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31 August 2013

Occupational Consistency?

In connecting names from different records or sources, make certain that the occupations and apparent social status implied by the occupations are consistent. An indentured servant in 1754 is most likely not listed as a planter in 1758. While occupations and social status can change, the changes are usually gradual and over time, not overnight.

Unless they married well--which sometimes happens.

30 August 2013

Human Maps

Genealogists use maps of political and geographical features for many reasons, including to see where records might have been maintained and where an ancestor might have easily traveled to find a spouse or a job.

But maps of human relationships, biological, legal, and social may help as well. A family tree extending for ten generations may be nice to display, but is is helpful to your research when you are stuck on a specific person? A smaller chart, showing the relatives they may have interacted with may be more helpful. Don't neglect to include "step" relatives and "in-laws" as those are people your ancestor may have interacted with as well. Another chart showing people the "problem" ancestor interacted with may be helpful also--just be certain the nature of their interaction (witness, neighbor, etc.) so that you don't get more confused.

29 August 2013

Statements Sans Sources?

If you're looking for "something" genealogical to do, are there statements in your files for which you have no sources? Probably all of us have information we obtained early in our research that we never "sourced." So if you "need" something to do, chances are there's a statement you could source.

And sometimes when I clean up my sources, I discover mistakes I made years ago or new information.

28 August 2013

Be Polite

It's never ok to be rude in a courthouse, library, or archives, no matter how desperately you want your ancestors' records. The best reason for this is that it is simply common courteous to be as polite as you can when attempting to access records. It is one thing to be politely assertive in obtaining materials you know are publicly available. It is another to be demanding and arrogant. Sometimes staff are simply following policy that has been set by someone else--usually their employer.

There's also a selfish motive in being polite--it increases the chance you get what you want. And you never know when you might need to return for additional materials.  

27 August 2013

SSDI Death Benefit Not Where They Really Lived

When using any of the online versions of the "Social Security Death Index," remember that the location of the last benefit may not be where the person lived in their final days or even the last few years of their life. The benefit could have been sent to an heir or someone overseeing the estate some distance from where the deceased actually lived.

26 August 2013

Are Those Old Copies Deteriorating?

If you have been involved in genealogical research for some time, you may have old paper photocopies of documents or records. Photocopies made years ago can fade over time. Have you transcribed those copies or made better copies of those copies--ones that will last longer? 

Some of those photocopies I made in the early 1980s probably aren't going to last much longer. 

25 August 2013

Anniversary Notice?

If a set of relatives lived to have been married fifty or more years, have you searched for an announcement of their anniversary in the newspaper? The item may have made the social pages and may provide clues as to where various family members lived at the time--in addition to other details.

24 August 2013

Those Inventory Items

If there is something in an estate inventory that is unfamiliar to you, do you determine what it is? Those items that "make no sense" may be clues to further research, or just interesting items to add a little "flavor" to your research. An inventory from Iowa mentioned a galvanic battery in the 1870s. It wasn't a big clue, but learning what it was certainly was interesting. And it's value compared to the other items in the inventory was significant.

23 August 2013

Two With the Same Name?

Just because two individuals have the same name does not mean that they are the same person. They could be first cousins, uncle and nephew, or just un-related. In any of these cases, they are not the same individual. Don't use name alone to "match."

22 August 2013

My Blogs and Newsletter

For those of you who did not know, this is not my only genealogy blog. Here's list with the links. Enjoy!


You can subscribe to any of the above blogs for free.

My how-to newsletter Casefile Clues is also available by subscription, but there is a charge.

Days Beyond Recall

Is it possible that your ancestor's death or other event was mentioned in a newspaper decades after it happened? Some newspapers would regularly run a "days beyond recall" with items from year past--frequently 25 or 50 years ago. Could be that the original newspaper was not preserved, but the item was mentioned in one of these history-type columns.

21 August 2013

Was There an Epidemic?

If you have a death date for an ancestor and no information on cause of death, have you looked at newspapers for the era? Don't look just for an obituary or a death notice, but instead look for any mention of disease outbreaks, epidemics, etc. during the time your ancestor died. 

It does not mean that your ancestor died due to the disease or outbreak mentioned, but it can be a potential clue.

And if several of your relatives died with a week or so of each other, then it's possible that the illness mentioned in the newspaper was related to their cause of death.

20 August 2013

Multi-Person Chronology

Do all the chronologies you use in your genealogy research only focus on one person? If so, try creating a chronology that includes all events in the lives of several family members. Focusing on just one person in each chronology may be causing you to lose sight of the bigger picture.

19 August 2013

Family Reunions E-book for New GenealogyBank Subscribers

GenealogyBank is offering a special for Genealogy Tip of the Day fans who become new subscribers: A free copy of their latest e-book: Family Reunions. This is on top of a 20% discount on an annual membership. Give it a try!

Late People May Not Be Dead

A reference to an ancestor as being "late of Harford County, Maryland," does not necessarily mean he was dead at the time of the reference. What it usually means is that the person was formerly of that area being mentioned--so this reference means the person used to live in Harford County.

You don't have evidence someone was dead on 1 January 1823 if the only reference to them being dead on that date is the fact that they were "late" on that date.

18 August 2013

In the Family's Context and Chronology

Try and get beyond the even that took place and think about the impact it might have had on the family. When a family member dies are there young children that have to be taken care of? When one member of an elderly couple dies, is the remaining spouse able to live alone? Were there men in the family of military age when war broke out? Small and large events could have impacted your family in significant ways--some of which may have resulted in records.

17 August 2013

Was the Stone Contemporary?

When attempting to determine the reliability of information on a grave marker, try to also determine how likely it was the stone was carved and set relatively near to when the individual died. Any stone can contain errors. If the stone looks like others in the cemetery from the 1930s, but has death dates from the 1840s, time has elapsed and the dates could be off. If you suspect the stone is "new" and not the original, your transcription should indicate that. It does not mean the stone is wrong, just that it was cut and mounted quite a while after the person actually died.

16 August 2013

Are You Hurrying Your Way to Brick Walls?

When posting an image to the Facebook page for Genealogy Tip of the Day, I was a little too hurried in creating the caption with the names of those in the picture. The youngest boy looked so much like my great-grandparents' second child that I put his name on the picture. The problem was the boy in the picture was their fourth child--not their second.

Haste may make waste or it may make brick walls.

15 August 2013

Where Could That Obituary Be?

When searching newspapers for that obituary of an ancestor, consider newspapers in the town where he or she grew up, where he or she lived most of their adult life, and where they died. I have a recently who recently died and newspapers in all three separate areas published obituaries. 

Don't focus on just one paper.

14 August 2013

Are You Trusting Your Cousin's Transcription?

If someone emails you a transcription of a document, do you try and get an image or a copy of the original? While it is not always possible to view the original, if the document is "crucial" to your research, contains information not located anywhere else, or is inconsistent with other materials, it may be worth your while to get a copy of the actual record and read it for yourself.

Unless you are entirely certain your cousin interpreted correctly. Everyone is human and occasionally makes a mistake.

13 August 2013

What Is Your Goal?

Do you create a list of research goals for yourself? It's ok to "see what you can find," but there comes a point when deciding what you are trying to locate will give your research some focus. Determining where a person was born, who they married, or where they died are all specific goals. Locating everything you can on Grandma is a little too broad and may not be helping you focus.

12 August 2013

Read About Another Family

Occasionally read something about a family that is similar to yours, but is unrelated to your family. The family being written about should share something in common with your family--the location, time period, ethnicity, etc. County histories, genealogy newsletters and magazines, blog posts, etc. are great places to find these articles. Reading about a family similar to yours may give you insight into your own family and their research challenges.

11 August 2013

How Did They Meet?

While often we really do not know how our marrying ancestors met, it can sometimes be a helpful "brick wall breaking" exercise to think about possible ways they did meet? Were their parents neighbors? Did they meet at church? Did they meet at school? Did someone travel a distance for a temporary job? Was one of them in the military?

Even if you really have "no way of knowing," just thinking about possible scenarios may get the genealogical wheels turning in your head.

10 August 2013

They Weren't Asked to Clarify

In many records we use in our family history, the person providing information may not have been asked to clarify an answer or the clerk may not have been concerned about "getting it right." And the person providing information to the clerk may only have had to state the information and indicate it was accurate to the "best of their belief." It was unusual for someone to have to "prove it" when making a statement for a document, particularly for a vital record.

09 August 2013

Are the Steps and Halfs Mixed Up?

Did that obituary confuse the half-siblings, step-siblings, and the full siblings? An estate settlement will be concerned about the accuracy of those relationships, an obituary, being a less formal document, may not be. Always consider the possibility that relationships in an obituary may not be entirely correct.

08 August 2013

Do You Know the Definition?

The next time you are using a legal document, think about all the terminology in that document. Do you know what each word really means? When reading an estate inventory, do you know what each item listed actually is? Do you really know what the cause of death on the death certificate is?

Not knowing or thinking you know when you do not is one of the leading causes of supposed genealogical brick walls.

07 August 2013

Names that Appear from Nowhere

Those middle or first names of family members that appear out of the blue could be from relatives you do not yet know about, famous people, locations, or someone's maiden name.

And it is always possible your ancestor simply pulled the name out of thin air.

06 August 2013

Thanks to Our Sponsor: GenealogyBank

A big thanks to our sponsor GenealogyBank. We appreciate their continued support of Genealogy Tip of the Day!

Named for a Dead Wife?

Names of children frequently come from family members. One additional place that people do not often think of is names of deceased spouses. While it might seem strange, your ancestor may have named his first daughter with wife number two after his deceased wife number one.

This usually doesn't happen if your ancestor was divorced from his first spouse.

05 August 2013

Get Familiar With the Map

How familiar are you with the local geographical features (both natural and political) near where your ancestor used to live? It is not bad to refer to a map when doing your research, but if you aren't familiar with some of the basic features (adjacent counties, nearby towns, states, rivers, etc.) it may inadvertently hinder your research.

04 August 2013

There Was No Jarvis

A relative insisted an ancestor had a son named Jarvis. There was only one document that provided any evidence that this Jarvis existed--there was no mention anywhere else. After locating the "Jarvis" document, it was determined that the researcher had misread "James" for "Jarvis."

It never hurts to take a look for yourself. That "extra child" may just be a transcription variation.

03 August 2013

Did the Guardian Come Later?

If your relative died with small children and no estate, a guardian would not have to be appointed. But if the child was still a minor and a  grandparent with an estate subsequently died, the child may have had a guardian appointed. My uncle died in 1906, leaving a  no estate and a small child behind. No guardian was appointed until 1913, after the paternal grandfather died leaving an estate large enough to require probate.

02 August 2013

August 2013 Webinar Schedule

We have just posted our listing of August 2013 webinars.

Topics include:


  • Using Google Books
  • Using Your FlipPal
  • Library of Congress Online Newspapers
  • Analyzing Land Records
  • Federal Land Strategies
  • Finding and Using City Directories
To view more details, time schedule, or to register, visit our announcement page:



Name Five Large Events

In a year when your research is "stuck" on an ancestor, can you name five regional or national events, political movements, economic stresses, etc. that were taking place? Any chance one of them impacted your ancestor?

01 August 2013

Paper Neighbors?

Are you looking at the "paper neighbors" of your relatives? The first declaration of intention shown here is for the person of interest. The one immediately after his was done on the very same day by another person with allegiance to the same country. There were no other declarations made on that day. Odd that the two men coincidentally arrived on the same day. 

Turns out they were both connected to another family of Irish immigrants to the same area--and that was discovered by researching both men.

There may be clues in those "paper neighbors."