05 October 2009

Madness Monday - Educational

I've not had time to do a lot of research myself, but I have been answering questions lately. In some of the cases people think they have hit a brick wall, but many times it appears that they just don't realize all the sources that are available to them in order to break that brick wall. So I thought I'd take a moment and touch on some of these common questions and give my answer.

The most common one I get is: I've found everything I can on ancestry about my great grandfather. I'm at a brick wall. What do I do now?

Let's answer this questions with a few answers.

  1. Not everything that can be found on an ancestor is online, let alone on ancestry.
  2. Just because you found everything on ancestry.com doesn't mean you've hit a brick wall or that you can't find more online.
  3. You stop. You analyze all the records you have. Then you write a research report that details everything that has been found (source it!!) and from the analysis of your clues find the missing pieces. Then create a research plan that lays out the missing pieces. Read my previous post Family History Made Easy and use the link to down load a very helpful form for this part of the project. If you aren't sure where to find those missing pieces then maybe the rest of this will help you, or ask someone you know who's been doing this for a while.
  4. Did you try the name with various spelling? If not then try it. You might be amazed at what you find. If you can't come up with different spelling then research the surname it's self. Get the family to help you brain storm. Also don't forget abbreviations and miss spellings of the given name as well.
  5. Broaden your search. Often times we get hung up on dates and places we found in one record (or from family memory. Lord knows that can keep you from the truth), with out thinking that this particular one record could be incorrect. Omit information in your search to open up more doors.
Other online sources you can use are:
  • Cindy's list: No genealogist (professional or hobbiest) should be with out this valuable resource bookmarked on your computer.
  • UsGenWeb and Genealogy Trails: These are two valuable sites that break down your search first by state and then by county. Some of them have nothing in some counties because no one has volunteered in that area, but for the most part you may actually be amazed at what has been scanned and put online of your ancestor. The down side is you really need to know a state (at the least a state) and county to began searching in.
  • Ellis Island and Castle Garden: are two of many sites design for helping you find your ancestors immigration records.
  • Footnote: though a paid subscription it is worth every penny. It is also a great partner to ancestry. I maintain both subscriptions. They compliment each other well. Though some of their records overlap Footenote provides a a lot that ancestry has yet to put on their sites. I have found civil war record files on ancestor of mine. I have also found the files of ancestors who went before the Commission of the Five Civilized Tribes to apply for their Indian rights.
  • Find A Grave: this has been a very valuable source, not to mention the ability to not only find a record of an ancestor grave, but the chance to either see their grave or request for a local volunteer to photograph it for you.
  • Rootsweb: they not only have other researchers trees that they have graciously shared online for others to see for free but they have a wealth of other records. One word of caution about finding other trees online. Make sure that you verify everything. Not all trees are sourced and there is lots of erroneous information out there. I'm embarrassed every time I find a tree with erroneous information only to discover it's mine when I was wet behind the ears on this, and I can always tell it was from the early days as it has no source information except that I got it from someone else's tree. But now I know better.
  • Land Records: on BLM you may just find the records that prove that your ancestor did own that tract of land was rumored to be in your family. Either way this is valuable in establishing residence of your ancestor in a certain area.
These are just a few of the source I use on a regular basis that are very general. There are also sites that specific to a location that may help you as well. I hope this helps some of you break down your brick wall. But always remember three important things, SOURCE, PLAN and then SEARCH.

3 comments:

Patti Browning said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this post! Thank you for reminding me that writing a research report or a timeline of events is the best way to see where you can go next to gather information. I will make it a goal of mine to do that on my brick wall, thanks to your reminder.

amyrebba said...

Pattie,

I'm glad you found this helpful.

Take Care,
Amy

Lori said...

I totally agree with you! There are also things that can be found online, but aren't quite as easy as just going to ancestry.com. I have found that being creative on search engines and utilizing message boards is a must. Playing "hunches" is also important when it comes to finding a clue to work on. Keep up the good work!

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