Ira Sargent Breaks a Hip in 1911

Even seemingly meaningless clippings like this reference to a broken hip can be useful.

This item tells me several things–that my ancestor was institutionalized at the Bartonville Hospital and that he was alive on 25 July 1911. If this event had happened before vital registration, the date may have been more significant. And, if these hospital records are closed, sealed, or not extant, this clipping provides evidence of Ira’s institutionalization.

Newspaper clippings may make mention of items that are in closed “public” records. Is there a chance that something that’s in a closed or non-extant record is mentioned in a newspaper that you can access?

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Platting Those Initial Landowners

It is not fancy, but it is functional. I find it easier to make initial drawings in pencil.

Using the BLM search results and the BLM tract books as described in an earlier post, I created a simple map showing the original landowners in section 29 of Township 22-5 in Tipton County, Indiana.

There was no earthshattering discovery, but the knowing the relative positions of the parcels is helpful. Relatives Tinsley and Newman did purchase adjoining properties and when I went through the entries in detail, I realized that the other Newman purchase was declared to be swamp land.

Section 20 would have been due north of section 29 and locating the properties in that section may shed light on the patentees who were due north of Tinsley and Newman.

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It’s Longer than You Share: Timber Cutting Your AncestryDNA

At first it appears confusing. One of my AncestryDNA matches shows us as sharing 20 cM of DNA and yet the longest segment is 22 cM. It’s not a typographical error and the AncestryDNA website is not messed up. It is based on Ancestry’s procedure for handling what are perceived to be bits of shared DNA that are entirely too far back to be practically identifiable to an ancestor. Remember that AncestryDNA is an autosomal test and a shared connection can be anywhere in your tree, not just in the direct paternal or maternal line. That’s one thing that makes working with your AncestryDNA matches challenging.

We share 20 cM of DNA and yet the longest segment is 22 cM.

My Brown match and I share 20 cM of DNA across 1 segment and yet the longest segment is 22 cM.

We’re simplifying the AncestryDNA match procedure here a bit for purposes of understanding (read the AncestryDNA white paper for more details). The match process first looks at the shared DNA that the Brown match and I have. In this case that is a segment 22 cM long.

Then the algorithm looks at a much larger body of DNA submissions and notices that a significant number of them have a shared segment of DNA–not just the Brown match and I. That number is large enough that it is believed that that segment must come from much more distant ancestor–one too distant to be determined with any extant records and one that could simply be the result of our families living the same area well before records were kept. That very distant ancestor would be virtually impossible to determine specifically given the generational distance and lack of records. And so that shared segment of DNA–that Brown and I share with so many others that’s likely the result of living in the same area for a long time–is removed from our match since it didn’t come from the common ancestor Brown and I share, but probably from a much more distant one shared by numerous other people. In my case that “distantly shared” DNA was a segment 2 cM in size. That size (of the really distant amount of shared DNA identified as such by Ancestry’s DNA algorithm) can vary. It is not always 2 cM.

Those of us with individuals who lived in one small area for generations before records were even kept are even more likely have these snippets of shared DNA. So if your AncestryDNA match has a longest segment of shared DNA that is larger than your total amount of shared DNA that is the reason. The Timber algorithm has determined that part of what you share is attributable to an unidentifiable distant ancestor.

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Are Your Sources Really That Specific?

The ability to merge sources (particularly census) into a tree at Ancestry.com is really a nice one.

However, one must be careful not to indicate that a source says something it does not. The reasons are pretty obvious–but here’s an example with the names changed.

Thomas Smith was born in Harford County, Maryland, on 2 May 1865 and you have three primary sources to back it up. The 1880, 1900, 1910 and 1920 census all indicate he was born in Maryland. Let’s say that they all point to a year of birth of 1865

Yet if you aren’t careful when you tie the census record to his date and place of birth, you seemingly indicate that the census indicates he was born on 2 May 1865 in Harford County, Maryland. I’ve never seen a census between 1880 and 1920 that provides that specific of a place of birth.

Shouldn’t you create a “new” place/date of birth that is 1865 in Maryland and tie the census source to that?

Or am I just a stick in the mud?

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Alternate Names Can Appear Anywhere

This is one of the pages from the guardianship of Silas and Laura Barcus from Champaign County, Illinois, in the 1870s. This statement from the guardian dated 1877 indicates that Laura was also known as Ellen.
One never knows where these alternate names will appear.


And just as a note, in this case, the guardian of the children’s estate was not their physical guardian. That is always something to keep in mind

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Why Did They Wait?

We’ve changed a few names and details to make the example slightly easier to follow.

Henry and Melinda Smith owned a one hundred acre piece of property in Ohio in the 1840s. Their dates of death are not known and there is no probate file for either of them, but there are three quit claim deeds executed to their son in the 1850s that apparently transfer ownership in their one hundred acres to him. It’s the same property that Henry purchases in the 1820s.

Two of the deeds are drawn up in March of 1852. Both of them are signed by a husband and wife and quit claim their interest in the property Henry purchased in the 1820s. The description matches perfectly. One couple lived in Ohio at the time and the other lived in Illinois. There is one more deed quitclaiming property to the son, but it’s drawn up in 1859. This deed is not a husband and wife couple, but a number of individuals with the same last name all quitclaiming the same property that the two couples did in 1852 to the same man.

My working theory is that the third deed was executed by the children (or heirs) of another sister of the two women listed in the first deeds, another daughter of Henry and Melinda. A potential reason for the nine year delay is to allow all of those heirs to arrive at the age of majority so that they can legally execute a deed in their own right without a guardian being appointed.

There are several reasons a family may wait to finally settle an inheritance or an estate. One reason is waiting until all the heirs reach the age of majority. That allows the family to handle the situation without having to have a guardian appointed for any minor heirs.

Of course, this is speculation and other records should be referenced in order to see if additional information is consistent with this working theory.

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The Horse We Borrowed in Amherst County, Virginia, in 1799

John Tankersly purchased the horse of Thomas Sledd in the early 1800s in Amherst County, Virginia, but he was not the first person to use the horse that Thomas apparently had no personal use for himself. Before Thomas Sledd sold his horse in Amerst County, Virginia, in the early 1800s, he had loaned it to the Tinsley family to use on their property in 1799.

The testimony the Tinsleys gave about the “dark Bay horse” provided more information that just about the horse’s health and physical description.

Affidavit of Robert Tinsley made out in April of 1803–Amherst County, Virginia.

Robert Tinsley’s testimony in April of 1803 also indicated that he had used the horse up til a few days before Sledd sold it to Tankersly and that it had performed “well” and would “eat hearty.” Lindsey’s testimony confirmed what Robert’s did, but added a few details as well–information that was not about the horse.


Affidavit of Lindsey Tinsley made out in April of 1803–Amherst County, Virginia.

Lindsey indicated that Robert Tinsley was his brother, that John Tinsley was Robert’s father and that Robert was the overseer for John Tinsley’s farm. The familial relationships were already known, but had they not been the testimony would have helpful in working out the family relationships. The fact that they made out affidavits in April of 1803 also indicated that Robert and Lindsey were of the age of majority at that time. If the ages of the Tinsley men were not already known, that would have been helpful as well.

What is not stated in the affidavits is that Thomas Sledd was also related to the Tinsley family by marriage. He had married Sally Tinsley, daughter of John Tinsley, and sister of the affiants, in Amherst County, Virginia, in 1798. A good reminder that while records may state some relationships without stating them all.

The affidavits serve as a good reminder that it is always important to search for everyone in the entire family/social network. The Tinsleys were not even being sued and yet the testimony provided by them gave significant genealogical information.

All because of a horse.

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What Is McKeown?

It is easy to criticize indexers and transcriptionists for making mistakes. But there are times when it is easy to see how such “mistakes” are made. This 1964 California death certificate for Georgiana Elliott makes the point.

Box 9 is for “Maiden name and birthplace of mother.” The clerk has entered “unk, McKeown, Pennsylvania.” Box 8 is for the father’s same information where the clerk has entered “James L. Lowry, UNK.” There’s no doubt that “unk (and “UNK”) refer to “unknown.” But was the mother’s maiden surname McKeown or was she born in McKeown, Pennsylvania? The clerk ends the father’s name with a comma and then includes the place of birth after the comma, so perhaps that was done with the mother’s name and place of birth as well–and commas are used to separate names of towns from names of states. Given the fact that the clerk used “unk” and “UNK” for unknown, it’s reasonable to say that the clerk might not be overly precise in their use of commas so drawing conclusions based upon that alone might be problematic.

It’s worth noting that directions for birth place of deceased does indicate “state or country.” It seems doubtful that more precision would have been required for place of birth of the parents.

I’m inclined to go with McKeown as referencing the maiden surname of the mother and not the town of her birth. My transcription of the item will be as exactly as written in the document indicating that the information was obtained in the box requesting mother’s maiden name and place of birth. My note attached to the source of this maiden name will indicate that there is some ambiguity in the original document.

And it is easy to see how an indexer or transcriber with thousands of documents to transcribe and index might have made a quick different interpretation.

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The Online Tree, the Old Compiled Genealogy, and Grandma’s Genealogy Book

An online tree has the name of my ancestor’s wife for a couple who were married in approximately 1800. It’s a personal tree created by one submitter whose email bounces, whose user name on the site is no help in identifying them and whose tree contains no sources. I am probably going to give no credence to the name of the ancestor’s wife in that tree.

I know there are some genealogists who would list the wife with that name and cite the essentially unidentifiable tree as the source. I’m not one of those genealogists. Yes I can cite the tree. Any source, reliable or full of malarkey, can be cited. But just because I can cite it does not mean that I am going to use it. There compiler of the tree includes no references to source material and I’m reasonably certain they did not have first hand knowledge of an event that took place in 1800 and likely didn’t communicate personally with anyone who did.

A 1890-era genealogy gives the year of death of an ancestor in 1847. The ancestor died in a time and place where death records are not kept and no contemporary record can be located that suggests his date of death. It’s a published book so a citation can easily be created. I’ll probably use it in this case because I have an author’s name and the 1847 death date is reasonably close to the publication date of the book. It is possible that the author corresponded with someone who knew the date. Any use of that 1847 date will include the citation to the book in which the date appeared.

In the early 1980s a relative typed a listing of the descendants of my third great-grandparents that my grandmother had in her possession until 2004 or so when I acquired it. There are handwritten notes in her handwriting (which I recognize) of information that was left out or related to events that happened after the book was typed. In it is a name the woman her uncle married and was living with when he died in 1972–with a question mark after it. I can create a citation for this item (referencing typed copy of the book and the fact that the name of the wife was in my Grandma’s handwriting). I would comment in the citation that Grandma likely obtained the name from a relative but that I do not know who that relative was. In this case I at least know who wrote the information in and the informant was the niece of the man the woman married, but that there was a question mark after the name.

I’m not citing that online tree whose compiler I cannot identify and cannot even communicate with. That’s because there is no way to evaluate the reliability of that information. I may use the name as a clue, but my experience with unsourced maiden names from this era and before is that they tend to be incorrect. Sometimes woefully so.

I’ll cite the 1847 date of death as coming from the 1890 genealogy–along with a discussion of why it’s possible the book is correct. It helps that the year is consistent with when his widow married again.

I’ll cite the privately typed family genealogy with Grandma’s handwritten note in it for the name of the spouse–along with how she likely came to know that information. In this case it helps that the first name in Grandma’s handwriting is the same as the one that appears in other records. It is the last name that is “new.”

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Debating What to Share

All of us have the occasional relative that for one reason or another we have not researched as much as we would like. I have several of those relatives and decided to start working on them as a diversion, a way to get outside my usual set of people and circumstances that I work on, and perhaps to learn something new.

The relative died in California in 1972 and was found deceased in his home. I’m getting a copy of the investigation into his death in an attempt to learn more about the wife. There may be details in the file that were germane to the investigation but are not germane to my attempts to learn more about his wife.

So I’m debating what to include in an eventual blog post about these individuals. The entire file will be included in my personal genealogical records, but I’m leaning towards only writing about those details that are relevant to my attempts to learn more about the individual and his wife.

If I find a newspaper account that mentions some of these details then I may be more inclined to put them into the eventual blog post about the individuals. But if that was not the case, I’m not certain everything that could be in the file needs to be included in the blog post.

I will have to wait and see. The report could be a total dud and this whole commentary could be moot.

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