30 November 2013

Santa Claus in the Census-1900, 1910, and 1930

In the interest of the season, we've posted the 1900, 1910, and 1930 census images of Santa Clause.
Sometimes the census taker does get it correct. This man's name actually was Santa Clause.


Liberty Township, Saline County, Missouri--1900


Liberty Township (ED 172), Saline County, Missouri, 1910


Marshall, Saline County, Missouri, 1930

27 November 2013

Rounding Up or Rounding Down?

A recent blog post, "Aged 66 years and 6 months" generated some discussion about the age used for Belinda on her tombstone.

The blog post assumed (and made that assumption clear) that the age was correct. Our discussion was based upon that premise. Genealogists always have to make assumptions before any analysis can begin--it's the acknowledgement of those assumptions that is important. The point of that post was not about the assumption; it was about the analysis if that assumption were true.

The question was raised though that the age could have been rounded to the nearest month and, if that age was rounded, was it rounded up or rounded down? The thought that the age was rounded in some way is a legitimate one. The question is "how would the rounding have been done?"

Up or Down?

If the informant rounded up, they would have indicated Belinda was 66 years and 6 months if she was into the 5th month of her 66th year.

If the informant rounded down, they would have indicated Belinda was 66 years and 6 months only if she was over 66 years and 6 months and less than 66 years and 7 months.

My concern with the rounding is that I cannot be certain how it was done and it requires me to "guess" at how the rounder rounded the date. I'm not even certain who the rounder was--was it the son who paid for the stone or was it the stonecutter?

My thought is that "if" the months were rounded, they were rounded down and not up. My rationale for this is that even if I am 45 years and 10 months of age, I am likely to say I'm 45 and not as likely to say that I'm 46 (although I may say "I'm going on 46.").


The other concern is how big of a deal is this rounding? It only makes the month of birth one month different. The difference is likely to be significant in only rare cases where the researcher is trying to sort out two people with similar names born extremely close to one another.

My rule of thumb is to go with what the document says and indicate that the analysis is based upon that.

FamilySearch Indicates 1900 Census "Updated"

The FamilySearch website is indicating their 1900 census is "updated" as of today.

I'm not exactly certain what this means or how complete it is, because it indicates there are 16,996,689 records.

Those with an interest, can try it here

26 November 2013

New or Updated on FamilySearch: Orange Co. NY, Douglas Co. OR, Lee Co. IL

These are showing as new/updated since our last posting:

Oregon, Douglas County Records, 1850-1983

New York, Orange County Probate Records, 1787-1938

Illinois, Lee County Records, 1830-1954

Five Most Popular Genealogy Tip of the Day Posts Ever

According to our web stats, these are the five most popular Genealogy Tip of the Day posts since we started Genealogy Tip of the Day in May of 2007:

Feb 13, 2009
Aug 15, 2013
Apr 3, 2013
Nov 13, 2013
Oct 28, 2013

My Mayflower Lines

In the interest of the season, I've included my own Mayflower descents here--so far I have seven.  I don't blog about these very often as many of the lines are well-researched and I'm not as actively researching them as I am some of my other families. 

All of these lines of descent are through my paternal grandmother and include the following passengers:

  • John Tilley
  • Joan Hurst
  • Elizabeth Tilley
  • John Howland
  • Isaac Allerton
  • Mary Norris
  • Remembrance Allerton

The Tilley-Howland line

  • 1) John Tilley (1571 Henlow, England--first winter at Plymouth ) and Joan Hurst  (1567/8 Henlow, England--first winter at Plymouth )
  • 2) Elizabeth Tilley (1607 Henlow, England-1687 Swansea, MA)  and John Howland  ( )
  • 3) Hope Howland  (1629 Plymouth-1683 Barnstable, MA ) and John Hale Chipman  (1621 Dorchester, England-1708 Sandwich, MA )
  • 4) Lydia Chipman  (1653 Barnstable, MA-1730 Barnstable, MA ) and John Sargent  (1639 Charlestown, MA-1716 Malden, MA )
  • 5) Samuel Sargent (1688-Malden, MA-1721 Malden, MA )  and Elizabeth Pratt  (1693 Malden, MA-1760 Chelsea, MA )
  • 6) Thomas Sargent (1720 Malden, MA-1795) and Tabitha Tuttle (1724 Chelsea, MA -1804 Hubbardston, MA)
  • 7) Samuel Sargent (1748 Hubbardston, MA -1819 Marlboro, NH) and Deborah Sylvester (1751 Leicester, MA-1791 Marlboro, NH)
  • 8) Samuel Sargent (1774 Ashby, MA-1841) and Sarah Gibson (1774 Ashby, MA-1847)
  • 9) Clark Sargent (1805-1847 Winnebago County, IL) and Mary Dingman
  • 10) William Ira Sargent (abt. 1845 Ontario-1916 Peoria County, IL) and Ellen Butler
  • 11) Ida Mae Sargent (1874-1939 Quincy, IL) and George Trautvetter (1869 Tioga, IL-1934 Jacksonville, IL)
  • 12) Ida Trautvetter (1910 Hancock County, IL-1994 Carthage, Hancock, IL) and Cecil Neill (1903 Stillwell, Hancock, IL-1968 Keokuk, IA)

The Allerton line

  • 1) Isaac Allerton (1586-1659 New Haven, CT) and Mary Norris (1588-1622 Plymouth, MA).
  • 2) Remember Allerton (1614 Leiden, Holland-?) and Moses Maverick (died 1686 Marblehead, MA)
  • 3) Abigial Maverick ( 1644 Salem, MA-1685 Salem, MA) and Samuel Ward (1638 Hingham, MA-1690 Quebec)
  • 4) Martha Ward (1672 Salem, MA-1723 Ipswich, MA) and John Tuttle (1666 Ipswich-1715 Ipswich, MA)
  • 5) Samuel Tuttle (1691 Boston, MA-1742 Chelsea, MA) and Abigail Floyd (1691 Chelsea, MA -1773 Chelsea, MA)
  • 6) Tabitha Tuttle (1724 Chelsea, MA -1804 Hubbardston, MA) and Thomas Sargent (1720 Malden, MA-1795)
  • 7) Samuel Sargent (1748 Hubbardston, MA -1819 Marlboro, NH) and Deborah Sylvester (1751 Leicester, MA-1791 Marlboro, NH)
  • 8) Samuel Sargent (1774 Ashby, MA-1841) and Sarah Gibson (1774 Ashby, MA-1847)
  • 9) Clark Sargent (1805-1847 Winnebago County, IL) and Mary Dingman
  • 10) William Ira Sargent (abt. 1845 Ontario-1916 Peoria County, IL) and Ellen Butler
  • 11) Ida Mae Sargent (1874-1939 Quincy, IL) and George Trautvetter (1869 Tioga, IL-1934 Jacksonville, IL)
  • 12) Ida Trautvetter (1910 Hancock County, IL-1994 Carthage, Hancock, IL) and Cecil Neill (1903 Stillwell, Hancock, IL-1968 Keokuk, IA)

25 November 2013

Not Your Typical Trout Fetter

Spaces matter.

Names present all sorts of problems for the genealogist. Incorrect spellings, phonetic variations, omitted prefixes, and other name irregularities are the bane of the genealogist. They are also the bane of indexers as well.

Readers will know that one of my ancestral families has the last name of Trautvetter. The Germanic name presents spelling challenges for many records clerks and transcriptionists. The Kansas branch of my own Trautvetter family actually used the spelling of "Troutfetter." Searching for that spelling is what resulted in an interesting find.

I use Google Books quite a bit to locate references to various Trautvetters and Troutfetters. Of course, optical character recognition is not perfect and my results are not always "right." When I located a reference to "trout fetter" in a history from Westmoreland, County, Pennsylvania. I simply thought that Google Books had "seen" a space where none existed. I also thought I had found a totally new Troutfetter where none was previously known to exist.

I was wrong. There was a space. And there was no new Troutfetter.

The man's name was Amos Trout Fetter. Trout was his middle name and Fetter was his last name.

He was not a Troutfetter. He was a Fetter whose middle name was Trout. There's not apparent connection to my own family in this case.

The reminder for me was that I should remember "Fetter" as an alternate spelling for Troutfetter. Any longer surname can easily be "split." Trautvetter is a good example. This splitting could result in "last names" of Traut (if the "vetter" is omitted) or Fetter (if the "traut" is omitted).

But that's not what happened in this case as Amos Trout Fetter was no Troutfetter at all.

23 November 2013

Aged 66 Years and 6 Months on 6 July 1867

The tombstone for Belinda Newman in Linn County, Iowa, indicates she died at the age of 66 years and 6 months on 6 July 1867. That's what the contract for her tombstone indicated was to be the inscription on her tombstone.

Assuming that the age and date of death are accurate (which is perhaps a big assumption), when does this age and the date on which it was applicable imply Belinda was born?

It is important to remember that a stated age of 66 years and 6 months on Belinda's tombstone does not necessarily mean that Belinda was aged exactly 66 years and 6 months when she died. The number of days could simply have been left off the stone.  The lack of a date is not cause for concern. A tombstone is different from a death certificate form that may have blanks or places for the years, months, and days at the age at death. For the tombstone, it could have been there was not room for additional detail to be included in the inscription or the family could not or did not want to pay for the additional inscription charges.

Because of that, Belinda could have been:

  • as young as 66 years, 6 months, and 0 days.
  • as old as 66 years, 6 months, and one day shy of the next month.
If Belinda was 66 years and 6 months exactly, then she was born on 6 January 1801. This computation is fairly straightforward. 

If Belinda was 66 years, 6 months, and one day shy of the next month, on the next day (7 July 1867), she would have been exactly 66 years and 7 months of age. If Belinda had been exactly 66 years and 7 months of age on 7 July 1867, she would have been born on 7 December 1800.

The earliest date Belinda could have been born on was 7 December 1800.
The latest date Belinda could have been born on was 6 January 1801.

All of this analysis is subject to concerns about the accuracy of the information being provided. This post ony concentrates on using the age to determine a range of dates of birth.

An Obituary Challenge

part of the obituary of Michael Trautvetter,
21 December 1917, Warsaw Signal.
I'm not really one for genealogy "games" and "memes," but there are times when "challenges" can actually help your research. I just like the challenge to have a point or a purpose.

It has been decades since I read the obituary John Michael Trautvetter, who died near Tioga, Hancock County, Illinois, in 1917. The names of his survivors and their residences were all known to me. There was no news there.

As I looked at the "un-named" survivors, the great-grandchild struck my interest. My father is also a great-grandchild of Michael, and while he was not born until long after Michael's death, I thought my father's oldest first cousin was the surviving great-grandchild as she is significantly older than my father.

Apparently she was not old enough.  A quick look at my materials indicated this cousin was born after 1920, eliminating her as the great-grandchild referenced in the obituary.

So the question remained: who was this great-grandchild?

I have the names and dates of birth for the children and grandchildren of Michael's son George (my great-grandfather). I do not have the dates of birth for the grandchildren of Michael's other children. The obituary is a good motivation for me to nail down that information.

So, instead of a random genealogy "challenge," look at one of those obituaries for an ancestor that provides numbers of survivors without naming them.

Can you get the same numbers the obituary has? That's assuming the obituary is correct--which is another story altogether.

I've only got one great-grandchild of Michael to find. Thankfully it wasn't twenty or thirty.

22 November 2013

FamilySearch Update: New England Naturalization Petitions 1787-1931

This is showing as being updated on FamilySearch as of 22 November 2013. I think it was recently updated, but it's showing this date, so we'll post it:

New England, Petitions for Naturalization, 1787-1931

21 November 2013

New or Updated on FamilySearch: OK (Five Civilized Tribes Allotment); AR Births; AZ Marriages

The following are showing as new or updated on FamilySearch since our last update:

Oklahoma Applications for Allotment, Five Civilized Tribes, 1899-1907

Arkansas Births and Christenings, 1812-1965

Arizona, Marriages, 1865-1949

The last two are compiled databases, so use them as a guide--not as gospel.

A Tombstone Transcription in an Estate File

This is an interesting receipt that was found in the estate file for Belinda Newman of Linn County, Iowa. 

It is for her tombstone.

Contract for tombstone of Belinda Newman, obtained from estate files of Linn County, Iowa. Digital image made from microfilmed copy of files held by Family History Library.

The inscription as indicated in this contract is right as I've seen the stone myself. Unfortunately I don't have a photograph. There is a willow above the inscription--the word "Willow" itself is not actually on the stone. Since the contract has the height and thickness of the stone I'm curious to see how the actual stone compares with this description.

David A. Newman likely is the one who provided the information for the stone as he is the one who signed the contract. David was Belinda's son and one of several children of Belinda who lived in Linn County, Iowa.

David's knowledge of his mother's date of death is probably first hand as he was living in the same county as she was when she died. There is a slight concern that the information was being given over a year after she died. 

One more reason to look in those probate packets--you may find tombstone inscriptions for stones that no longer exist.

I'm a strong believer in citations and in my work (and in Casefile Clues) I cite material in the spirit of Evidence Explained. Here on the Rootdig blog, I have a different philosophy. Posts made here have enough information that the reader could locate where the material was obtained.

Updated on FamilySearch: Wisconsin Probate Files

The following is showing as updated on FamilySearch since our last update:

Wisconsin, Probate Estate Files, 1848-1948

An Estate Pays Taxes in Linn County, Iowa

A receipt from the estate packet for Belinda Newman in Linn County, Iowa, contained the following receipt from the Linn County Treasurer's Office:

Receipts can provide quite a bit of information. This one certainly did.

Belinda's estate paid taxes on the following pieces of property:

  • The NorthWest quarter of the NorthWest quarter of section 20 in township 85-8--40 acres
  • Part of the South West Quarter of the North West quarter of section 27 in township 85-8--5 acres
  • The North East quarter of the South East quarter of the South West quarter of section 17 in township 85-8---10 acres.
The receipt indicated that Belinda owned three separate parcels at her death. Immediate research goals are to determine how she acquired those properties and how they were disposed of after her death. I will need to look at local property records in order to do that. 

I also should map out these properties to determine how close they are to each other. Two of them are in very close proximity to each other. The other one is a few miles away. 

Since I found this receipt in the estate papers for Belinda, I already knew she had an estate settlement record in Linn County, Iowa. If I had not already had a death date for her from other, reliable sources, the date the taxes were paid may have helped me to approximate when Belinda died.

We will have an updated blog post with more details on Belinda's property. Stay tuned.


I'm a strong believer in citations and in my work (and in Casefile Clues) I cite material in the spirit of Evidence Explained. Here on the Rootdig blog, I have a different philosophy. Posts made here have enough information that the reader could locate where the material was obtained.

No "Non-Full" Context and Blank Results--Virginia Immigrants at Ancestry.com

[note: as of 2:30 pm 21 November 2013--this was fixed.]

Databases that clearly don't work when they are released always make me wonder if the ones that I "think" are really working, are in fact, actually working.

Ancestry.com recently released it's "All Virginia Immigrants, 1623-1666." This post is not about where the information was obtained or how accurate it is.

All search results were accurate as of 10:15 am. central time on 21 November 2013. 

This post is about the fact that the database search is not working. A search for the last name of Smith in the database resulted in 255 hits. I have no way of knowing if that is accurate or not.

What is unclear are the results. The "Vew Full Context" link is returned for each hit. There's no "partial" context to know which entry I'd like to view.

And when I do click on "View Full Context," this is what I get.

Something's not working here.

Ancestry.com--is it too much to ask to have these new/updated databases working before they are released? I'm certain most of us can wait a little while longer to see if our long-deceased relative is in a database with names from 1623-1666.

And....things like this always make me wonder if the other databases that I think are working are actually working they way I think they are.

20 November 2013

State Records are not Federal Records: Andrew Trasks's Two Illinois Purchases of Government Land

Confusion often results from a lack of knowledge.

Years ago, I located a relative in the "Illinois Public Domain Land Tract Sales Database" on the Illinois State Archives website as shown below.

Andrew Trask acquired property first in Clinton County, Illinois, and then in Mercer County, Illinois. Records in Mercer County clearly indicate the entries are for the same person. That's not really the question or the point of this post.

The problem is that when I searched the Bureau of Land Management website for Andrew, the only results I obtained were for ones in Clinton County, Illinois, as shown below.

No amount of clever searching located the Clinton County Mercer County entries.

Was there a mistake?


The problem was my lack of knowledge about the databases at the time. The property Trask purchased in Mercer County, Illinois, was in section 16 of the township. That section is part of the clue as to why the entries were not in the Bureau of Land Management database. The Northwest Ordinance of 1785 reserved section 16 of townships in the Northwest Territory for schools. This land (for schools and other general improvement) was donated by the federal government to the states and it was the state that issued a patent for the property, not the federal government.

That's what happened in Trask's case. His purchase of the property in Mercer County was not a federal transaction--it was a state one.

The Clinton County acquisitions were cash sales of federal land--that's why the entries in that location are in the Bureau of Land Management's database of patents.

The Mercer County acquisitions were also cash sales, but it was of state land--that's why those entries are not in the Bureau of Land Management's database.

Understanding the history and the origin of records can cause you to make fewer incorrect assumptions.

16 November 2013

Dating A Shoe

This is one of those family history items that really doesn't have any "information" on it. Because of that I'm not certain I need to create a citation for the shoe itself (although one can create citations for such items). What does need a citation is the story of how and when I found it--I would be the "source" for that. 

The shoe pictured in this post is one that was found on my great-grandparents farm some years ago when my maternal grandparents John and Dorothy (Habben) Ufkes still lived there. The farm was purchased by my great-great-grandparents Johann and Noentjelena (Grass) Ufkes in 1881 and was owned by my great-grandparents Fred and Tena (Janssen) Ufkes until my great-grandmother passed away in 1986.

I have no way to "date" the horseshoe and am not certain if it would be possible to even narrow down the time frame of when it might have been made or used.
Horseshoe found on Fred and Tena (Johnson) Ufkes farm [west of Basco, Illinois, in Bear Creek Township, Hancock County, Illinois] by Michael John Neill, early 1980s. Item in possession of Michael John Neill. Picture taken by Sarah Anne Neill, 16 Nov 2013.
I also have no way to know who actually used it, but I do know that my family lived on the farm since 1881.  The story that I'm attaching to this item is when and where it was found. There's no way I can really "know" more than that.

I do know that my own grandfather, who moved to the farm in the late 1950s and farmed it until the mid-1980s, did not farm with horses. I'm guessing that his father and grandfather used horses until the use of tractors became the norm. It would be reasonable that this shoe was from one of their horses, although it could have been from a previous owner.

Of course the best story for me would be that this shoe was from the horse my Granddad rode to school, but most likely that's not the reality.

Her Cross

It's common for someone to make "their mark" on a document when they are not able to sign it. It usually means the signer is illiterate, but they also could simply be unable to physically sign their name.

This document, from the probate file of Benjamin Butler in Vernon County, Missouri, contains a request from the widow to have another person appointed administrator of her husband's estate. Fortunately this document clearly indicates Nancy Jane is the widow of Benjamin Butler.

What's a little unusual is that "her mark" is referred to as "her cross." Personally I don't think there is any real significance to the use of the phrase and it probably was simply the personal preference of the writer of the document.

But it's always interesting to note when a word or a phrase is not the one a person would expect.

Request by Nancy Jane Butler for G. L. Kirk to be appointed administrator, Benjamin Butler Estate, Vernon County Missouri, Probate Case files; copy from the Missouri State Archives.

12 November 2013

Mrs. or Not?

The signatures come from the settlement of the estate of John Trautvetter in Adams County in 1938.

Is there any significance to the women who signed their first names versus those who signed their husband's first names?

Sometimes the use of a husband's first name when she signs "Mrs. Husbandfirstname Husbandlastname" can mean that the husband is still alive. There are four women who sign this document:

  • Mrs. Lillian Short
  • Mrs. Luella Barnett
  • Mrs. Ida Miller
  • Mrs. Cecil Neill
If this document were used to draw any "rules," it would be impossible. The only widow in this list is Mrs. Ida Miller--who signed her first name, consistent with the social "norm." The husbands of the other three ladies were all alive in 1938, including the two who signed their own name.

I know some think there's a social convention to using the husband's first name while he is alive (or they are still married) and then their own first name after they are widowed (or divorced). I'm inclined to use the "Mrs." as evidence that the person was married at one point in time and to use the husband's first name as evidence of what that name was.

I'd be hard pressed to use the presence (of absence) of the husband's first name as evidence he was alive (or dead) at the time the wife was referred to as "Mrs." 

Mrs. Cecil Neill was my paternal grandmother. I know there were times I saw her use Mrs. Cecil Neill as her signaure and others when she used Mrs. Ida Neill. I don't know when she used which and it really doesn't matter. By the time I was old enough to remember Grandma writing her name, Grandpa Neill was long deceased. She was a widow the entire time I knew her.

Of course sometimes she signed "Grandma" to things, but that's evidence of something other than her marital status.

Updated on FamilySearch: Georgia, Missouri, and Montana

The following databases are showing as updated since our last update:

Montana, Big Horn, County Records, 1884-2011

Missouri, Cole County Circuit Court Case Files, 1820-1926

Georgia, Probate Records, 1742-1990

11 November 2013

Are There 747 or 746 United States Collections on FamilySearch?

Color me confused.

The United States section of FamilySearch's "published record collections" either has 746 or 747 databases.

This screen shot was taken at 6:30 pm central time on 11 November 2013.

I'm not certain why the difference.

The thing that always concerns me when I see things of this type is "what other things aren't working like I think they should?"

Hopefully it's just some minor human error. But when we rely on things (even free sites like FamilySearch) to work in a way we think they should, it always gets me wondering about how various search mechanisms on the site work as well.

If I get an answer, I'll post an update.

How Old Did I Say I Was and Why Does the Researcher Care?

Genealogists often lament the inconsistencies in genealogical records.

This document provides a slightly different spin on those variations in ages that all researchers encounter in records at one time or another.

William Henry Sartorius of the Alberta province in Canada writes a letter to the Department of Resources and Development in 1951.

Sartorius had filed paperwork for a homestead claim in 1904, a claim which was successfully completed. In this letter he is asking to be told what age he used when he applied for the homestead.

This scan was made from a copy of Sartorius' claim. The Provincial Archives of Alberta has microfilmed copies of these records and there is more information about them on the Alberta Genealogical Society's website.

Letters like this tend to make one wonder about any age a person provides in a record and indicates the need to view any individual age with some healthy skepticism.

For me though, there is a bigger question:


What was happening in Sartorius' life to make him need to know what age he had given on the 1904 homestead application? Certainly he was not asking this question out of idle curiosity. I may never know what prompted the letter, but the questions:

  • what prompted this record?
  • why was this record created?
  • why at that point in time?
Are always ones that should be asked. Sometimes the answer to all three is pretty much the same--sometimes it is not.

Note: Sartorius is a brother to Frederick (Sartorius) Janssen (1865 Adams County, Illinois-1913 Hancock County, Illinois), my great-great-grandmother.

07 November 2013

Refusing the Letter Means Denying the Father?

Is this letter proof there was some sort of an estrangement between Ella Shipe and her father?

This refused letter was in the insanity case file for William Ira (Ira) Sargent in Adams County. Ira was committed to an Illinois state hospital in 1907 by the Adams County Court. 

Court records indicate that Ira was sent to the state hospital that was located near Bartonville, Illinois. In 1911, he was injured. Letters were sent to his next of kin, including this one that was refused by his daughter. The letter to Ira's wife was returned as "unable to find" and letters to his other two daughters were apparently delivered.  The envelope to Ella Shipe is marked "refused" and was in case packet with other papers regarding Ira's case.

Is this "refused" letter evidence that there was some estrangement between Ella and her father? Court papers indicate that Ella's husband was instrumental in bringing the insanity case against Ira. Perhaps their relationship was already strained when Ira was institutionalized.

All I know from the letter is that Ella (or perhaps even her husband) refused it. While it doesn't make a direct statement, the refused letter does raise the question that the the relationship between Ella and her father may have been problematic.

The material used to create this post was obtained from:

Adams County Circuit Court, Probate Case Packets, Wm. Ira Sargent, Box 307, 1907.

Whitewater, Wisconsin Conference--July 2014

I will be the featured speaker at an all-day conference sponsored by the German Interest Group-Wisconsin. The date and general details have just been set. The conference will be a full day workshop at the University of Wisconsin - Whitewater on Saturday, July 12, 2014.

Topics are yet to be determined but there will be a Germanic focus. Their website does not reflect next year's conference, but we are already working on lecture topics.

If you are in the area, mark your calendars and join us.

A Little Bit of Disappointment

[opinion alert...]

Yesterday I posted "It's Our All Fresh Pledge," which discussed my commitment on my blogs to original content that was only generated by me and (when someone is quoted) the accurate citation for that quote and an acknowledgement that I didn't make the statement myself. I still feel strongly about that statement.

The response was underwhelming.

On various blogs, message boards, etc. I see discussion about copyright infringement, frustrations with people "stealing my information," etc. I see people upset when others "take their stuff" and put it off as their own. Consequently, I was hoping that others would post similar statements on their own blogs regarding their own commitment to creating their own fresh, original content.

I'm still hoping other bloggers take up the challenge to post "fresh original content" statements on their blogs. But I'm not going to worry about whether anyone posts or not--I'm off to create some fresh content of my own (grin!).

06 November 2013

Concession Deeds and Thirteen Years to Prove

[note: Thanks to a reader comment, we've corrected a typo that slipped past us in the original posting of this blog post. That change is in red below.]

At first I thought there were no clues in this early 19th century land documents from Ontario, but upon closer inspection I realized there were some clues that warranted further research.

The first document in this post is a deed where Rufus D. Stephens transfers his ownership of the North half of Lot 2 in the 4th Concession in Yarmouth Township, Middlesex County, Ontario, to Alonzo J. Stephens.

The transfer is dated 1 January 1836 and is witnessed by Ed. Lawton and Mary Lawton. No relationship between the Lawtons is indicated and no relationship to the Lawtons and the Stephenses is indicated either.

In fact there's no specific statement that the Rufus D. Stephens and Alonzo Stephens are related to each other. The lack of stated relationships does not mean the individuals were not related.

Apparently Edward and Mary Lawton witness Rufus's deed. It is atypical, but not unheard of, for a woman to appear as a witness on a land record. Because the witnesses do have the same last name, there most likely is a relationship between them--probably that husband and wife, although they could be siblings, in-laws, etc. There is no phrasing in the document that that implies any specific relationship.

What is interesting is that the only witness [makes a statement regarding the fact that she witnessed the document]: Mary Lawton. What is also interesting is that the deed is acknowledged in April of 1849---thirteen years after the deed is signed by Rufus D. Stephens.

Why the delay?

I'm not certain. There are a variety of reasons deeds are not promptly recorded. It may be that Alonzo was selling the land in 1849 and it was realized that his deed of purchase had not been recorded. It may be that in 1849 Alonzo had to tend to other legal business and someone realized that the deed had not been recorded or acknowledged. Or it simply could have taken that long for Mary Lawton to appear in front of a Justice of the Peace. Mary did not travel to the county seat when court was in session to acknowledge the deed, she did so in front of a Yarmouth Township justice of the peace. So travel considerations and waiting for the term of court were not issues. A search of local land records would confirm when Alonzo sold the property and that date may or may not dovetail with the date of this acknowledgement.

Why does Mr. Lawton not acknowledge?

Mr. Lawton may not have acknowledged the deed in 1849 due to his death or other inability to appear before the justice of the peace. Given that he signs as a witness and does not appear on the acknowledgement, his demise seems a likely possibility--especially since 13 years have transpired between the deed's execution and it's acknowledgement.

The acknowledgement makes no statement about why Edward does not appear to acknowledge.

We are working on a complete transcription and analysis for an upcoming issue of Casefile Clues.
These documents appear in Family History Library microfilm 1405663, Province of Ontario, Township Papers, Yarmouth Township, pages 421 and 422.

Maine-State Archive Collections: Updated on FamilySearch

Showing as updated since our last FamilySearch update:

Do Deeds Give Dates of Death and Signatures?

I recently read a blog post that suggested that deeds frequently give dates of death and signatures. 

That's not exactly true. 

Property deeds document property ownership and transfer. That is their purpose. The original is usually signed. Any other information that they contain is usually to clarify the property ownership or transfer. There may be extraneous information as well if the individual drafting the document believed it was necessary.

Death Dates

It is always possible that a deed may state the day on which the owner died, but it's not all that common. If the deed is transferring property from the estate of someone who is deceased, the date of the deed can be used as  "dead by" date--as long as the owner is listed as deceased. Sometimes if a wife survived her husband and had a "life estate" in her husband's property, a deed may be drawn up by the heirs after her death. In cases of this type the widow may not even be named and her death may not even be referenced. It will take a knowledge of the property title she had, often from other documents such as her husband's will or estate record, to know if this type of deed might have been drawn up.

But those deeds provide "dead by dates" more than a precise death date. And other documents may be necessary in order to interpret the deed correctly.


The actual deed probably contained the signature of the grantors. The thing is that most local land records are not the actual deed. The deed in the courthouse is a record copy. Before photoduplication techniques were developed in the 20th century, record copies were handwritten or typed transcriptions. They will indicate if the grantor signed his name, but it won't be the "signature" of your ancestor. It will be the clerk's copy of the signature. 

Deeds are wonderful records. But, like any record, they need to be analyzed and interpreted correctly.

It's Our All Fresh Pledge

I value the relationship I have with my fans, followers, and readers. Because of that I'm posting this statement to each of my blogs. I've written similar statements before, but this is an issue that is important to me and one that I think bears occasional repeating.

The content you see on this blog/website was written by me. It was not copied from another person's blog, website, printed material, etc. Brief content from other writers is cited, quoted, and openly acknowledged. I believe in giving credit to others, respecting their intellectual property and copyright, and in creating my own original content. I expect the same of other bloggers, writers, etc. If I think someone's post or content is worth sharing with readers, then I simply link back to it.

The only research I write up is research I have done myself.

That's why I don't write about every topic under the sun--because one person cannot know everything and because I'm not going to simply paraphrase or copy someone else's work so I can have an article "on that topic."

Copyright matters. Respecting the intellectual property rights of other people matters.

If you have pride in yourself and what you do, you create your own, unique work.

It's as simple as that.

Now back to work.

[other genealogy bloggers--consider posting a similar pledge on your own blog]

04 November 2013

Updated on FamilySearch: Washington State and MN

The following databases are showing as updated on FamilySearch:

Washington, County Records, 1856-2009

Minnesota, Naturalization Card Index, 1930-1988

Don't Forget to Include Why You Didn't Include It

Should you include "wrong" conclusions in your proof argument? I think there's a time and a place to do that.

Let's say I'm writing up my proof argument as to why I think the wife of Edward Bubbinski was named Margaret McCormick. Let's assume that I have reliable evidence and sound analysis on my side. The problem is that other people and other sources have different things to say about Edward's wife. Things that have been repeated over and over for decades.

I have information from a variety of sources (some more reliable than others) that says Edward's wife's maiden name was:
  • Taylor
  • Taliaferro
  • McMormick
I decide that the information stating her maiden name was Taylor or Taliaferro is unreliable and does not help me "make my case" as to Margaret's maiden name. Just because the Taylor/Talifaferro information is suspect does not automatically mean that McCormick information is correct. Even if I have sound evidence that the Taylor/Taliaferro information is incorrect, that doesn't mean the McCormick name has to be right. I need evidence that McCormick is what is actually correct.

What do I do with the Taylor/Taliaferro information when I know it is incorrect? I don't think incorrect information should be ignored. In fact, I think this incorrect information, along with why I believe it to be unreliable and incorerct, should be included in my written proof of why Margaret was a McCormick. 

Why should unreliable information be included in my proof showing something else? There are two reasons.

1) To show that I didn't overlook (or ignore ) the wrong stuff. 
Incorrect information (especially when it's been spread numerous times) should be referenced so that readers of my proof know that I was aware of the information and had not overlooked it or left it out because "it didn't fit my theory." If I (for valid reasons) believe that  something commonly repeated and reported to be true is actually false, I need to at least acknowledge it in my proof that a contrary statement is true. Acknowledging it does not mean that I think it is true, but rather, in my opinion, it strengthens my argument that something else is true because it cannot be said that I ignored what I did not want to believe.

2) It strengthens my case.
If I have evidence that the incorrect information is untrue, then that evidence (and my clearly written agrument summarizing that evidence) helps me to make my case that something else is true. It does not automatically mean that my alternate theory is true--I still need solid evidence. If I have evidence that Margaret's maiden name was McCormick and I also have separate evidence that her maiden name was not Taylor or Taliaferro, my case is for the McCormick name is stronger.

Don't just ignore what you know is wrong.

02 November 2013

A Marriage Register Gives Two Witnesses

This is the marriage register entry for Samuel Neill and Annie Murphy from Saint John County, New Brunswick, Canada, in 1865. This entry comes from the county's marriage register G, page 148 (Family History Library microfilm 855391).

I have had a copy of the bond for this couple for some time. The marriage register entry gave the names of two witnesses. Durbin is the bondsman for the marriage bond and I have not determined if there is a relationship between Neill and Durbin. Ann [sic] Neill (the witness) is probably the Anne Neill was was a sister-in-law of Samuel Neill. In this case the name of the witness was not a "new" clue, but that is always a possibility.

For some reason, I thought a digital image of the spine of the book was necessary. Since it only gave the volume letter it really wasn't that helpful, but it does make for a nice illustration.

What I really should have included was the Family History Film number in my file name for this image. I included the volume and page number.

Before writing this blog post, I had to go back and "recreate" my work to get the microfilm number. That's time I would have saved if I had done it in the first place.

There's one more copy of a marriage item for this couple--the records from the church where they were married.

That's next on my list.