January 2016

You have sorted through the family papers that were in your grandparents’ home. You have found precious documents – birth, marriage, and death certificates, diaries, letters. What do you do with them all?

First of all, make a copy of them. A photocopy will work. Then, what about scanning the item (could this be done at the same time a photocopy is made?). Saving a copy on your external hard drive and “in the cloud” will assure that you always have a copy.

If something does happen to the original, you will at the minimum have a copy. Your descendants will thank you!



When using FamilySearch or Ancestry, make sure you read the description of the database that has the records that are being displayed.

The title of the database may be, “Ohio Birth Records, 1800-1920”. However, do you know what counties are included in the database? Don’t assume the county of your ancestor’s birth is included – it may or it may not be included.


Have you ever found a “marriage” record and assumed that the couple did in fact marry?

Towards the later part of the 1800s, marriage records may have included the license to marry. The couple applied for the license, and were most likely granted the license. But, did they actually marry?

In my experience, there have been times when the license portion of the record is the primary portion – it may take up ¾ of the page. At the very bottom of the page, one will find the actual marriage record.

Make sure that you look at the very bottom of that page to make sure that the couple actually married. They may have gotten a license but never married!

Not too long ago, my computer began to have problems. Even though I have software on my computer to find viruses, my computer still got a virus. This virus was causing various background programs to run, and the background programs caused my image software to have errors. So, at various times, my screen would go blank.

So, the computer had to go to the store to be repaired.

I was so glad that I back up my files to three places – Dropbox, Carbonite, and an external hard drive. So, when the repair made it necessary to reinstall some programs and some files were no longer on the hard drive, I still had the files!

Make sure your files are in three places as well. You never know when your computer may contract a virus or malware.


You have found that all important estate record of your ancestor! Hooray for you! And then you try to read it!

Records from the 1800’s, and earlier, can be quite difficult to read – the handwriting, the “language” used – many things can make it difficult for us to decipher the record.

Have you tried transcribing it? Transcribing is something that can be very helpful. Look at the pen strokes in the word – write down what you think it is, and then compare with other similar pen strokes. Also, try enlarging the original – sometimes making the writing “bigger” can aid in the transcribing.

Don’t look at transcribing as a chore. Look at it as an opportunity to learn more about your ancestor!

You have searched and searched for the burial-place of your ancestor, and you have finally found it! However, something does not seem right to you. Your ancestor died in the 1880’s, and the gravestone is modern. What happened?

It is quite possible that the original gravestone has been replaced with a modern one – maybe the old one was broken so it was replaced. But, who replaced it? From where did the information come for the new stone?

These questions are very good ones to ask yourself. Make sure you answer them before you accept the information on the stone as accurate.


Have you ever considered the weather and what plans our ancestors may have had to change because of it?

Here in central Indiana, we experienced a very warm, comparatively, December. The high temperatures were in the 50s and 60s during the day, and many nights the temperature did not drop below the freezing mark. Very unusual weather for us! And yet, when listening to the “record” highs and lows for the date, this was not the first time that this area had experienced this “warmer than normal” weather.

And, just a few years ago, this area had “colder than normal” weather. There was record snowfall and record low temps – we will not soon forget the need to thaw our water pipes!

So, this year has been quite warm and a few years ago it was quite cold. Did these extremes in temperature cause people to change their plans? This year, maybe the “snow birds” did not travel south as early as they normally do. And, a few years ago, maybe they went south earlier and returned to their northern home later – maybe they decided to marry in the south instead of the north! Maybe children were born in unexpected places because of the weather!


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