Can't Miss These Hints



Even the most seasoned family researcher can overlook certain clues that can prove to be of great assistance. Here are a few of such often overlooked bits of information that lead to greater details about your family.

1. You have a death certificate on an ancestor, but note at the bottom the person's name on the document who provided the information for the certificate such as full name for the decease, date of birth, parents’ names, etc. You are excited to have those dates and names but the person providing it might be a relative to the decease or a friend. Get the full name of the informant along with details of the relationship if provided, such as a cousin, sister-in-law, etc. Do some research on that individual, checking census records, city directories, newspapers and marriage records, etc. That informant might turn out to be a child or grandchild of the decease you had never known about. Could be a good deal learned on your ancestor using another person who had to have known the ancestor well.

2. The names of witness signatures – full names written on legal documents. That includes marriage certificates, the witnesses could have been dear friends or relatives. Witness signatures are also on Wills, deeds to property, business documents, etc. Of course a witness signature could have been the secretary in a lawyer’s office, but the person signing could have close ties to an ancestor. Don’t overlook such as clue. 

3. If your ancestor was an immigrant by early 1800s and beyond and still living by the time of the U.S. Federal Census of 1900, do not miss an important clue — the date they arrived in America. In one of the far right columns of answers on the 1900 census each person states what year they arrived to America. Now true, some people forgot the exact year if it happened years ago. However, it is a starting point or clue, one often overlooked. Also provided will be the country they originated from. Two big clues (date and nation of origin) to learn more about any ancestor and pieces needed to locate immigration records, naturalization documents and ship manifest records. If you can get hold of a copy of the manifest, you will have details such as where they planned on living and with whom when they arrived and the location in the foreign town they lived. There can also be a description of their appearance.

4. Newspapers – such a resource ! Small and medium sized towns / cities use to write every little detail about their citizens or even about strangers in town. Any town you think your ancestor may have lived or had friends / relative in is worth checking the newspapers. Many newspapers even do ‘remember when’ or ‘timeline’ repeating vintage articles on community people from 10 to 20 to 50 years earlier. So your ancestor could be in a reprint of any article. Many local genealogical societies can assist finding vintage newspapers. There are also online newspapers from across the country and different time periods. this has always been one of best resources!! 

Photos: Stanley Kitching’s life story-March 1950; witnesses’ signatures, and census research.

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

Hidden Clues

Your Heritage in your Surname

Read between the Census Lines

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