Mother When She Worked

from collecion of Ida (Trautvetter) Neill (1910-1994) materials, photo in possession of Michael John Neill, undated

It is easy to say “don’t use just the word ‘Mother’ on the back of a picture.” The reality is that many photographs are identified this way and often individuals who could help us clarify the information are long deceased.

This photograph was in a collection of materials that apparently belonged to my paternal grandmother–at least the album they were in were all photographs of other members of her family and that of my paternal grandfather. I am assuming that because of the grouping it is someone from one of their families. Some of the photographs are more clearly identified than this one is.

I jumped to the conclusion was the mother of my grandmother (Ida [Trautvetter] Neill) because the handwriting “kind of looked like Grandma’s. That may not be correct. I’m pretty certain the “Carthage” reference is to Carthage, Illinois. There are towns with that name in other states, but given where all of my family is from the one in Illinois is the most reasonable conclusion.

What I need to do is try and get an estimate of when the photograph was taken (based upon the clothes and the photograph itself) and the approximate age of the woman pictured. That information could help in determining whether “mother” could even possibly be my great-grandmother born in 1874–or my other great-grandmother born in 1883. More research into John Welock is also warranted. I could even post the photograph to local or regional Facebook groups to see if anyone recognizes the homes pictured in the image.

But I have to watch my assumptions. Always watch the assumptions and stick to what is actually known.

Genealogy Tip of the Day–book 2–is coming–stay tuned! Get our first Genealogy Tip of the Day book today!


Names in the Funeral Book

If you are working on a more recent relative and you’ve got a copy of their “funeral book,” look and see if the names of those who came to pay their respects are in the book.

It is a good way to get ideas of who might have been your ancestor’s associates and who was alive when your ancestor died. They may have even written in their city of residence.

Also remember that people tend to “go in together” and adjacent names in the book may be closely related to each other, members of the same family, etc. Don’t neglect the clues of who is a “paper neighbor” to who.

And there’s always their signatures…hopefully they are readable.


Clearly Citing As You Go

When transcribing a document–even in your software program–consider including a quick citation in brackets at the beginning of the transcription. The brackets will tell readers that the information is not part of the transcription. It will also tell your readers where you obtained the material in case the citation in your database doesn’t get printed out with the transcription. Something like [Coshocton County, Ohio, Will Book C, page 212, obtained on FamilySearch on 3 May 2021] is better than nothing.

Speaking from personal experience.

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Reusing Children’s Names

Keep in mind that in some ethnic backgrounds reusing” names of deceased children was a very common practice. One of my ancestral couples from Ostfriesland, Germany, had four daughters named Reenste born within a ten year time span. The first three died shortly after birth. The fourth one grew to adulthood. Other families re-used names of deceased children, but usually there were not as many children as there was in this case.

Some individuals will name children after previous spouses who died during the marriage. That may seem a little bit unusual today, but there was a time when it was not unheard of.

And my genealogy software program thought I was nuts to have a family with four children with the same name. But it can happen.



An image posted yesterday on our Facebook page was from a guardianship case in Illinois in the 1880s. In the US guardianships are generally local court records. The name of the court responsible for overseeing these cases will vary from state to state–because state statute oversees the structure of the guardianship process.

These records are usually guardianships for the estate of the child (property/money in which they had an interest)–not the physical custody of the child. During some time periods and places, the estate in which the child had an interest needed to have at least a certain value. The bond a guardian posted may have been in direct relationship to the value of the estate that was being overseen.

Please keep in mind these are some generalizations across the entire US and many time periods. There may be differences from one area to another.

Genealogy Tip of the Day–book 2–is coming–stay tuned! Get our first Genealogy Tip of the Day book today!


Did You Check It?

Think about the assumptions you make about life in the 19th or early 20th century?

Are you certain it is true? We often make assunptions about cultural practices, legal practices, church practices, etc. Those assumptions can impact our research–negatively if we are not careful. Do some research.

Research does not necessarily mean getting an answer from a random person on Facebook, Twitter, etc.


I Don’t Know My Own Age

In reading through Civil War pension applications, the one thing that amazes me is the number of people who really didn’t know when they were born. Some people did know their date of birth and gave their age consistently. Others apparently only knew their approximate age.

Is that why Grandpa’s age varies from one census record to another?


Is the Most Recent Always the Best?

In some cases the latest transcription of something might not be the best. If you’ve seen a published book of tombstone inscriptions from the 1990s, you still might want to look at that book of transcriptions done in the 1940s. Stones might have been more legible in 1940, some might not have been readable at all in 1990.

That book of transcribed marriage records in the 1930s might contain handwriting interpretations with different renderings of certain words. The ink might not have been as faded in 1930 as it was when a later transcription was done. And the transcriptionist from 1930 might have been more familiar with local names than was the 1980 era transcriptionist.

Do not always assume the latest publication is the best. Sometimes it is not.

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Heirs, Legatees, Beneficiaries

While state statute usually defines these terms, it is generally true that an heir of a deceased person is someone who inherits from the deceased based upon their biological relationship to the deceased. Who qualifies as an heir is defined by state statute. A legatee (or sometimes what is called a beneficiary) is typically someone whom the deceased has mentioned in their will or other papers with a directive that they are to receive certain property when the individual dies. Heirs are related. Legatees and beneficiaries may not be related biologically.

Always make certain you know the definition of any term used in legal documents by your ancestor. Sometimes a layman’s definition is not the same as the legal one.

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Out of Order?

Your relative, when providing you with oral family history information, may easily get events in the wrong order. The details they remember, with the exception of the order in which they happened, may be perfectly correct.

The order in which things happened does matter because a correct time frame matters at least most of the time. If two events are completely unrelated to each other, it can be even easier to confuse the order in which they happened.

When talking to a relative, focus on what they can remember. If the order in which things happens seems a litle wonky, concentrate on getting as much information as you can from the person and recording their rendition as accurately as you can.

Then when you analyze the oral history you can start looking at the specific ordering of events.

Take a look at what is on my genealogy bookshelf.