the history, culture, and environment in which their ancestors lived
And we try to be short—that’s sometimes the difficult part. Tips are not meant to be verbose or lengthy discussions. The intent is to make people aware or to remind them of a topic, concept, term, etc. Longer discussions are posted on myRootdig blog.
One of the “big” genealogy sites recently announced an update to a database for a state where I have a handful of relatives. Instead of reviewing the information on those relatives in my database and then conducting some searches, I immediately began conducting searches.
That was a mistake.
The “search right now” approach to get immediate results may be tempting, but it can be easy for the researcher to forget key details, mix up names, overlook some relatives, etc. All this does is end up wasting time and cause information to be overlooked.
Always go back and review details about people before searching for them. That little bit of time spent could result in more time being saved.
Wills, deeds, and other legal documents may list all the children of a specific individual. Don’t assume that they are listed in order from oldest to youngest. They may be–or they may not be. Try and use other records to estimate the years of birth for at least some of the children when vital records are not available. That may give you a better perspective on whether children are listed in birth order in a specific document or not.
Remember that a quit claim deed drawn up to settle the estate of a deceased individual may mention children and grandchildren of the deceased in order to transfer title properly. The deed may not distinguish between children and grandchildren, only referring to them as heirs. The deceased individual may have children who predeceased them and their children would be heirs. Some documents may not make all these relationships clear.
And obituaries? Well they can omit children, use a concept of “children” that is broader than biological children (for often understandable reasons), list children by where they live to save space, list them by gender, or simply list them in a random order.
There is a picture of my Dad and my brother taken in the early 1970s. My Dad is wearing a pair of dress slacks, a dress shirt, and a tie. My Dad rarely dressed up–most pictures of him are in jeans and some form of work shirt.
My immediate thought was “where were we all going?”
Sure enough, my Mother had written the month and year when the photo was taken and the name of the cousin whose wedding we were getting ready to attend. The picture was taken in the front yard of the home where we live.
Many documents, records, and pictures have unwritten clues that can be just as important as the statements and images that are straightforward. Sometimes those unwritten clues are more important than other ones. Sometimes those unwritten clues cannot be noticed until we have seen a lot of other records or documents and have a point of reference.
That’s the case with the picture of my Dad. If that was the only picture of my Dad I had and he had some sort of “office job,” the attire might not have been noteworthy. But in this case it was.
If your ancestor apparently picked up and moved to where he knew no one, is it possible he was responding to an advertisement? Speculators, land agents, promoted their projects and developments in a variety of ways–including newspapers.
It might have been an advertisement that caused your ancestor to pick up and move to where he knew no one.
Have you checked out the website for the state archives, state historical society, state library, etc. in the states where your ancestors lived? At the very least many have research guides and information about records in the state or province. Many have online indexes, databases, or actual images of records that can be accessed remotely. Others offer some research services via email or phone or at the least answer research questions.
Don’t neglect state-level facilities. They often have budgets and staff that local agencies do not. Some may also be repositories for local records that can no longer be maintained by the original creator or holder of the records.
Even if Aunt Martha does not have hollowed out book on her bookshelf, any book in her collection could have an obituary, photograph, letter, or other paper-based family history item tucked into it. Family Bibles are the first place to look–and to page through page by page. Clippings, funeral notices, and the like can also be used as bookmarks.
Make certain you have flipped through all the pages of those books if you have the chance to go through them. You are looking for items of family history value–not just items with monetary value.
When the book in the illustration was pulled off the shelf, it’s purpose was clear. Not all hollowed out books are as easy to spot.
I give this property to John Smith and his heirs and assigns forever.” The phrase “heirs and assigns forever” means that John can “assign” (sell by deed or give by will) the property or, if he has not done that by his death, then John’s heirs will have title to the property (depending upon state statute and common legal practice at the time).
That’s a rather simplified version of “heirs and assigns” forever, but “heirs” and “assigns” mean different things.
And the genealogist who doesn’t concern themself with the definitions runs the risk of drawing conclusions that are not necessarily true.
Don’t always assume that “adopted” children were unrelated to the family. There could have been some relationship between the adopted child and the parents. The child could have been the grandchild of the couple or a child of a sibling or other family member. But there’s also nothing saying that the adopted child was related either. It’s just something to think about.
A certification of birth is a document that certifies a record of the birth appears in the records of the local office authorized to record records of birth. It may contain a transcription of the entire document or just a portion of it. The certification is not intended to be a complete transcription of the original document. It just confirms that the record is on file.
A copy of the certificate of birth is usually an actual copy of the birth record. From the standpoint of genealogical research, it’s the preferred item to request.
The image contains part of the certification of birth and birth certificate for my late grandmother. The certification of birth contains spellings of her parents’ names that are not what appears to be on the certificate of birth. That’s due to either a transcription error, or in this case that the certification was created from information in a different record–perhaps a register of births that contained a summary of information that appeared on the actual birth certificate.
Issues such as this are why it is crucial to indicate in a source citation exactly what document is being cited. In this case, I need to see if there is a separate register of births for the time period when my grandmother was born. The birth number on the certification of birth is not the number that appears on the certificate of birth.
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