Did Your Ancestor “Rush” Somewhere and Return Home?

If your ancestor goes “poof” and comes back 5-10 or so years later, have you consider they headed west for the Gold Rush or any other event that caused people to pack up and leave in a hurry? Some families found life wasn’t all what they thought it would be in their new location and returned to where they were from.

And of course, the direction might not have been west at all. It’s just worth remembering that your anecstor might have moved somewhere in hopes of better opportunities and, when finding those opportunities weren’t what they thought they would be, eventually headed “back home.”

Does the Date Suggest Life?

Local courthouse records often contain references to an individual acknowledging a document, witnessing a document, being a bondsman, and the like.

Keep in mind that these references indicate the person was alive on the date they knowledge a document, witnessed a document, were a bondsman, etc. Of course one needs to make certain there were not two contemporary people with the same name living in the same location, but sometimes these innocuous references can help extend a lifespan.

Maybe “extend a lifetime” should be replaced with getting a better estimate of their lifespan.

At any rate, documents that suggest life may be crucial to your research depending upon what else was going on in the person’s lifetime.

Singing the Praises of Tombstone Images

The iconography here is pretty simple. It is a musical reference. Not all symbols are as clear.

We put an eighth note on the back of my great-aunt’s tombstone because of her lifetime of teaching music and playing the organ for her church. Musis was important to her. The symbol was an attempt to show that. Images are frequently on stones to convey a message without using words.

Don’t ignore those images on your relative’s tombstone. Pictures or images on a stone may provide a clue to your ancestor’s life, religious beliefs, club memberships, or more. Many articles and websites reference such images and what they mean. Here are a few:

Don’t neglect the non-textual information on a stone. It may be just as significant as the words in the inscription.

Overwhelm the Kinfolk Immediately?

It can be tempting to share everything you have with a newly discovered cousin. Sharing is not bad, but try and avoid overwhelming your recently discovered relative. Their level of interest may not be as high as yours and telling them that:

  • your uncle got drunk, threatened his mother, and ended up in jail for thirty days
  • another aunt went insane
  • a cousin was killed after he passed out on the railroad tracks and a train ran over him
  • your uncle’s body was exhumed three times to be autopsied

may be a bit overwhelming. I’m not saying to keep stories from your cousin or to paint them a reality that did not happen. Just don’t overwhelm them. You might even want to wait to share ten generations of ancestry and all the names you have.

Even if your shared past is not quite as colorful, your kinfolk may not be ready to read through forty pages of deed abstracts in an attempt to determine who the father was for your 18th century Virginia ancestor.

Your goal with the new genealogist is to not scare them off. Take it slowly, focus on helping them with the people they are currently stuck on, and go from there. They may even have information on recent relatives that you do not.

One Source…

From a while back:

One source might not always be correct, but it might not always be incorrect either. Each source containing information needs to be evaluated separately based upon the original intent of the document, the likely informant, probable reliability of the specific information, etc.

A statement in an 1830 probate case indicating that an heir had a child of a certain name is reasonably solid evidence of that parent-child relationship–even if there are no other available documents that make the same statement.

We would still look for additional sources of this relationship, including those that provided either direct or indirect evidence, but would probably not discount it just because no other references to it could be found.

Acknowledged in Open Court?

In some locations and time periods, deeds had to be acknowledged by the grantor in open court. In some areas, court met three or four times a year for a few weeks. If you ancestor had difficulty getting to court when it was in session, it could have taken him some time to acknowledge the deed.

If acknowledgements could be done in front of officials without court being in session, the acknowledgement likely was faster and closer to the date of signing.

Age Next Birthday

Some records do not ask for the age of the individual. Instead they ask for the age the person will be on their next birthday. Make certain you do not overlook such distinctions.

Citations from Your Early Days?

Have you gone through all those documents and items you copied, saved, printed, etc. in the early days of your research to see exactly where they were originally located?

Many of us, when beginning our research, do not adequately track where something was found. I recently came across a transcription of a will of an ancestor where I only listed the county where the item was located, the title of the book and the page numbers. The volume designation apparently was of no interest to me and neither was the format of the information (original, microfilm, transcript, etc.).

Completely those citations can help to correct errors and realize what was overlooked when research skills were less finely honed.

Old Files and Formats

How often do you update old file formats?

I was fortunate that some WordStar files I created years ago and originally were saved on 5.25″ floppy disks were eventually migrated to more up-to-date media and eventually placed on a hard drive. That folder of files was eventually dumped into a set of work-related items that was placed on the server we used at my former place of employment where they sat (after being migrated and updated numerous times) until I downloaded the files when I retired. I was lucky to still have them.

I was also fortunate that the format was readable by Google Docs with minimal difficulty in formatting (I originally used WordStar to create the files in the late 1980s).

That’s the difficulty with older digital files–keeping them on updated media and in a format that is readable. My personal preference is to avoid formats that are, for lack of a better word, “trendy” and less likely to have long-term support. Simple text documents with minimal formatting are also easier to read, but formatting text when transcribing documents does help to preserve some of its structure and “look.”

Don’t rely on just one “cloud” to back up your data and consider having personal back up sources that are in your possession or are not dependent on online access. Companies go bankrupt and servers go down.

A Mother’s Day Thought

I posted this to my Facebook page but thought it made an excellent tip as well.

It’s Mother’s Day in the US.

Do you have a female other than your mother who was a strong influence in your life? Have you documented that relationship in your genealogical files about yourself? If you have a relative that you know had a significant maternal influence who wasn’t their mother, have you documented that as well? Keep in mind that we may have ancestors whose “functional mother” was not their biological or legal mother. Many times these individuals were aunts, grandmothers, step-mothers, etc. (those are in alphabetical order intentionally) but not always.

Those relationships outside the ones of the immediate family were important to many of us…they were often important to our ancestors as well.