Reminder: Is that Cemetery on Private Property?

From a while back…

Some rural cemeteries, especially very small ones that are no longer used, may require crossing private property to access. If this is necessary, obtain permission from the landowner before attempting to access the cemetery. Cemeteries that are along a roadside or have public access are a different story, but there also may be restrictions about “visiting hours,” decorations that are allowed, etc.

Check out Ancestry’s current DNA prices–maybe you can purchase your own kit or a test kit for that relative you’ve been wanting to ask.

DNA Is not the Whole Story

Your DNA matches tell a part of your family’s history, but not all of it. There’s more to your family history than who shares a biological relationship with who, what potential illnesses you may share with your family (and pass to your descendants), and your physical characteristics.

There’s where your family lived, how they lived, how the larger world impacted them, how they impacted their world, etc. Those stories are often discovered by locating as many records as possible for your relative and seeing what those records have to say.

And some of the most important people in your ancestor’s life may have shared no DNA with them at all. DNA is an important part of your genealogical research, but it is not the only part.

Check out Ancestry’s current DNA prices–maybe you can purchase your own kit or a test kit for that relative you’ve been wanting to ask.

1 Different Match

DNA matches can be confusing for a variety of reasons. For me, the main reason for the confusion is individuals to whom I am related to in more than one way.

AncestryDNA had identified all the shared matches I had with one match as being matches to my maternal side. The matches that had been identified were consistent with that. Except for one. AncestryDNA indicated one of the shared matches was to my paternal side.

A person could be tempted to think that AncestryDNA was wrong–and it’s possible that sometimes they are. This is not one of those times. It turns out that this match (which AncestryDNA identifies as being a maternal match) is actually related to me four ways–through three different sets of maternal ancestors and one set of paternal ancestors. None of these relationships are closer than my 3rd great-grandparents.

The green match–shown with green on the image because part of their last name is “green”–only matches to other matches identified to as being paternal matches of mine. Those shared matches with the green match that have been identified (approximately 20%) are connected to me through my 4th great-grandmother who was a Dingman.

The shared matches for this match are all maternal–except one.

This was easier for me to determine because I’ve already determined some of my matches and my tree is about 75% known through my 5th great-grandparents. That helps with the analysis, but that’s not the point of this tip.

The point is that there may be a very small number of shared matches you have with a match that are related to you in a different way than are the other shared matches. This can take time to figure out. It is also why it is advised to determine as many matches as you can–even on the families in which you have no DNA interest.

You have a DNA interest in all your matches. The more matches you know, the easier it is to work on the ones you do not or the ones who appear to be related on your brick wall families who were likely your motivation to take a DNA test in the first place.

Check out Ancestry’s current DNA prices–maybe you can purchase your own kit or a test kit for that relative you’ve been wanting to ask.

Marriage Banns, Bonds, and Bands

A marriage bann is usually a verbal announcement, typically in a church, that a couple intends to get married. In some cases, they may be published and publicly posted for people to read instead of being verbally announced but the banns are a chance for those who have knowledge why the couple should not be married to state that fact.

A marriage bond is a legal document guaranteeing that the person getting married has no legal impediment to marriage. Marriage bonds usually have a stated financial value that is only to be paid if the person for whom the bond was signed was not legally able to get married. The person getting married signs the bond and usually one or two bondsmen sign it as well. The bondsmen likely know the marrying party well enough to know that they have no legal challenges with getting married.

Banns and bonds serve a similar purpose, but they are different.

Wedding bands are something else entirely–the ring on the finger. The band at a wedding may also play music <grin>.

More than One Court?

In any jurisdiction, determine how many courts heard cases during the time period your ancestor lived there. There may be one court that hears probate or estate matters, another that hears guardianships, one that hears criminal cases, one that hears equity cases, etc.

It can be easy to overlook records if you do not do that. The FamilySearch wiki is one place to start learning about these records, but also reach out to local researchers, genealogical and historical societies for additional information.

Questions to ask are:

  • what court heard divorces?
  • what court heard foreclosures?
  • what court settled probate matters?
  • what court heard property disputes?
  • what court heard guardianship matters?
  • and so on.

Search NewsBank’s GenealogyBank for your ancestors.

Book Reading Reminder

This tip was originally published in 2010. It is still good advice.

I have been reading First Generations: Women in Colonial America for the past several days. It has given me some insight into the Colonial experience of women and cause to think about a few things in ways I never have. Is there a history text or sociological study that might expand your knowledge even if it doesn’t directly expand your family tree?

Search NewsBank’s GenealogyBank for your ancestors.

Are Those Old Papers 100% Correct?

Reading newspapers to get historical background is an excellent idea. However, it is important to remember that media in the 19th century was subject to the same dilemmas that media sometimes is today. As a result, some newspapers were biased in one way or another or reported things before they had been adequately fact checked.

Also remember that newspapers may have published follow-up articles or corrections days or weeks after an original story saw the printed page. Some newspapers tried to be as independent and unbiased as they could be, but things still could slip in.

If reading for historical background of the area, read more than just one newspaper to get a broader view–and to potentially catch additional ancestral references.

Can You Date Precisely?

There are things that researchers will not be able to pinpoint precisely. No record might exist that provides great-grandfather’s exact date of birth–and March of 1874 may be as specific as you are going to get. In some locations and time periods, the best you may be able to do is approximate a year of birth. Other researchers may wonder where you got that precise birth date when there are not many records…so be prepared to have a source.

It may also not be possible to know where an ancestral event took place. Again, if there are no records determining locations may require the researcher to admit that only a general area of where the event took place may ever be known.

My ancestor who was born in 1835 in Ohio’s place of birth will probably only be known as specifically as Coshocton County. There are not records during the time that provide more detail and family records and other materials do not include more precision.

Keep perspective though. Bigger concerns are that you have this ancestor tied to the right parents, sibling, spouse, children, etc. A date of birth that is not specific is not always the end of the genealogy world.

Who Was Not There?

When you see a newspaper reference to a family social event where relatives are named (bridal shower, baby shower, wedding, etc.) do you think of who you would expect to be there that is not listed?

People don’t attend for a variety of reasons, but if a certain relative is never in attendance it might be something worth looking into.

Search NewsBank’s GenealogyBank for your ancestors.

Dating the Census

Every census has an official census “date.” This is the date as of which all questions are to be answered. The problem is that sometimes the census is not taken on that date and people confuse the “real” date with the “census” date. And some genealogists forget that the date the census information was gathered, which is sometimes listed on the page, is not necessarily the census date.