Genealogy Tips and Helpful Websites

This is a somewhat new Menu heading here at Laurel Cottage for the out-of-the-ordinary search tips and helpful websites we’ve stumbled across, as well as the well-known. We’ll continue to add more as we go along.

Genealogy tips and best practices

The sometimes-elusive and all-important maiden name….

Here’s a funny (wow, what are the odds?) example from this web author’s 2x great-aunt, Jane Pritchett Banks, to illustrate the point of how muddled things could get without careful documentation:

“Thomas was three times married. He first wedded Miss Polly Craig. After her death, he chose as his second wife, Miss Polly Craig. She, too, having passed away, he was married to Miss Polly Craig. His first two wives were cousins; the last Miss Polly was no kin to either of the other two Miss Polly Craigs.”

Imagine! (or in Regency Era terms…”Only think!” 😉 ) Thomas Banks married three women in succession, all with the same given and maiden name. What if you were putting up info on Thomas’ wives but hadn’t found the maiden names of the three women, well…. there’s potential for triple the confusion. For instance, you’re on whatever genealogy site you use (or your own site) and don’t know the three Pollys’ maiden name; in not knowing, you want to put in something, so you type in Banks….Well, it’s your decision, that’s the beauty of it (!) but in so doing be aware you run the risk of:  1. Starting the snowball effect of wrong info begets wrong info, when others copy something from you as “gospel.” 2. Cutting yourself out of the loop of potential new information (fourth cousins with photos – laying it on thick here, eh?  😉 out there searching under the maiden name Craig are passing you by and you’re not finding them either…..)

True, if you have thousands of people in your family tree, that perhaps aren’t essential to your particular search criteria, in other words, you’re not heavily looking for the maiden name on some, you can end up with a ridiculous number of women just under their given names…running down the list….sixteen Pollys, fifty-two Marys, sixty-one Elizabeths, etc. It’s comical but infinitely preferable to the alternative. So, leave off the maiden if you can’t find it yet, or get creative and type in something in its place that lets others know at a quick glance, maybe “2nd wife, maiden unkn” or maybe “Craig???” if you have an inkling but no proof.

And on a related note, don’t forget to scrutinize the marriage records, death certificates, census records, etc. for possible indication of prior marriages for the married couple, so you don’t run the risk of putting in what looks like a maiden name, to find out later (hopefully!) that such-and-such was her first husband’s last name…

Source:  Banks, Jane P. The Banks Family. Columbia, Missouri:  E. W. Stephens Publishing Company, 1908.

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On the Irish side…..

Can’t find your Irish ancestor in early census records? Try searching under IRISHMAN for the surname, whether male or female. (A quick search under IRISHWOMAN only brings up one entry.)

It seems that many families that had hired labor living with them, didn’t know or weren’t sure of the hired help’s last name, as evidenced when the census taker came ’round. See LCG’s post Surname “Irishman” In Census Records for detailed examples and references.

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Websites

Antique Automobile Club of America

You can sign up, no charge, and go to their forum to post photos of old cars. This, to help date your old photo and/or just find out what kind of vehicle your relative was driving. We’ve posted two queries, so far, and received a same-day response on one and next-day on the other. Excellent help!

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Cemetery Look-ups Online

Some of these sites are obviously quite well-known, others not so much….all are excellent.

Billion Graves

Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC)

WWI and WWII casualties for those who served and died under Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom. Bear in mind, not all casualties were buried in the country they served under, and you can search by country, state/province, cemetery, and other search criteria, as well as by name. Has great info about specific battles, old and modern photos, and individual burial records. Includes records of commonwealth civilians who died as “a result of enemy action” in WWII.

Find A Grave

Rule of thumb here is always check with the photo owner to make sure you have their permission to download their photo(s) to put up elsewhere. Some have already posted whether it’s yes or no, some you have to contact to find out.

National Cemetery Administration

Part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs