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!
Looking at things when they are out of order only adds to the chaos. One good data organizational technique is to list every event in your ancestor’s life from their birth through their death. Viewing the chronology gives the researcher a nice overview of an individual’s life. This also makes it possible to see unaccounted time gaps and possible oversights in your research. A chronology is also an excellent framework from which to write an ancestral biography. This is especially true for those who would like to create a biography, but don’t think they are really “writers.” A chronology puts everything in sequence and sometimes can make inconsistencies a little easier to spot. Be certain to put the source for every item in your chronology. ———————————— Check out […]
It took me forever to find Ulfert Behrens in the 1860 and 1870 census. The problem was partially solved when I learned how he likely pronounced his name. This low-German native probably said his name something like “barns.” Here I was thinking it would have been pronounced “Bear unds” (rhyming with roughly with “errands”). Once I started looking for names that sounded like “barns” I found references I had previously overlooked. Find out how your ancestor likely said his name–you may get variant spellings that you never thought to look for. ———————————— Check out GenealogyBank’s Offer for Tip of the Day Fans!
This is my newest blog, where every day a new genealogy tip will be posted. Tips will start appearing tomorrow. Feel free to share our site with others. Readers can contact me at michael.john.neill@gmail.com Stay Tuned! ———————————— Check out GenealogyBank’s Offer for Tip of the Day Fans!
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