21 March 2015

Do You Know the Qualifications?

How one gets listed in a record is an important part of the analysis process.

It should be fairly obvious how someone gets listed in a death record--at least the principal person. There are other people who may be alive and whose names may appear on a death certificate (the parents, the informant, the doctor, etc.).

In the cases of other records the qualifiers may not be so clear:

  • What were the qualifications to vote in Ohio in 1823? 
  • Who had to pay personal property taxes in Maryland in 1845? 
  • Who was required to register for the Civil War draft? 
  • Who was eligible to serve on a jury in South Carolina in 1810?
  • Who could witness a document in Maryland in 1798?
  • Who could serve as an administrator in Missouri in 1878?
  • Who could serve as a guardian in Illinois in 1856?
The answers to the above questions usually lies in contemporary state statute.

But there are more:
  • Who was eligible to naturalize in the United States in 1860?
  • Who was supposed to be enumerated in the 1840 census?
  • Who was eligible to be a schoolteacher in Ohio in 1920?
If your relative acted in any capacity, appeared in an official record, or was "required" to do something, find out more about why that was necessary.

The way may not be stated in the record, but knowing it may tell you more about your ancestor.