If They Don’t Have it and Will Take It

Do you have spare copies of a genealogy book? Do you know a library with a genealogy collection that would be interested in it? The Allen County Public Library’s Genealogy Collection did not have a copy of the 1982 Roots of the Family Fecht. I had two. My children are not going to want them. I now have one. The Genealogy Collection at the Allen County Public Library has the other. Don’t wait for your children to do these things. Cull your collection yourself.

Genealogical Publishing Company has announced the release of the new 4th edition of Evidence Explained. Check it out on their website.

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A Patronym

A patronym is a last name derived from the first name of the father. The most common one, and the simplest one, is Johnson–son of John. In some cases the first name may be altered slightly to form the last name, but the essence is there.

Your Ancestor’s Responsibility

It’s not your ancestor’s job to leave behind records. Many of them did good to survive from day to day and take care of themselves and others for whom they were responsible for.

It’s your job as a genealogist to find what records you can, learn so that you understand completely what those records mean, report what you find accurately and clearly, and leave behind something about yourself.

That’s a pretty tall order.

It’s also not important how many ancestors your discover. There’s no prize for who finds the most ancestors or relatives. What matters is that you report their story as accurately as you can.

It’s also good to share and preserve what unique records and materials you may have been lucky enough to acquire during your genealogical journey.

A Will Is…

One person’s view at one point in time.

It’s always advised to not look at a will in black and white. Like all documents used in genealogy it was created for a specific purpose. In the case of a will, it was to provide instructions for how the executor should dispose of the property of the deceased.

While a will may contain significant commentary about the individuals mentioned, that’s not the real purpose of the document. If an individual is not named in a parent’s will, it could be because that individual had already received property from the parent. It could also be because the writer of the will and the specific child had a falling out of sorts. That “falling out” could have been the result of the child, the will-writer, or both.

Situations are rarely black and white.

A grandparent may only list half of their grandchildren in their will. It does not necessarily mean that those grandchildren were their favorite. It is possible that they were, but one needs to be careful reading intentions into documents that are not there.

A will is meant to transfer the property of the deceased after they have died. A will can contain clues as to family dynamics, but care needs to be taken when using a will to draw conclusions about relationships between various family members.

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How Specific is it?

from a while back…

A death certificate indicates that a relative was born Rush County, Indiana, on 23 December 1846.

The tombstone indicates that the relative was born on 25 December 1846.

The 1850 census indicates that the same relative was a native of Indiana and was three years of old at the time of the enumeration. That means that the person was born in either sometime in 1846 or 1847. It’s not additional evidence that the person was born specifically on 23 December 1846. It is consistent with that date of birth (which is good), but the census does not indicate that precise date of birth.

Use the death certificate as the source for the 23 December 1846 birth in Indiana.

Use the tombstone as  the source for the 25 December 1846 birth. Don’t use the tombstone for as a source of the Indiana place of birth since the stone does not provide a place of birth.

Use the census as the source for a 1846-1847 birth in Indiana.

Choose which date you believe to be more reliable and make that your “preferred” date of birth for the person in question. In your notes indicate why you believe that date/place to be the most accurate.

Avoid indicating sources say things that they do not. It will reduce confusion later–especially if other records disagree.

Transcript, Abstract, Extract

Generally speaking, a transcript is a complete exactly copy of a document–including exact spelling, grammar, and punctuation. An extract is a verbatim transcription of a portion of a document–preserving spelling, grammar, and punctuation (and usually enclosed in quotation marks). An abstract summarizes the content of a document.

All three should include a citation to the document that was used to create the transcript, abstract, or extract.

What Have You Shared?

It is great to know how to cite items in your personal collection of family history materials (pictures, letters, family Bibles, etc.), but what have you done to actually preserve or share those items with others? Keeping paper items in archivally safe materials is a great way to start, but making digital images of those items and sharing them is another.

Knowing where to put the comma in a citation for a family letter is great, but if no one has ever seen a copy of that letter but you and you’ve made no attempt to share its contents, will that comma really matter?


Provenance is the chain of ownership of a historical item over time and details about the origin of that item. For some items, one may be only able to track the provenance back so far. When one has archival family items, documenting their provenance is advised before that information is lost forever.

Separation of Bed and Board

This is when a couple lives apart–physically and financially–but stays legally married. There may be a court action that separates the couple’s finances and any real properties or spells out a maintenance amount given to one spouse (usually the wife).

Since the couple is not divorced they cannot marry someone else, but they can act separately in other legal acts. If you encounter this phrase in relationship to a relative, determine what it precisely meant at the point and time in question. A search of land records and court records is likely warranted. Sometimes property settlements are recorded in the land records even if real property is not owned.

But don’t ignore the phrase. Your relative likely didn’t.

Screen Shot that Surprise DNA Match?

Do you download/print/save information from your DNA matches? While it may be impractical to do this for every match, there are times where it is advisable.

Most people do not delete their DNA submissions, but it does happen and once it is gone, it is gone. Deletion is more likely when a person discovers a close misattributed parentage–in other words, their father is not their father, their mother is not their mother, a grandparent is not their grandparent, etc. Sometimes a person discovers that their parent had a child of which they were unaware. There are people who welcome these discoveries. There are people who do not.

If you discover a close match to you who is a surprise–for example, you have a first cousin match and you were unaware of any first cousins in your family–consider taking screen shots of their profile, shared matches, and the like before you contact them. Just in case they decide to remove their profile.

Also remember that predicted relationships can be slightly off in some cases when the genealogy DNA testing sites automatically predicts a relationship. That’s why they are called predicted relationships.

How you decide to contact that surprise match is a separate matter. But keep in mind that sometimes a genealogy DNA test changes a person’s world in ways they did not imagine. Consider downloading their data–for your personal use only–just in case it goes away.