Category «How To’s, Hints & Tips»

A Witness is…

A witness to a document typically is only indicating that they know who signed the document in question. A witness has to be of legal age and sound mind, but does not have to have any relationship to the person actually making out the document.

Don’t draw too many conclusions about a person who only witnesses one of your ancestor’s documents. The witness just might have been another warm body in the office the same time as your ancestor.

© Michael John Neill, “Genealogy Tip of the Day,”, 23 Oct 2012..

Look at ALL the Fields in a Census

Being focused when doing genealogy research is a good thing — except when that focus costs finding an important clue.

When looking at a census record, we tend to focus on one person or one family & do not look at the other families on the page. In assisting someone (from out-of-state, btw) in Nichols Library Thursday, we found when we looked at the WHOLE page that the person in question owned a sawmill.

SHE, yes–a woman, employed one person from her household. As head of the family, it also suggests she was widowed.


No Kids, Never Had Siblings, & Died With Some Cash

Is there a relative who never had any children of their own, had no siblings and died owning enough property to require a probate or an estate settlement?

If so, the records of that settlement may be particularly interesting. The deceased person’s heirs-at-law typically would have been their first cousins or their first cousin’s descendants. Even if there was a will, these heirs-at-law typically would have had to have been notified of the probate. Those records could help determine relationships and indicate where people were living at the time the relative died.

These estate or probate records would typically be filed at the local court level.

© Michael John Neill, “Genealogy Tip of the Day,”, 06 Sep 2012..