Remember that your ancestor might have been known by several different first names. This can be especially confusing when a researcher is “fixed” on one name. My great-grandfather was actually Frederick, but sometimes he was Fred and sometimes he was Fritz (the latter more in his younger years). Another ancestor was John Michael Trautvetter. He went by one of several different names: John Michael Mike Jahn (a German version of his first name) J. M. Some nicknames are not quite as obvious. Sally was a common nickname for Sarah. If you can’t find your ancestor, learn nicknames that were derived from the original name. The ancestor might simply be hiding under a nickname. ———————————— Check out GenealogyBank’s Offer for Tip of the Day Fans!
If some piece of information given by your ancestor in a record does not make sense, consider the possibility that he lied. People lied for many reasons, including wanting to get married wanting to enlist in the service wanting to avoid the service trying to escape their past (parents, spouse, children, debts, etc.) An outright lie can be difficult to research around, but people did lie about their age, place of birth, name, marital status, etc. ———————————— Check out GenealogyBank’s Offer for Tip of the Day Fans!
Many times genealogists look for a will of an ancestor and stop there–especially if they find it. But records of financial accountings may clarify items that are vague in a will and mention individuals not named in a will. Some estates take years to settle. Heirs named in a will may die before the estate is finally settled. The heirs of the deceased heir normally inherit their share and these individuals may be named in final accountings for the estate. Seeing who got how much may make relationships more clear and provide you with new names of relatives. People tend to “reappear” when money is involved–even those who have been missing for decades. ———————————— Check out GenealogyBank’s Offer for Tip of the Day Fans!
Do you know where all the lines are on the map of your ancestor’s neighborhood? Property lines, county lines, state lines, they all play a role in your family history research. These lines change over time as new territories are created, county lines are debated and finalized, and as your ancestor buys and sells property. Getting your ancestor’s maps all “lined” up may help solve your problem. And keep in mind that contemporary maps are always an excellent idea. Your ancestor probably did not live in the twenty-first century. Don’t rely completely on maps created a centry after he died. ———————————— Check out GenealogyBank’s Offer for Tip of the Day Fans!
Did your ancestor die with minor children? If so, there might be guardianship records for his children, particularly if he left real estate behind or a significant amount of personal property. For much of American history, women had no property rights and a widow by herself might not be able to receive money for her children or to manage real estate they inherited from a deceased father or grandparent. Records of the guardianship might provide more information on the children and perhaps clues as to the mother’s remarriage. Researchers should always research the guardians fully to determine if they had any biological relationship to the children. ———————————— Check out GenealogyBank’s Offer for Tip of the Day Fans!
Christmas is a good day to take a break from your research and focus on the living relatives. It also brings to mind another tip. Take a break from that family or problem that really has you stonewalled. Work on another family for a while, putting the brick wall group aside for a week or a month. It may be that when you come back to your problem, you notice something you did not notice before. Perhaps when working on another problem, something will dawn on you regarding the original problem. In the back of your mind the original problem is there and something totally unrelated to your research problem may cause you to have the breakthrough idea you need. Sometimes what we need most is a little […]
Some researchers are anxious to begin their foreign research as soon as they learn they have an ancestor born in a foreign country. This hasty approach may cause you to look in the wrong place or to lack adequate information to perform your search “across the pond.” Research the ancestor in the area of settlement first, as completely as possible. Doing so may provide more detailed information about his or her origins and may also give you names of potential siblings or relatives who might be easier to track across the ocean. ———————————— Check out GenealogyBank’s Offer for Tip of the Day Fans!
Before interviewing relatives who were alive at the time of the 1930 census, try locating them in that record. Note the names of neighbors and ask your relative about these individuals. Giving your interviewee specific names may help to jog memories and get them to recall events they might not otherwise have thought about. This is helpful even if the person was not alive in 1930. Neighbors might have been neighbors for decades and even if the person did not know the former neighbors personally they might remember hearing their name mentioned. Anything that might help jog a memory is good. ———————————— Check out GenealogyBank’s Offer for Tip of the Day Fans!
Just because a record is “official” does not mean that every detail it contains is correct. A death certificate probably has the date of death and burial correct, but the date and place of birth could easily be incorrect. And there is always the chance that a death record has the wrong date of death or place of burial. An official record does not guarantee the information is accurate. Remember that in most records, the information is only as accurate as the informant and that in most records information submitted came from someone’s mind and was not verified with another source or official record. ———————————— Check out GenealogyBank’s Offer for Tip of the Day Fans!
Do not mindlessly type names in database searches without first learn what you are actually searching. Is it a website that contains voluntary submissions of data other researchers have compiled? If so, it may be incomplete. Is it an official archives site? Even those may have omissions because some records were not extant. Most sites will indicate where they obtained their information. Find out and find if all records were extracted. Gaps or omissions seem to always be for the time period one needs. Not knowing what you are searching may explain why you are not finding the information you seek. ———————————— Check out GenealogyBank’s Offer for Tip of the Day Fans!
Whenever possible, get a copy of the original of the record. Transcribers make errors and indexes are only finding aids, not an end in and of themselves. Actual complete copies may contain details that did not make the transcription or you may interpret something differently than the transcriber did. And one should never assume any transcription is complete. I assumed a book of Revolutionary War pension abstracts was complete and nearly missed a huge clue because of it. ———————————— Check out GenealogyBank’s Offer for Tip of the Day Fans!
Some census takers were plain lazy, some couldn’t spell, and some didn’t care. After you have exhausted all the variations on your ancestor’s first and middle names, consider that they might have been enumerated with just their initials. Or perhaps their first initial and their middle name spelled out. I have seen entire townships where no one apparently had a first name and everyone was named with their initials. I have seen locations where census takers used initials for non-English names instead of trying to spell them correctly. Maybe your ancestor was enumerated as J. Smith in the 1860 census. Now there’s a real problem. ———————————— Check out GenealogyBank’s Offer for Tip of the Day Fans!
We need to make assumptions in our genealogy research. Many times assumptions are necessary in order to get our work off the ground. But after a point, it may be that the assumption is hindering our work or that we have forgotten that an assumption was made. If you are guessing that the parents were married near where the first child was born, that is a good start. But somewhere in your notes, indicate why you believe where they were married and that you have no proof. If research does not validate your assumption, it may be that your assumption was incorrect. And if you enter your assumption in your genealogical database as fact, it can be very difficult for that information to go back to being an […]
In a 1900 census enumeration, several of my great-grandmother’s children indicated that their mother was born in Ohio. This seemed completely off the wall to me. All extant records provided Illinois as her place of birth and that place of birth was consistent with when her parents arrived in Illinois. No other record provided a place of birth of Ohio. I almost wrote off “Ohio” as a census taker’s goof. It wasn’t quite that. Further research located information that the parents of the ancestor had immigrated from Germany, but actually met and married in Ohio before settling in Illinois. The daughter was born in Illinois, but her parents had lived in Ohio for approximately six months after their marriage and the ancestor was their firstborn child. Perhaps this […]
Family historians need to remember that for many censuses, we do not really know who answered the census questions. Was it the wife who never knew her husband’s parents and yet had to answer questions about where they were born? Was it a child who had no idea when her father immigrated to the United States or when he became a citizen? Most of us weren’t there when the censustaker came to our ancestor’s door. As a result, we just don’t know who really gave the answers to specific questions. If the answers vary from census year to census year, it may be because the individual answering the questions varied from census year to census year. ———————————— Check out GenealogyBank’s Offer for Tip of the Day Fans!
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