Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Dead Stuck on Ideas to Kick Start Your 2008 Genealogy Research?

The best thing we can think of for a New Year's Resolution is to Blog more!

That being said, and because we like to stick our nose into everyone else's business, we would like to recommend some resolutions that you might want to consider.

Review your previous work and fill in all the missing bits and pieces that you just know you now can locate. There is so much new material becoming available in both the print media and on the Internet, that there is no excuse to not include it. Let's concentrate on deaths, burials and estate records.

If the person died in modern times, you should look in the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) where you will usually find the date of birth and the last location that the person resided in, and usually the month and year of death. You can find the SSDI on Ancestry, GenealogBank, rootsweb, worldvitalrecords, and no doubt some other sources. There is a Freedom of Information Act (FOI) form to fill out to send to SS for a photocopy of the deceased person's application for SS. You will find a lot of great data on that application.

Try to locate obituaries or death notices on your ancestors. There are a great many newspapers in cities all across the nation that have their own websites, and there is no set rule as to whether or not they publish data on-line, but a great many of them do. Check with a newspaper that covers the geographical location of your target ancestor and see what they might have.

Look at and subscribe to some of the on-line newspaper databases. These have become an excellent place to obtain the names and addresses of the descendants of the person that died. Often times you will find the married names of daughters and the places that they currently reside. You will also likely discover the name of the company that conducted the funeral and also find out where the people are buried. We just last week reunited by telephone two cousins that never knew of each other and it was through asking the funeral home to forward a genealogical contact request to the descendants. It is very exciting and rewarding and they will build close family ties for many years to come.

There are now a great many sites where you can locate obits and death notices. Here are a few of them; Ancestry, GenealogyBank, The Library of Congress, NewspaperArchive, WorldVitalRecords, Footnote, the Family History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and of course you are going to check with the local community right?

Once you have obtained some of the details from the death notice, and the funeral home, you should schedule a trip to the cemetery. You will want to locate the gravestone and transcribe all of the data exactly as engraved, and then you will want to look at all of the stones in the immediate area, as many of them are apt to be relatives of the deceased person. It will be a good idea to photograph or take a video of the stones and the area for future reference. It is also a good idea to record the GPS settings of the exact location of the gravestone, as well as the GPS data for the main entrance of the cemetery, which you can then send in to the GenWeb coordinator for that county. Cemetery names have a habit of changing from generation to generation, but they never move! So if all of the coordinates for each cemetery in every county can be put into a database it will be very helpful for future research.

Don't stop there. Talk to the cemetery caretaker, or ask at the town clerk's office or a local historian, as to who might have the burial records of that cemetery. Many times you will find out who the purchaser of the lot was and the record system of the business office or record keeper will often reveal many pieces of information on burials that have no gravestone.

OK, so you have the obit, the gravestone, the burial record, now what? See if you can find any estate records on the deceased person. In every state there are differently named courts that are responsible for estate and probate matters. When a subject dies, if they had a will, they are said to have died "Testate," that means with a will. In these cases the deceased made a legal decision before dying to state their wishes as to the dispersal of their property. This type of case with a will may, or may not, have a "Probate File." This file is so very important, and you will discover many more details than just what you will find in a copy of the will.

If the person died without a will, "Intestate," then the court might determine that the estate requires "Administration." In that case an Administrator is appointed, to take the responsibility to handle all of the end game matters of the deceased person’s financial responsibilities, and is required to make settlements with all creditors and debtors of the deceased person, and to make sure that all of the necessary taxes are paid. If there is still residual real or personal property of value, then the court determines who should get what. Administration Files are just chock full of details that you will never find any other place. The court has to show due diligence that they attempted to notify all heirs and next of kin, so you will get the names and addresses of married daughters, and quite often the same information on grandchildren or other possible heirs.

From a genealogical conference that we attended once, the instructor told us to "Get all of the death details before you try to go any further with your research." His point was that though it was the final data you would find on the individual, it was a major starting place to "Kick Start" your research on this family.

Happy New Year from
Genealogy Miscellanea!


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