Murky Estates: Fees, Fee Tails, Female Tails & Entails

19 February 2014
We all know what a “fee” is. Well forget that definition. Where estates are concerned, the word “fee” comes from a totally different place. It actually springs from the same root as other two other quaint relics of the Middle Ages: the words fief and feudal. ...

Elusive Military Records?

25 February 2014
For years, you have searched U.S. military records for a man who is said to have served in a nineteenth-century war. He was a doctor, a wagoneer, a suttler, a gunsmith, or a practitioner of some other skilled trade or ...

Those Deceptively Simple Tax Rolls

17 February 2014
When a tax roll is arranged alphabetically—or semi-alphabetically by first letter of surname—that makes it easy to find a person of interest, right? Wrong! If we simply search under the "proper" letter of the alphabet, we'll miss much.

Punctuation Sins Revisited: ,(

16 February 2013
,(...). Okay, this is a venial sin, but there's still no reason to commit it. When creating a citation, why would anyone put a comma in front of an open parentheses? . . .

Citing Online Sources: What's Essential?

15 February 2014
Online sources are publications with the same core elements as print publications. This concept applies whether we are using a commercial site, a website created by an individual, or a social-networking site such as Facebook, MySpace or LinkedIn. Most websites are the online equivalent of a book. Thus, we cite . . .

"Crowdsourcing" Historic Documents

14 February 2014
Here's a valuable educational opportunity for all who love old documents and Alabama history: two document-transcription projects offered by the Archives Department of the University of Alabama. Do volunteer! It's a great way to share your skills while learning social nuances of past societies and building a mental repertoire of historical context.

Church Records & Hair Splitting

13 February 2014
Reseachers use the term "church records" quite loosely to refer to a wide variety of different materials. Yet minute books, vestry books, actes de fabrique, sacramental registers, family books, and certificates of all types—baptism, marriage, and death—offer significantly different materials. Each . . .

What, Exactly, Are "Research Notes"?

12 February 2014
Historical researchers create various types of "research notes." When we read monographs and articles that present interpretations of the past, our notes typically summarize the author's thoughts. Occasionally, we may copy, exactly, a critical passage or a pithy quotation—with . . .

War of 1812 Bounty Land Warrant

11 February 2014
A neighbor has asked you for help, knowing how experienced you are in historical research. He grew up in a nineteenth-century Kentucky farm house that supposedly was built by man named Thomas Cravens. Online, he stumbled upon today's document. Being curious about the history of his childhood home, he's wondering if this is the same Thomas Cravens.

Biographical Research: How to Turn a Gamble into a Big Win

10 February 2014
Biographical research is always a gamble. Our person of interest may not have been literate. Or, he belonged to one of the many classes of people who led quiet, impoverished, or otherwise low-profile lives. The records we expect to find for the time and place will likely have suffered some destruction. . . .