Category «How To’s, Hints & Tips»

Named for a Famous Non-Relative?

Anyone with a cursory knowledge of US history would know that an ancestor named George Washington Smith, Benjamin Franklin Butler, or Abraham Lincoln Jones was likely named for the famous American. But what about someone named Lorenzo Dow Smith or Jasper Newton Smith? Do not assume you have a connection to the Dow or Newton families just because your ancestor had these names. Sometimes names are simply popular cultural references that have faded from memory.

© Michael John Neill, “Genealogy Tip of the Day,”, 8 Jul 2012.

Note from Site Admin: I have encountered exactly this issue in my research, middle name of Dewitt. All indications point to a military service connection. If you have a similar situation, continue to broaden your research & look for close neighbors, military associations, political, etc.

You Can’t Always Call the Cemetery

Those who have never researched rural ancestors are sometimes in for a treat when they try and locate someone who has a map of the cemetery or a listing of who owns which plots, etc.

For some rural cemeteries, particularly ones that are no longer used, no such list exists. Township or other local officials may oversee the cemetery, maybe. Or no one at all may look after the cemetery and the records, if there ever were any, may be long gone.

And rural cemeteries rarely have phone numbers you can call to get information. Local historical or genealogical societies and libraries may have information or they may not. Local funeral homes may know who to contact as well. And local government officials, even if they are not responsible for the cemetery’s upkeep, may be aware of someone who knows about who is in the cemetery.

Adjacent landowners may know who knows something about the cemetery, but get permission before walking on someone’s property.

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

Do You Hear It Yourself?

Sometimes “seeing” a clue is not about seeing at all. Do you ever read a document or record “out loud?” There are times when just saying something or hearing yourself say something makes a clue or piece of information “click.”

Talking to yourself a little bit never hurts and it may cause you to realize things that were not so clear when you simply read them silently.

© Michael John Neill, “Genealogy Tip of the Day,”, 14 Sep 2012.

Are Your Gaps Filled?

When you organize the information you have on an ancestor are there gaps in the timeline where you have no records? Make certain there’s not something you have overlooked. Something in those intervening years could answer other questions or open up entire research avenues.

Are there significant gaps in the years of birth for the children of an ancestor? It could be that children died at birth or there were miscarriages. It could also be that the ancestor did not have just one spouse and was unmarried for a time.

It’s not possible to fill in or explain every gap, but acknowledging you have them is a start. And we all have them–at least a few.

© Michael John Neill, “Genealogy Tip of the Day,”, 1 Nov 2012.

In the Context of the Family

Besides fitting events in your ancestor’s life into national and regional historical events, consider fitting them into other events in their immediate family as well. Had a parent just died when a child decided to move? Did a parent’s marriage to a new spouse take place a few years before the child left home? Always consider what was going on within your ancestor’s family when certain things were happening in their life.

© Michael John Neill, “Genealogy Tip of the Day,”, 27 Jul 2012.