For twenty years, it seemed as if my ancestor Ira Sargent was dropped off by a UFO in Hancock County, Illinois, in 1880. Turns out he wasn’t. He was in the 1850 and 1860 United States Census listed under the last name of his step-father–whom his mother had married in 1849. Until I discovered the last name of the step-father, I was unable to find Ira. Is it possible that your UFO ancestor wasn’t dropped off by aliens but was instead listed in records as a child under his (or her) stepfather’s last name? And that the first time they used their “birth name” in a record was when they married?
For several years, quite a few years ago, I wrote a how-to newsletter, Casefile Clues. It contained brief case studies of problems, transcriptions and analysis of records, and problem-solving suggestions. Now that I’m retired from my day job and that the second tip of the day book is done, I’m considering bringing it back. If you’d like to get an email announcement, add your address to the list here
If there are two witnesses to a marriage and you can “figure out” who one of the witnesses is, consider the possibility that the other witness was the significant other of the first witness. Or the other witness could just be a friend of the couple of which you are unaware. Or the witnesses were two totally random people who had no relationship to the couple or to each other. Don’t assume. Research.
In our attempts to locate living relatives, we sometimes ignore those ancestral siblings and cousins who left no children of their own. After all they have no descendants with whom we can make contact. That is true, but records on the childless relative may provide more details on earlier family members and how the estate of the childless relative was disbursed may mention previously unknown relatives. And completely researching the relative without children is always advised in order to obtain a complete picture of the family.
From a while back… One person’s “useless” is another person’s “useful.” Recently I heard someone say that naturalization records in the United States in the 19th century are “useless.” It’s true that they generally don’t provide as much information as later records do. Naturalization records in the United States in the 19th century generally only provide the name of the individual, the date/place of the naturalization, the person to whom allegiance was owed, and the names of the witnesses. Occasionally there may be a declaration of intention and those can provide more information. But even those little bits of information can be helpful. The document puts your relative in a place on a specific date. If the law was being followed, he had to have been in the […]
Instead of working on locating all the descendants of an ancestral couple, focus on a limited number of generations and research them more thoroughly than you would other wise–and share or somehow publish your findings. I’ve decided to start on several ancestors and document through their grandchildren–their vital events and what else I can learn about them in a variety of records. It’s a more manageable project than gathering all the descendants. I have many 3rd and 4th great-grandparents for whom this will be a chore enough.
I had a relative who was married several times in the middle part of the 20th century. The way I tracked her was through city directories. Her last name changed, but she lived in the same home despite having several husbands. If your ancestor is changing some things about themselves, think about what remains the same. That may be how you’ll find them.
Tracking immigrant ancestors in their country of origin usually requires determining where they were born. This is essential to know where to search and to increase the chance that the correct person is located. Sometimes a person may not give their actually village of birth on a record in their new country but instead give the name of a bigger town which is more likely to be known. Always be open to the possibility that your ancestor who was from the big city overseas may actually have been from a much smaller village twenty miles away. This is one more reason to locate as many records in the settlement region as possible as it increases the chance that you discover this small town’s name buried in a record […]
From a while back… The notice regarding the returning home of the 78th Illinois indicated that they were leaving on the 10th “instant.” That means “this month” and is sometimes abbreviated “inst.”
A few random genealogy thoughts from some postings I read this morning while catching up. Never state a location more precisely than you reasonably know it. You may never know some locations as precisely as you would like. People will misinterpret statements no matter how precisely you state them. Source every genealogical statement you make, but remember that any one source can be wrong. Ten sources saying the same thing does not make them correct . There are exceptions to everything. Please buy the Genealogy Tip of the Day book–the 1st or the 2nd (see how we slipped that in there?) But it’s ok if you don’t. Most of your ancestors did not live in a soap opera. If a soap opera has to be written to make […]
For those with immigrant ancestors, it’s tempting to start researching in the home country as soon as soon as it is learned the ancestor was born in a foreign country. The desire to connect with a past “across the pond” is understandable. However, researching the ancestor in the country of origin without knowing much about them is not the best approach. Completely researching the immigrant in the area of settlement may give additional clues as to the specific point of origin or the names of relatives and associates in the new country who also lived near the immigrant in the old country. All of this can make the research in the homeland more efficient. Of course, sometimes all that research in the area of settlement may not provide […]
Can storytelling help your genealogy research? I have a bedtime type story I tell each of the grandchildren–based loosely on an ancestor of theirs. When fleshing out details of the story for scene or plot or answering their questions, I realize there are things about life during the time period or the ancestors that I do not know. When telling these stories, fight the urge to recite a lineage. Tell a story. You are trying to engage and entertain not bore. Save the boring stories you tell for other adults interested in genealogy <grin>. But telling stories can get you thinking about your own research–even if those stories are not for other adults and not for publication in a genealogy journal. Figuring out the answers to my questions […]
Always think about the family that was left behind when someone died? Were there children who would have needed looked after? Was there a spouse who would have needed some assistance? Was there an adult child who would have been unable to look after themselves? Was there a surviving parent who was reliant on the recently deceased person for their care? Who would have been nearby to help these individuals? Were there court records, guardianships, or other records resulting from issues when the person died?
When evaluating information on a document, in addition to other things to consider, I always ask myself…what was the potential penalty for lying or giving wrong information? Giving the wrong name of a parent on a death certificate for someone who dies at the age of 80, lying about your age to get married, and lying to get a widow’s military pension are not the same thing. Determining what the penalty for lying was will require some research–contemporary federal and state statutes for starters.
It’s great to ask a relative questions about your family history. Having a list of questions to ask can also make the interview process easier. But it is worth remembering that the details of an event may be remembered over a period of time and not necessarily during a one-hour interview. The interviewee may remember significant pieces of information long after the question and answer session is over. And no matter how complete or comprehensive the list of questions seems to be, there can always be aspects of a specific family’s history that is not included. There will be questions the interviewee does not think to ask. One way to ascertain this information is to maintain a relationship with the individual if at all possible–it can be via […]
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