Thursday, April 14, 2011

Don't forget to check the backs of those documents

I just wanted to pass along a tip that I sometimes forget about. When you've got a loose document from whatever kind of file, be it a military pension, immigration/naturalization pages, or probate files, be sure to turn over those pages and check the backs for extra info. It may seem unnecessary or unlikely but things can turn up there. It's just like covering all your bases when you're on the trail of someone you're tracking in a family tree.

To show the point, a couple weeks ago in Indiana I had a probate file of someone I'd never heard of before, but he had the same surname the subjects of my research. The family was one that I was looking to rebuild before even attempting to go back another generation, and when I saw the name and date of death of this new person, I was assuming it was probably a sibling or possibly a cousin to my subject. When I started looking at the actual pages in the probate file though, I found a pretty complete family tree on the back of a random sheet of paper that in itself didn't tell me a thing about who this person was. Without looking at the back of that paper though, I wouldn't have been able to figure out that this person was actually the father of my subject! The sheet named his widow as well as my subject, along with his siblings. Some were known, others were not. I now have the name of my subject's parents as well as confirmation of the siblings for him that I did know and a whole slew of new ones to track around for more info. From these names, I've also been able to take the family group back to a county in Tennessee - information I didn't have before.

Check the backs of those documents! You never know what you're going to find!

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