As we work on our family lines, what we are essentially looking for are more names of people who might be connected to our family. But sometimes we concentrate so much on certain names in documents that we overlook other names in those same documents, maybe glancing over them but not really seeing them. And this can lead to missing out on some insights into our family. Some of the following sources deserve a second look.

• Census records. When on a census page, look for the same surname repeated on a page where your ancestor lives. This is very likely to be a relative. Also look for the surnames of people who married into that family.

• Deeds. Look especially for deeds referring to the “heirs of,” “estate of,” or “division of lands.” These involve the inheritance and/or sale of an ancestor’s land after death. They will list those who inherited. Pay attention to every name and signature.

• Estate Sales. These are part of the probate records. When a person dies, with or without a will, if they have possessions of any value then a person will be appointed to administer the estate. This will usually be a relative, often an older son and sometimes the wife. Next, the probate court appoints two or three people to appraise the estate. After the appraisal, there is an estate sale. This is where you find the names of the wife, children, grandchildren, and other family members purchasing items.

• Death records. The most often overlooked information is the informant’s name. If you don’t recognize it as being a family member, check again because it may be a grandchild or sibling of the deceased whom you didn’t know about. Also make note of the addresses of the decedent and the informant, which are included on some death records.

• Marriage records. Early records often just consist of bonds and consent notes. A marriage bond is an agreement made between the future groom and a relative of the bride in which the groom promises to forfeit an amount of money if he backs out of the marriage. If the bride’s father was alive at the time of the bond, it is usually his signature or mark on the bond. If the father was deceased, then the signature could be a brother or uncle, and the last resort a friend. If you don’t recognize the name on the bond, remember it for the future in case it comes up again. A consent note is written for any person who is underage at the time of the marriage (that usually means under 21). These are most often written by the father or mother, but can also be written by others.

• Indentures, affidavits, etc. An indenture is a legal agreement between two parties. These include mortgages, loans, promises to pay debts, and other such agreements. Affidavits are sworn statements, such as a testimony of facts made to the court. These can be found in deed and court records. Appearing on such documents is often the signature of a testee and/or a surety. A testee is someone who signs a document ascertaining to its truth and a surety is a person who signs to guarantee payment of a debt. These can be anybody willing to sign and verify a document for a person, such as a friend or a relative. Pay attention to these names.

• Ships passenger lists. These vary in quality and sometimes it’s impossible to figure out the logic of the person making out the list, but do look at other people with different surnames from your relative who emigrated from the same place and also look at people grouped together on a page.

• Naturalization final papers. Without going into the detailed and specific rules, in general the male head of household was the one applying for citizenship and his wife and children became citizens at the time he did. So the final paperwork will list all of the members of the family attaining citizenship in addition to the man who applied. 

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