Have You Overlooked Anyone?

When I started my research, my goal was to trace my families either “across the pond” or to where they lived before they settled in Illinois. Then my focus concentrated on working through my colonial era families in the east coast of the United States.

I never really worked up the siblings of my great or great-great-grandparents. Their parents were easy to determine and, for the most part, those aunts and uncle lived and died in the two-county area where my families had lived since the 1850s. So I figured I’d do it ‘later.”

Later came around the time I got my DNA results back. Matches can be more easily analyzed when you know something on the descendants of the siblings of your great and great-great-grandparents. But it wasn’t just that. I learned of an uncle who spent 10 years in Montana and purchased federal land and served in World War I while he lived there. I discovered another uncle who actually homesteaded in Alberta, Canada, and whose sister who filed suit against her husband three times before the divorce was final.

There may be just as many stories in those ancestral siblings as there are in your ancestors. Don’t neglect them.


Heirs to an estate may be listed as coparceners and they are individuals to whom an inheritance descends jointly, typically heirs of a deceased individual.

The Age of a Witness?

I was trying to determine who was the witness on a 1907 marriage from rural Nebraska. There were two candidates for the person who was the witness and then I remembered that in order to legally be a witness that person had to be over the age of majority.

In 1907 in Nebraska, that would have been twenty-one years of age for a male. And that answered the question. The bride’s brother would have been under twenty-one and her cousin would have been in his late twenties. Why one her “of age” siblings was not the witness is a mystery I may never know the answer to.

But “being of age” was the answer to the identity of the witness question. Contemporary state statutes will indicate the age required to witness a legal document.

Those AncestryDNA Holiday Sales

They all do it: holiday sales for DNA tests. While more people testing helps those of us who have already tested, taking a test without giving a thought to the drama that could result is not necessarily advised.

There’s a chance that someone taking a test will discover family facts of which they were not aware and that could create a little bit of modern-day family drama. Not everyone wants that drama and not everyone wants to know those details. A DNA test could indicate half-siblings that were unknown or a previously unknown child or grandchild of a sibling of a parent or grandparent. Not everyone will react the same way to this news. Respect the wishes of someone who does not wish to test. It’s their right to opt not to take the test.

If you’re looking to buy tests, AncestryDNA is offering some sales until this coming Father’s Day. Just remind the testee that there may be some unexpected discoveries. Some people welcome those. Others do not.

What Will Reading the Records of Others Tell You?

I recently was looking for a christening record in a rural Nebraska church and after finding it, I browsed the other confirmation records for about a twenty year period in the late 19th century.

Every entry had the place of birth and baptism for the person being confirmed. The church was in an area that had been open for settlement for perhaps ten or so years. Virtually all the young adults being confirmed had been born “back east” or “across the pond.” Viewing those records gave me insight into the migratory patterns of early settlers in the area–or at least those who were members of the church in question.

That insight would never have been obtained if I had simply looked at the one record of interest and gone on to looking for something else in a separate set of records.

Those Are Hints not Gospel

Several of the fee-based genealogical research sites will offer up “hints” of records that may be for your ancestor.

These hints are often based on search parameters, what you have in your tree, what others have in their tree on the (supposedly) same ancestor, etc. These hints are not analyzed by any human. They are dished up by a computer algorithm.

Sometimes they are right and other times they are not. It is up to you to determine if the hint is in fact a record for your ancestor. The name may be similar but the person may still be different. The location or likely age of the person may indicate that it is someone entirely different. But do not just automatically assume the hint has to be right because a computer or website dished it up to you.

Think of the hints as automatic matches on a dating site. Would you automatically date the first person the algorithm suggested you should without giving any thought to it? Treat the genealogy hints the same way.

How and Why?

When analyzing any genealogy record, ask “how did this person get in this record and why?” Many times the answer is simple–die and you get a death certificate but other times it is not.

It’s crucial to ask that about everyone that appears in any record in which your ancestor appears–do not just ask the question about the ancestor. Think about the role of everyone else whose name appears. Would they have had to have been a certain age? Would they have had to be legally competent? Would they have had a specific relationship to your ancestor or to anyone else in the document?

It Came from a Book

A friend was excited to discover a printed reference in a 1930s publication to her ancestor that contained the year and place of his birth in Germany in the early 18th century.

I had to tell her that she was just getting started. A printed reference nearly 200 years after they fact may be correct, may be wrong, or somewhere in between. Best to use the reference as a clue to further research and not just to assume it is correct.

It may also be helpful to see if the book lists any sources as to where the information contained in the book was located.

The Death Name

“Late in life” marriages can be a good source of additional information on a relative, particularly during a time period when marriage records provide more information that just a name. However, in cultures where women take the last name of their husband, these marriages can cause a woman to disappear. Always consider that the reason a female cannot be found is that she might have married again and changed her last name.

Or she may have moved a distance to live with a child.

Or both.

New Records and Scattered Memories and Effects

A person stops living when they die. That’s clear. But that does not mean that the person does not stop being mentioned in records created after their death. It does not mean that people who knew that person instantly forget everything they know about them. It does not mean that their personal papers and effects instantly disappear.

Ask yourself what records might have been created after a person’s death that mention them? Their death certificate, obituary, probate/estate records, tombstone, etc. are fairly obvious. There are others: death certificates of surviving children may mention parents, obituaries of children may mention them, and so on.

Children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, etc. may have memories of the person. The deceased person’s effects may be thrown out or destroyed or they may end up in the hands of family members.