Last week I discussed some of the various sources a researcher could check to expand his search for the illusive ancestor. I stressed that we need to go beyond the normal sources and widen the net to include neighbors, friends, witnesses, etc. to see how they might or might not fit into the picture.
There are of course other records that could be included; if you are near the county seat of the area where your family lived, you need to go there and acquaint yourself with the books they have available. Other books you might look for would include:
Estates and settlements. If your ancestor died without leaving a will, don’t panic! Check to see if the county has estate and settlement books. In that you likely will find the list of the items owned by the deceased (down to the rusty teaspoon); its value and then the sale.
Administrators were required to list every item that sold and for how much. Who were these people that came to the sale? Many of the purchasers were family members, neighbors and often, just people who heard about the sale and wanted a good bargain!
Check for guardian reports which, in many counties, were recorded in separate books. This is the annual report of a child’s guardian as to how they invested the child’s money. You will find a list of income from the renting of property being held for the minor, income from rental of slaves, medical bills, school costs. If nothing else, it will give you a good picture of how that child lived.
There may be stray’s books which will show if your ancestor found a stray cow or horse wandering over his property – giving usually a location where they found the animal; a clue to where they lived. There possibly are mill books, tavern licenses, constable bond books and so many more. Leave no book unchecked; one never knows where a clue might pop up.
One last thought on this. Don’t ignore the female line. I know women are harder to trace but a lot of information can be gleaned from working on the women too!
In ending this series, a short statement about checking on line records.
Unless what you see is an actual image such as a census report, a birth or death certificate, etc. take what you find in other individual’s family trees on line with a grain of salt! The individual who placed the data on line may or may not have it right! And, as we know, once on line, it often becomes “Gospel proof”. One person copies it from another site and the error, if any, is forever perpetuated. What I have done is to check out every single tree that lists my ancestor; sometimes taking the time to print the pages off. Then I check their sources. An undocumented entry raises my “questioning” process. I lay them side by side and see if they all agree. When I find differences (meaning one tree was not copied from another usually), I start checking why there is a difference. I will write to the individual who posted the information and pray they will respond. Many don’t. I will check what they found against what I have found to see if it matches closely. It can be a slow process but well worth it. I never take someone else’s tree, especially if undocumented, without a lot of checking and cross checking. If you find an error – and you KNOW it’s wrong, and there is a way to add a comment or attach a sticky note, do. It might prevent someone else from perpetuating the error! As an example – on one family tree, I am shown married 3 times to the same man; one time after his death! The place of marriage is wrong also along with other details. I added a sticky note immediately with my contact information. If a name has been transcribed wrong in a census index, same thing. Flag it as an error!
I hope this has given you a few more ideas about your research. If you are stuck on one individual, lay it aside for awhile and work on another. Go back and check your research from previous years; you have have come across more information and forgotten all about your previous brick wall.
And, never give up!
© Copyright 2 Feb 2012, Sandra K. Gorin