Good day to all! I hope you are all enjoying the craziness that is March weather. We went from the 50s to the teens with 12 inches of snow and soon back up to the 40s now. Ah well, April will appear and Easter is early, so March should march right past pretty quickly. I certainly hope it does.
When I am itching to get out into my garden and yard, but am stymied by the weather, I find it a perfect time to dig into my genealogy. Just this past week I was reminded of a resource that I often overlook, but now for the third time has proven its worth to me, my family tree, and our family history/genealogy. That is the use of records from Title Insurance Companies. Yep …. title insurance companies.
It began a couple of years ago when I was working on a very specific problem in my family tree having to do with one of my Bohemian ancestors. I was working with the excellent staff at the Ohio Genealogical Society (OGS) when their Library Director, Thomas Neel, an amazing resource person I might add, asked if I had accessed the files that the OGS held from a now defunct title insurance company. I admitted I had not, but having begun my working career in real estate many, many (many) moons ago, I knew them to be assiduous record keepers and this firm evidently was no different. In the days before computers, they kept a massive index of every surname they came across in their work and the court files of cases that could or did impact real estate and real estate titles. Primarily Probate files, they include such wonderful listings as estates, probate, letters of administration, change of name, marriages, divorces, and more. All neatly typed or handwritten and kept by surname. Tough to beat, especially when you factor in that this was a major title insurance company for decades and therefore mentions just about every surname in Cleveland if they owned property.
It seems that some time ago when this Cleveland, Ohio-based firm was going out of business, some farsighted employee or owner saw this massive set of cards as what it was — a treasure-trove of genealogy leads and information worthy of saving rather than trashing.
Thank goodness for that wonderful individual!
I have now used this resource four times and each and every time I have found some previously unknown gem for my ancestors. In one case an estate listing led me to a death I did not have listed plus I found what happened with the children via the guardianship papers that were later filed. In another I discovered two married names for female ancestors that I had not been able to find and in this most recent situation I discovered an insanity hearing and findings, so I could trace this ancestor to the mental hospital where she was relegated to live the rest of her life.
For just the four surnames I have researched I have found information for 60 given names and better yet 127 separate records for these sixty folks.
I am still pursuing the data and information that these records have teased me with. There are some really great leads and clues that I simply never came across when using more traditional sources of information.
I will only add that this is also a very good example of the fact that not everything is online for our genealogy work, nor is everything to be found on the mainstream sites. More is not yet digitally captured than is at this point in time. So remember that when you think you might see a brick wall looming in your work. Branch out and get as creative as you can.
Who knows….maybe something extraordinary will jump out at you too.
What are your favorite, nontraditional sources of information? Let me know with a comment here, please!