Your Quick Tips, 20 November 2006

Birthday Books
Another more positive way of keeping dates of people we love is to maintain a birthday book. I started mine fifteen years ago and have also added death dates of close relatives and a few friends who have died since 1991. We do not keep a Bible with family dates, but this book is important to me. People always enjoy being remembered on their special day! The book also includes some wedding anniversaries.
Over the past fifty-two years of marriage I have also kept address books, and they are fun to look back through. My mother’s address books are also in a file, because one never knows when that information may be important to a genealogist!
Ruth Lawrence
Georgetown, Texas

Writing the Family Story
I experienced the “truism” of writing out the story in order to really learn about your ancestors three years ago. As our family reunion’s official genealogist, I received a request to put together a “book” for purchase–a request I gladly agreed to. Originally, I intended it to be simply family group sheets printed from my Family Tree Maker software. hHowever, I realized that to most of those family members who attended the reunion, this would be nothing more than a dull collection of names and dates. I wanted them to see our ancestors as flesh and blood and emotion! So, I decided to write it in essay form.

For the first time, I was looking at the chronological events and records in my ancestors’ lives in direct relationship to each other instead of as individual fact pages. What a revelation I experienced. You see, I had recently discovered information that indicated that my third great-grandfather had not immigrated as an adult but had actually left Scotland as a child with his parents.

I thought I had found his parents and was searching for records to prove it. I didn’t know it but I had had almost all the proof I needed in the records of individual children of my third great-grandfather and only by writing them out in the context of a “story” did I see the records and what they offered me in the way of real information.

I began to see that the land owned by my known and proven ancestors (great-grand-aunts and -uncles), was bordered by the lands of my direct line ancestors and that the same people were witnessing their documents over and over again.

Even more important to furthering my research was the fact that the land owned by the folks I thought were my fourth great-grandparents bordered those properties and were witnessed by the same folks. By comparing later records, I realized that the properties were changing hands between what I had previously thought to be two distinct McLeod lines. Those clues revealed in the records I already had led me to wills and equity and land Records that proved that the couple I thought were my fourth great-grandparents were indeed my fourth great-grandparents.

So, get out those records and begin to write the story of your family. You’ll be amazed at the truth that is buried within the records that heretofore you had only looked at in the context of the individual the record was assigned to!

Lori McLeod Wilke

Panning for Gold 
A friend recently asked me to research his toddler son’s family tree as a gift. In my research, I learned that his son and my daughter are roughly fourth cousins.

My friend insisted his parents had divorced back in the 1980s but search as I might, I was unable to locate the papers. I did find their marriage license and even a will for a previously unknown great-aunt (that revealed the grandfather’s TWO marriages). My light bulb moment, or so I thought, was in asking the court clerks to do a name search. They looked (electronically) all the way back to 1978 with no luck.

I took about a week off from this line and spent a day researching land records and wills, finding quite a few cousins that my friend didn’t even know existed. While I was researching wills I found a reference to the parents in a 1990 property transaction, they filed jointly but each filed as a single person. Within the property description was a reference to a civil case from 1985 that allowed them to obtain the property in question.

I made a note of the case number and went back to the clerks. I wasn’t really expecting a twenty-year-old case to still exist, but there it was along with more than a bit of dust. I opened the jacket and at the top of the first page read, “in re the dissolution of marriage…” Bingo! The file also contained a separation agreement and even custody papers. When the clerks cross-referenced the case number they discovered it had been indexed wrong in the database.
It took four and a half hours of searching deeds, mortgages, and wills, one line in one document, and a bit of luck. There’s usually a way to find what you need. You just have to find the way.
Tia Francisco

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