Monday, October 17, 2016

Family History Tips--Part 8

Other Often-Ignored Individuals in Ancestral Records
In the last installment, we looked at the valuable clues of siblings of our ancestral lines in census records and other documents. This week we will look at the value of other household members, neighbors and other names that appear on records. As I said last time, very often when stuck tracing a name back, other siblings are valuable in tracing a family. The same goes for the following:
  • Other household members in census records: Census records are probably the most valuable records in family research. The 1880 to 1940 census records list individual’s relations to the head of the household—in-laws, cousins, grandparents, servants, etc. However, be aware that the 1850 to 1870 census only lists names, ages, gender, place of birth, occupation, etc., but no relationships. These are still valuable clues, though. Very often that much older person at the bottom of the list is a parent or grandparent. I once discovered a love affair in an 1870 census (dated 5 August) household. A domestic servant, Catharine Cline, fell in love with one of the master’s sons, my 5x-great grandfather Willoughby Miller. They married a few weeks later! Investigate everything you can on those persons.
  • Neighbors in census records: Always look at who is living next door. Very often they are relations. Other relations may live in close proximity. Examine a few pages before and after. Do you see any similar names? They may be relations.
  • Baptismal records: Always look at the sponsors in baptismal records. They are often family members. Besides sometimes giving the maiden name of the mother, maiden names for female sponsors may be included. Moreover, examine these records in context with other siblings. For example, if many of the children have the same middle initial, such as R and the sponsor in a baptismal record is a Catherine Reiff, it may be that this Catherine is a single sibling or the mother, which would mean that the mother of the child is a Reiff.
  • Marriage license applications and certificates: Applications often give parents’ names, but look at the names of witnesses on certificates. These may be relations.
  • Military registrations: World War I and II draft cards ask for the name and address of the registrant’s “nearest relative.” These are usually wives, or parents, but other relations may be listed such as a brother.
  • Military pension records: Pension requests often have dozens of pages, listing marriages, children, and more. Read each page carefully for valuable clues.
  • Passenger lists on ships: Manifests, especially the two-page ones from the early 20th century, are usually chock full of information. Some have columns listing contact names and relationships of the immigrant—one for nearest relation and address in the old country from where they are emigrating, and one for the person and relationship they are meeting at their final destination.
  • Naturalization records: Some of these records list parents, spouses and children of the individual requesting citizenship, but also look for names of witnesses; they may be related. When examining these in a digital image database, be aware that the information is on several frame images before and after the one that is indexed.
  • Death records: Not only do death records often give the names of parents, but also look at the informant’s name, especially on 20th century death certificates.
  • Wills and administration records: The more pages in a file in a courthouse or those digitized on databases, the better the clues that can be found within. These can number from one or two to hundreds of pages. Read each page carefully.
The next installment of this series will address other information in ancestral records, such as addresses, occupations, and additional valuable clues.

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