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10. Photocopy the Back of Old Photographs – Having old family photographs can be a real pleasure because a picture tells a thousand words. Too bad your relatives forgot to tell you who is in the picture. You turn the back of the photo over and there is nothing written on it. Well, maybe they did write on it but you just can’t see the writing anymore. Try to photocopy the back of the photograph by setting the photocopier to high contrast. You can even try using the enlarge feature on the photocopier.

If there is any faint pencil handwriting on the back, this trick should help bring it out. Why? Traditionally, photographs were very expensive and were only taken on special occasions. Since photographs were expensive, many people wanted to keep the pictures in pristine condition and did not want to write on the back of them. Instead, they relied on their memory. Those that did write on the back tended to use pencil because pencil can be more easily erased.

Pencil can leave a shallow impression on the surface. It is this shallow impression that the photocopier might pick up, not the actual graphite from the pencil, which wears off over time. One word of caution: we do not recommend photocopying the front of the photograph (the side with the picture). The strong light from a photocopier can damage delicate old photographs and make them fade.

"It is not what you look at that matters, it's what you see" Henry David Thoreau

11. Men and Double Families – Another marriage puzzle that can occur is when genealogists find evidence that a male ancestor appears to have entered into a second marriage without any evidence that the first marriage was terminated. Genealogists often get stumped with this presumed brickwall. Maybe, however, it is not a brickwall at all. Multiple marriages were more common than most people realize. Always consider this as a possibility when looking at men who seem to have two families. Are there any clues that can help point someone to this possibility? One attribute of men that have engaged in multiple marriages is that they often had jobs that required them to travel on a regular basis. This would allow them to more easily keep two families in two separate towns. Some cultures/societies also allowed men to have more than one wife (see the article Ellis Island Immigration Records).

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It took money to keep multiple families. Men who did this tended to fit the profile of someone who had their own business and travelled frequently.

12. Women’s Age and Marriage Certificates – An interesting challenge in genealogy is dealing with conflicting facts. For example, having different documents with different dates of birth for the same individual is a classic conundrum. One area where this can occur is with a woman’s age on marriage certificates. Throughout time and across most cultures it is generally expected that a married woman will be younger than her husband.

Obviously, this is not always the case. However, to ensure this happens, it is not uncommon for a woman to ‘shed’ several years of age on the date of birth listed on her marriage certificate. Always consider this as a possibility when looking at the ages listed on marriage certificates. In other words, when tracing back to birth records of married women based on their presumed age on a marriage certificate, it is usually a good idea to look farther back in time if you do not have success with the date stated on the marriage certificate. Also, if you have conflicting dates between a birth certificate and a marriage certificate, if the birth certificate gives an age that is older than the age of a woman’s husband, then it is probably the correct date. (see Look for Missing Marriages)

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