Tips from the Pros: Tips from an Old File

from Paula Stuart Warren

I am taking some of my own advice and checking old files–tossing duplicate items, things no longer needed, and outdated items. I was doing this to get ready for a mini-family reunion. I chuckled a few times at notes I made as I listened to lectures in the early 1980s. (Wasn’t that just yesterday?) Much of what I found still applies today:

  • If a family disappears, check the locations of the wife’s family. People often moved with the wife’s family.
  • If a family disappears, look westward. Pay attention to when homestead land opened in various states.
  • Surname spelling doesn’t count; your family may not have known how to spell the name, or the clergy entering their details into a record book may not have been familiar with the language your ancestors spoke.
  • Always keep maps handy and pay attention to city, county, and state boundary changes.
  • If your ancestor does not appear in a county history, try for their siblings or in-laws.
  • Your family may not have moved–the town or county line may have moved.
  • Don’t forget to look for the records of siblings. Those may hold some magic in the form of maiden names, places of origin, and may yield the descendant with the family Bible.

I also found a note talking about the 1910 U.S. census that was about to be opened to researchers. Just think, we now have the 1920 and 1930 available for research. And they are online and every-name indexed today!

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5 thoughts on “Tips from the Pros: Tips from an Old File

  1. Seeing a note on the 1910 census is funny? I have an old letter where I bragged about our library now having the 1840 census on microfilm!

  2. Great ideas for we who are newbies! We can use all the hints we can find. I had an ancestor whom I just knew she had lived in Massachusetts but couldn’t find her. Come to find out, the state line had moved giving that piece of land to RI. So, not only the county was wrong, so was the state even though the family had stayed in the same house. (I wonder if taxes were any better???)

  3. My best find was many years ago when in a Courthouse in Montgomer Co. Va. I opened a bottom drawer of a filing cabinet
    and found in a folder the original marriage record laying loose of my ancestor in 1769. Never can tell what you might find.

  4. I am still giggling. Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s – the days of manual typewriters, waiting for what felt like endless weeks for the mailman, ordering census microfilm and then waiting for it to come in and running to my tiny small town library that owned one old microfilm reader – to search line by line by line…and being sooooo impressed when a cousin was actually able to photocopy the 1880 St. Louis Census from a microfilm reader!! Such technology – my sister and I were jealous! To have an actual photocopy of a census instead of all our handwritten or typewritten census forms -that we had to order from Everton!!

    Oh, yes, those were the days. They sure were exciting!

  5. While searching for my ancestors on British census pages, on several occasions I learned the maiden name of the wife because the widowed mother-in-law or another in-law was listed as living with the head of household.

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