ancestryink fisherman

Friday, April 20, 2012

Ten Steps to Finding Your Ancestor

Okay, I have noticed when my Yahoo news page opens, that the seemingly most popular articles are all entitled things like "Ten Things NOT to do at a Job Interview," or, "Five Top Towns for Retirement," or "Eight Things Men Never Want to Hear From Women," etc. etc.

Well, if only the path to "Enlightenment" could be narrowed down to a few easy steps.  Not likely.  But the human tendency to want to reach Nirvana in the shortest possible steps, with the least obstacles is just - human nature!

And so goes genealogical research.  It takes time, patience, and an acceptance that if you hit a brick wall today, it is likely that in a few weeks or months time, either a new, revealing source will show up, or your mind will jump on the problem from a different angle, leading you in a new and fruitful direction.

 Therefore, I will offer you a few random (very random) suggestions of my own, that have helped me along the way:

1.  Think randomly and outside the box when researching.  Use your imagination about where to look for people. Scour records of ALL kinds, from all different sources.  However, keep copiously detailed records of all your research.  Why??  Because as you spend weeks and months engaged in research, you WILL, I guarantee you, repeat your searches.  Suddenly, you will discover that the record, proof, or document you have found today - is actually already lurking in a file folder on your hard drive - from research you did LAST YEAR.  And you just forgot about it!  Sad but true.  It's happened to me over and over.

2.  Choose good online software.  I know, I know.  We don't all like to be slaves to the latest invention for genealogical research, particularly when it is going to require a software "update."  Maddening.  However, it makes keeping track of your information sources SO much easier.  And you can update and change your ancestral information in a flash.  I'm very visual, and it is helpful to "see" what I'm doing, in front of me, as opposed to weeding through pages of notes. I"m not going to tell you which one to use.  I am a Mac person all the way, so I use Reunion, and it's fine.  But there are free versions of software to download, and other Windows versions, etc.  Rule of thumb:  Choose one that you are happy using and fits your needs.  Don't worry about all the hype and don't spend weeks reading endless reviews.

And lastly  (because I see no point in trying to come up with 5 or 10 succinct "tips" when in fact, we all have our own style, and the "tips" could number in the hundreds, truly)

3.  When you find records on and other online databases, continue to remind yourself that these records have been read, and indexed by human beings.  And (being an indexer myself, I know this), thousands of records are being transcribed a day - very quickly.  There are a lot of errors!!  Make sure that you verify your information with a second or third source, whenever possible.

Also, in regards to same -- I have found that the family trees that individuals post on Ancestry and Rootsweb can be enormously helpful. Might even save you weeks of research. But then again - they can be enormously WRONG.  Use the information from them that you can PROVE. (I'm capitalizing this because you need to do it.) Don't just take some stranger's word for it.    If you see on someone's online family tree, that Mr. So and So died in "1881," and there is no source citation to back this up, it is safe to suspect that the author of this family tree simply did not find Mr. So and So in Census Records after 1880.

Trust me.  I've seen this happen over and over and again, only to find Mr. So and So living in another town, in 1910.

In short, be curious, be open - be suspicious.  Look for source citations.

The End!

And now a few visuals from yesterday's visit to the Forest Glade Cemetery in Somersworth:

Daniel S. Watson "fell asleep in Somersworth "1853.

Little Charlie

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