A Grave Pension Matter

This Civil War veteran was survived by his wife, Sarah Ellen Graves, who died in Macon, Missouri, in 1931.  Thomas’s card is from the National Archives’ General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934 (NARA microfilm publication T288). There is no notation for a widow’s pension on this card. The obvious reason for the omission is that Sarah did not receive one. It’s possible the omission was an error.

Thomas’ pension file has been requested–so we’ll have to wait and see.

The wife Sarah who survived him was the daughter of William and Rebecca (Tinsley) Newman and was born in Rush County, Indiana, and spent time in Hancock County, Illinois, when her parents lived there in the 1860s and 1870s. It’s hoped that there is a widow’s pension for her as it may document information on her three marriages and what happened to her first two husbands.

Stay tuned.


Ancestry Separates an 1870 Household

According to Ancestry.com‘s 1870 census “index entry” for William L. Newman in Prairie Township, Hancock County, Illinois, there are only five individuals in his household–all of them named Newman.

Yet when one looks at the actual enumeration for William, it’s clear there are two others in the household: Oscar Williamson and Sarah E. Williamson.

The five Newmans and the two Williamsons are clearly in dwelling 152 household 148 in Prairie Township.

The Williamsons have apparently been put in a “separate” entry.


One should always read the actual image–we’ve made that point often enough that hopefully readers are aware of it. But it’s frustrating for Ancestry.com to “separate” out a household into two when clearly on the census it is one.



Was L J D Alive on 14 December 1925?

This marriage license comes was dated 14 Dec 1925 and is from the county records of Fallon County, Montana–it was located on FamilySearch in their Montana, County Marriages, 1865-1950 for Levi L. Demar. It indicated that the father “is” with “was” crossed out.

Question is: is this “evidence” that L. J. Demar was still alive on 14 Dec 1925?



One Gill Cup

“1 Broken Mug one Gill Cup One bowl”

Some readers might wonder what type of cup a “gill cup” is. The gill is referring to the size of the cup, not some special design or anything else. A gill is a unit of measure equal to one half cup.

This image comes from Harford County, Maryland, Estate Inventories 1777-1804, page 270–the estate inventory of Ann Gibson.

The inventory of Ann’s chattel estate is interesting. Often googling items will help with interpretations.

Estate inventories are great fun.


Thoughts on Iowa, Records of Persons Subject to Military Duty, 1862-1910

FamilySearch recently announced that “Iowa, Records of Persons Subject to Military Duty, 1862-1910” was new or had been updated.

A search of that database for the last name of Cawiezell indicated one individual in the database with that last name. There were a total of 37 results, but none of the other thirty-six had the Cawiezell spelling–all were variants on that name.

The individual entry for Richard is not very specific and anyone reading it quickly might make the wrong conclusion regarding what the document actually says. The title does clearly indicate that these are records of individuals subject to military duty between 1862 and 1910. The “event type” states military service, but there is no guarantee that a specific individual listed actually was a member of the military. The records usually provide the person’s age and residence (at least as specific as the county with township or city of residence in many cases).

Viewing the image for Richard indicated that he was not the only Cawiezell on the page, even though the index indicated that he was the only Cawiezell man in the set of records. In fact there were two others: Jos. H. and Adolf. Why they were not in the index is unknown as they are listed consecutively in the record and the handwriting is very consistent.

This entry makes the point that the researcher needs to find out exactly what they are looking at–not just grab the image and go. The heading of the page indicated that the list the Cawiezell men appeared on was a list of “Persons in Davenport Township, Scott County, Iowa, liable to do military duty, 1908.”

Working earlier in the images, some of the source information was obtained. The list was apparently originally contained in a folder which essentially contained the same information as the heading of the page on which the Cawiezells were listed.

The cover sheet for the 1908 list for Scott County, Iowa, gave totals of the number of persons liable for military service throughout the county.

Earlier records were browsed and apparently the next earliest list for Scott County was for 1904.

Now the only thing I need to do is make source citation for this record.

A few quick reminders:

  • never assume the index is complete
  • know what you are actually searching
  • and–which we didn’t mention–(re)name the images in a way that makes sense
  • and–which we also didn’t mention–determine who was actually “liable for military” service in Iowa in 1908.



Tazewell County Genealogical Society Presentation Links

I had a great time presenting a remote webinar for the Tazewell County Genealogical Society in Pekin, Illinois, this evening. Given the weather it was better to be holed up in my house than driving. The discussion was search strategies-including Soundex approaches (don’t forget to get the list of Soundex codes for your ancestral names).

We also discussed DNA briefly and here are links to the extensions that I mentioned:

I even virtually met additional descendants of Riley Rampley. Apparently the one I talked to tonight got Riley’s hair gene. I didn’t. It was a great group in Pekin tonight. Thanks for having me present.

Riley Rampley (1835 Coshocton County, Ohio-1893 Hancock County, Illinois)



“All That Part” Does not Mean All

Part of a 1796 deed in Harford County, Maryland, from James Rampley to Jesse Kent states:

“…Bargain and Sell unto the said Jesse Kent his Heirs and assigns all that part of a Tract of Land originally Granted to the said James Ramply by the State of Maryland on the first day of December seventeen hundred and ninety five as by said Patent may appear…”

I admittedly read the deed too fast and focused on the “all that” portion of the text. Later when analyzing it, I relied a little too much on memory as well which did not help alleviate the confusion. The patent was for 32 acres and the deed referenced above was for 10 acres. Selling the whole patent by this 1796 deed should mean that the deed discussed 32 acres. The discrepancy in the acreages was too much to write off to an approximation error.

Even after seeing the word “part” I was not immediately convinced that there wasn’t a problem with the 1796 deed. I was stuck on the “all that…Tract of Land granted” part of the document.

Later the deed states “…as contained in the following Courses…[followed by the metes and bounds description]…”

It actually took a little while for it all to sink in.

Extracting key phrases from the deed it’s really saying:

“…all that part..contained in the following Courses…”

When I focused on those words the meaning was a little more clear. The deed did not intend to transfer the whole of the patented property. The only intent was to transfer the part described in the metes and bounds description. Of course, I knew that. The legal description of the property is always what is intended to be transferred, but metes and bounds descriptions are not easy to visualize and simply reading one doesn’t immediately lead one to conclude whether it is 10 or 32 acres.

My misinterpretation may seem a little silly and it may seem like I’m admitting that I’m not as “on the ball” as I should be. Personally I think it is good to admit that we all occasionally make errors in interpretation–especially if we read things quickly and accidentally focus on the wrong part of a document. Every researcher is guilty of occasionally of making a hasty conclusion that is incorrect. However, in my case, I knew I had to be overlooking something and I was.

Usually if I think something in a document is “wrong,” I ask myself:

  • am i certain what the terms mean?
  • have I left out a word or part of the document?
  • have I assumed something that is not true?
  • do I need to transcribe the whole document?
There are other questions, but these are an excellent start. All of us occasionally make a snap interpretation that is incorrect. The reason why we cite sources, get to the “original,” re-analyze and re-interpret is to reduce the number of these mistakes that we spread with others.
There’s no shame in catching your own errors of interpretation. Critiquing and proofreading your own writing is an excellent way to catch these errors.

Harford County, Maryland, Deed Liber JLG, Volume N: 95-96, James Rampley to Jesse Kent; FHL microfilm 14096.

And we learn best when we’ve caught our own mistakes.
The image below is part of the deed discussed in this blog post.

Inductive Versus Deductive Reasoning

People throw around the phrase “deductive reasoning,” but I’m not certain that everyone really knows the true meaning of the phrase.

“I looked at other handwriting by the clerk and using deductive reasoning I concluded that the letter that was difficult to read was an ‘M.'” The conclusion that the letter was an “M” may very well be correct, but it wasn’t deductive reasoning that was used. In reading other writing of the same clerk, a pattern may be noticed as to how the clerk makes his letters. Noticing a pattern and then concluding that the pattern always happen is inductive reasoning–not deductive reasoning.  Inductive reasoning is a valid form of reasoning–but it involves taking examples, making a rule from those examples and saying that the next time it will happen the same way.

Genealogists use deductive reasoning all the time. Deductive reasoning takes specific rules that are known to be always true (or hoped to be always true) or statements made in documents and uses those rules or statements to reach an unstated conclusion. Here’s one simple example of deductive reasoning.

  • The marriage record of Henrietta Newman in Smith County, Illinois, in 1869 has no letter of consent to marry and no notation is made on the record that someone provided consent.
  • Females had to be 18 to marry in Illinois in 1869.

Therefore Henrietta Newman was at least 18 on the date of her marriage. 

The conclusion about Henrietta’s age at the time of her marriage is based upon deductive reasoning. We are using the “rule” about female marriage age, combined with the marriage record, to conclude something about Henrietta that is not on the marriage record specifically. Some would say we have inferred Henrietta’s age or year of birth and others would say the marriage record was “indirect evidence.” I’m not really certain I like the phrase “indirect evidence” and I’m not certain it really matters if that phrase is used or not. What does matter is that we state why we think Henrietta was born in a certain year if the marriage record (and the age at marriage) allows us to deductively conclude that.

There’s actually one more “given” that we need to state if we are really going to conclude when Henrietta was born:

  • The marriage record of Henrietta Newman in Smith County, Illinois, in 1869 has no letter of consent to marry and no notation is made on the record that someone provided consent.
  • Females had to be 18 to marry in Illinois in 1869.
  • Henrietta knew her age and did not lie about it in order to marry.

If all those statements are true, then Henrietta was at least 18 on the date of her marriage.

Whether you use inductive or deductive reasoning, make certain you contemplate the validity of your argument. Inductive reasoning can lead you astray when your ancestor doesn’t really “fit the pattern” after all and deductive reasoning can get you in trouble if your ancestor lied, was unaware of the law, or the clerk was sloppy.


Do You Save DNA Match Information?

When I first started working on the matches for one of my DNA tests, I discovered that one of my correspondents was adopted and was trying to locate her birth parents. No big deal. Their test results had a tree attached to it (with the name of the birth parents and nothing else). We corresponded briefly after sharing what information we could, but a regular correspondence when there’s nothing to discuss is rather meaningless. The match was somewhat distantly related to the testee and I was not initially able to give them any real specific suggestions.  To be honest, I forgot about the match after our conversation ended.

In reviewing that match again recently, the tree is gone. The account remains, but the individual is not responding to messages and has not logged into their account in months. I’m not certain whether they are unable to communicate or have simply lost interest. Their username may also have been changed as it’s more “generic” than I remember it being.

I didn’t copy the information from their online tree while they had it up (screen shots at the very least would have been helpful). So there’s a little reminder here: capture that information. Some DNA testers die or become otherwise unable to respond. Others get busy. Some lose interest. Some lose access to their account. Those are problems that all of us occasionally have.

Others discover things they didn’t want to know and don’t respond to anyone to keep peace with living family members…and sometimes when they have that realization, they remove their tree or set it to “private.” And then they go incognito.

Capturing information about the match and their tree when you encounter it may be a good idea.