Oct 2018

Using Associates and Timelines to Prove Identity

When records in several places reveal persons of the same name, how can one determine whether those records were created by one individual or several?[1] It’s one of the most common problems we face as genealogists. The solution is generally found not by a single, magical record, but by thoughtful, methodical research and analysis. In […]
Sep 2018

When to Start Writing

Quick reminder: you are going to die. I forget that fact myself sometimes, thinking I have all the time in the world to do what I want to do. But I don’t. That bleak reminder has a follow-up truth for every genealogist: if we don’t record our work in some presentable format that can be […]
Sep 2018

Often Overlooked Resources: Marks and Brands

Though I was born in Georgia and raised throughout the southeast United States, I’ve lived in New York City since 1989. So I think I qualify as a bona fide city dweller at this point, thoroughly urban if only marginally urbane. My ancestors, on the other hand, are a different matter. With rare exceptions, they […]
Jul 2018

Your Ancestors’ Unmarried, Childless Siblings Could Be the Key

I was slow to learn. When I began genealogy, I was focused exclusively on my direct ancestors. Why would I care about anyone else? Why would anyone? After a while, and begrudgingly, I conceded that researching my ancestors’ siblings and their spouses could occasionally be helpful. Very big of me, frankly, because venturing back into […]
Jul 2018

The Bible Issue

In 2002, interim NGSQ editor Jane Fletcher Fiske designed the December issue to be a stand-alone publication centered around “that large body of records loosely gathered within the term ‘Family Bible,’ although some are found in account books, almanacs, and other places. All of these records share one characteristic—each was generated within a family about itself, […]
Jun 2018

Surname Shapes and Sounds: Circumnavigating Spelling Variations, Mistranscriptions, and Clerical Errors in Electronic Indexes

Most researchers are at least somewhat accustomed to thinking about surname spelling variations when conducting record searches. Thankfully, many search engine results automatically include some of the more basic spelling variations for us. Augustus and Mary Ann (Michell) Chevalier were French immigrants who arrived in New York City about 1822. Surprisingly, only about a third […]
Jun 2018

Business Records

In the March issue of NGS Monthly, “Occupations” reviewed some resources from NGSQ and the NGS Family History Conference for exploring how best to use your ancestors’ occupations as a research tool. In a posted comment on that article, member Sue Kratsch referred me to her NGSQ article from 2015: “James Wesley Mooney of Will County, Illinois: […]
Apr 2018

Genealogy: What Matters to You?

The New York Times recently published an opinion piece by author John Sedgwick with a title that refers to an old, familiar conflict: “The Historians Versus the Genealogists.”[1] Sedgwick begins by describing how historians typically view genealogists.
Apr 2018

Using Spreadsheets as Research Tools

Some researchers use genealogy software to record and track their research. Others use word processing software, writing as they go. I’m probably like many in using a combination of both. But in certain instances, neither of these options are as useful as we might like. Difficult research problems that require the collection and analysis of […]
Mar 2018


As far back as I’ve yet been able to discover, my ancestors were rural farmers like most of their neighbors, whether they lived in the Mid-Atlantic, the South, or the Midwest. Among that set, I’ve yet to find their occupations a useful tool in solving any of my research problems. When I research other people’s […]