My “Now” Wife

Just because your ancestor uses the phrase “my now wife” in his will, it does not mean he had to have been married twice. A man might use the phrase to make it clear to whom a bequest was being made. If his will said “to my now wife I leave my farm for her life and at her demise it to go to my children” that meant his wife at the time he wrote his will. He might have been concerned that if he remarried and his “then wife” married again that his real property might fall out of his family’s hands.

Make A Chronology from that Biography or Statement

If you are fortunate enough to find a biography of an ancestor or a statement they made in court, consider creating a chronology from the events and dates it contains. This can be an excellent organizational tool as biographies do not always list events in chronological order and thinking about how every event in the biography fits into a larger timeline can be helpful.

Be certain to include all events–ones stated directly and ones stated indirectly. The same approach can be used with obituaries.

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Care With DNA Matches

When viewing your DNA “matches” take some care before you assume what the connection is or that there is only one connection. It is possible that:

  • one person has a “error” in their tree;
  • there was an adoption early in the lineage that was completely undocumented;It’s usually easier to figure out the relationship when the matches are closer.
  • the father (or mother) shown in an online tree really is not the father (or mother);
  • one of the “parents” was married more than once and the “parent” is actually the step-parent;
  • you may be related to the person in more than one distant way.

Don’t jump to a conclusion about “where in the tree” the match has to be. A recent match for me indicated a distant relationship to an individual. It turned out that we were distantly related on two families–one in Indiana in the 1820s and another in Ontario about the same time period. There was absolutely no connection between the Indiana and Ontario families at the time.

It just happened that a hundred years later an Indiana descendant  and an Ontario descendant married in Illinois in the 1930s and that another Indiana descendant and an Ontario descendant married in Michigan around the same time.

Merging, Confusing, and Overlooking

In families where the same name was used repeatedly, it can be easy to:

  • merge two different people with the same name into being the same person
  • confuse two different people with the same name and assign the wrong record or event to the wrong person
  • overlookyet another relative with the same name–there could always be one more

Correctly sifting out people with the same name can be difficult. Look at records that mention:

  • age
  • middle initials–if they even have them
  • spouse
  • occupational clues
  • specific residence or residential clues
  • relatives

And look at every record you can get your hands on in the area where all these people with the same name lived.

Information is Primary Or…

A piece of genealogical information provided by someone who had first hand knowledge of the event is said to be primary information. Other information is secondary. The closer the information is provided to when the event took place, the more reliable the information is considered to be.

My knowledge of my exact date of birth is not primary–I know it because I read it somewhere or I have been told it. My knowledge of my age, within a year or two, is primary. Having gone to school since the “age of five,” I have a good idea of just about how old I am based on my life experiences. I can provide primary information of when and where my children were born.

My knowledge of my father’s date and place of birth is secondary. I’ve seen it written in various places–official and otherwise–including his actual birth certificate. Just because my knowledge is secondary does not mean that it is incorrect. Classification of information as information as primary or secondary is merely stating how the individual came to know the information.

Documenting a Kitchen Conversation

Who, what, when, where, and (if you are lucky enough to know it) why a picture was taken are great things to leave behind on those digital images of photographs that you may have in your collection.

This 1985-era photograph of my grandmother and her niece was one of many in my parents’ collection of family history ephemera. Fortunately it was identified on the back, albeit in a handwriting which I did not entirely recognize. The only clue was that it referred to my grandmother as “Aunt Ida,” indicating that it was written by one of her nieces or nephews.

This was one of those photographs taken during my lifetime so the identification was not necessary for me, but the date was helpful. The location of the picture was well-known to me as my Grandma Neill’s kitchen and the pitcher in the red circle is one that I currently have.

Creating captions for digital images is a great way to ensure that future generations who see the image know who the individuals are. Metadata is great and helps with searches, but screenshots made of images do not include the metadata–text on the image itself can easily be included. Creating such captions can be an excellent genealogical activity when long-deceased ancestors have the researcher extremely frustrated.

Caption creation can also help the researcher remember stories and preserve those as well.

Birth Certificate Versus Certification of Birth

When requesting vital documents, be clear about what is being offered, what you actually want, and what you end up requesting.

The county clerk and recorder in the Illinois county where I was born have a copy of my birth certificate. It was created by some photographic process from the original certificate on file in the state vital records office in Springfield, Illinois. If I request a certification of birth from the county clerk, I will get a document certifying that they have a copy of my birth certificate. That document will state what the original says–including my name, date of birth, place of birth, and names of my parents.  That certification of birth will not include a “reproduction” of the actual certificate.

Genealogists usually want an actual copy of the actual record–usually done by some sort of photographic reproduction. This cuts down on transcription errors by a records clerk reading an old record (not that MY birth certificate is all that old <grin>).

In my case the original has my mother’s signature on it–a neat addition that’s not on the “certification of birth.”

Genealogy Tip of the Day: The Book

While supplies last, we are offering copies of Genealogy Tip of the Day the book at $17.00. The 286-page book contains an edited version of our earlier tips. We’ve removed repetitive content, promotional items, and “news” that’s no longer news. There’s more information on the book on our website–that page does not have a link to this offer.

This link is the only one that contains an order at this price.

The book’s price ordered directly is $25. The Amazon price is slightly less than that for Prime members.

You can learn more about the book on our website, but this link is the only one that has the discount price.

What Does a Veteran Do With a Military Land Warrant

If a veteran or his widow received a land warrant for service in the War of 1812, they had one of two choices:

  • haul their happy self to territory that had unclaimed federal land
  • sell the warrant and assign it to someone who did want to haul their happy self to territory that had unclaimed federal land

Then whoever had the warrant would claim the appropriate amount of acreage in the federal domain and surrender the warrant in exchange for title to the property. The warrant was what was used for payment or consideration. After the paperwork was completed, the individual who surrendered the warrant would receive a “first deed” (patent) giving them title to the real estate they had claimed.

The application to get the warrant (filed by the veteran or his widow) is at the National Archives. The surrendered land warrants are as well.

The Paper Genealogy Tree Versus the Genetic Family Tree

While DNA passes from parent to child, each child only gets half of each of their individual parent’s DNA. Consequently, as a lineage is worked back in time, there will be ancestors in your genealogical tree with whom you might not share any DNA. It doesn’t mean that the ancestor is not your ancestor. It simply means that their DNA did not makes it’s way all the way down to you. While DNA is microscopically small, there’s only so much your body needs.

Some suggest (for example, Blaine Bettinger in his  The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy) that once a lineage is traced back to the 4th great-grandparents that there are paper genealogy tree ancestors with whom you do not share DNA.  That’s why you may share no DNA with another descendant of one of your 5th great-grandparents.

Of course there have to be ancestors in your tree with whom you do share DNA.