Thursday, September 15, 2011

Learn from My Mistake and Save Some Gas Money Too

Last week I went to a Massachusetts Registry of Deeds and Probate Court in order to try to find evidence of a connection between a father and son.  I brought family group sheets with me representing three generations.  I did a very thorough search of probate files and deeds for the father, sons and daughters, grandparents and even aunts and uncles.  I was satisfied with the depth of my research.

I didn't find any supporting evidence in probate records but I did find some great indirect evidence in the deeds.  I wish I had found some direct evidence but I was very happy with my results none-the-less.

Yesterday, I reviewed my files.  I looked over both the family group sheets and the deeds that I had photocopied.

I was aghast.  I had a made a glaring mistake.  Can you guess what it was?

I had brought family group sheets for the son, father and grandfather.  I had completely neglected his mother's family.  It is very likely that if probate records existed for his maternal grandmother or grandfather and they died before his mother that they could contain mention of his mother and father and possibly even himself.

Now I've got to pull out the information on the mother's family and do some analysis.  Did her parents die before or after she was married?  If I'm lucky they will have died afterward so that potential probate records will also mention her husband.  If they did die after the marriage, then next I need to see how many of the grandchildren were born before their deaths.  If I'm really lucky the grandchildren might be mentioned in the probate.

If it turns out that both grandparents died before the marriage then I won't bother going back to probate.  I don't need to prove the maternal line for this particular project.  But if they died after the marriage or the birth of grandchildren then I will definitely be making a second trip back.

The Probate Court and Registry of Deeds are 45 minutes from my house.  That's a lot of time and gas I would have saved if I had expanded my research the first time around. Learn from my mistake and research both sides of the family even if it doesn't seem like the obvious thing to do. You'll save yourself time and some gas money too.

Photo Credit: Photo by used under the creative commons license.


  1. Marian, This goes back to the to do list. :>) I look at some of the lists backwards from many but, any family name should look at both male and female side for clues. Many say it takes up to much time and it is not important. But the clues many time as you stated are probably there if you had thought to peak.
    Do not be hard on self we are human. Obviously, there is reason you are to go back and I bet it is going to deal with more than what you know now.
    The powers that be does that to us ever so often. Something better will come from this. HUGS.

  2. You won't make that mistake again! Good for you. And I agree with Susi!


  3. During my last research trip I did this to the extent I was able, though we were limited in time. I was also lucky in finding that the man I suspect was the brother of my great-great-grandmother was listed right after my great-great-grandfather (his likely brother-in-law) in the land deed records, and often family members would go in together to take care of things like this.

  4. This isn't a mistake; it is a learning opportunity!

    Thanks for reminding us to cover all angles.

  5. It is just another reminder that we are all human and sometimes forget that which we know to do. I was in Chicago a month ago looking at deeds and thought the streets were gone, under a highway or hospital. Left the Recorder's office and had a little time before I was to meet someone for lunch and realized I didn't convert the street addresses. If I had, I could have looked at deeds. Oh well - next time I won't forget that.

  6. Jen - It certainly is the best way to learn. You never make the same mistake twice!