Being aware of the positive collection of family history information that can be gathered along with the ‘pitfalls’ can ease the possibility of becoming frustrated doing research. The following are some ideas to help keep you on the right track and not become annoyed. Step one is to always begin with what is known—mostly yourself. Have yourself documented: schooling, birth, marriages, occupations, travels, etc. The next would be siblings and your parents. This can have some difficulty, especially if such a relative died young, or ‘disappeared’. Just to completely work on your siblings and parents can take some time and effort, but the end results do pay off for locating the next generation – your grandparents. So always go from the known individual and work towards the lesser known.
A good clue when searching for an individual is any varied names (a given name, middle name, a surname). The more common is more difficult, but the more unusual or unique can be easier. If you researching your father’s various siblings, pick the one with the most unusual given name and the rest will fall into place.
Keep an open mind and be willing to begin again on a family branch. Realize our ancestors could have changed their names, had many marriages, joined the circus, been divorced, or abandoned the family (wives or husbands). So the person you had found in a 1910 census living in a boarding house in another city just might be the Uncle William Harrison you had been looking for and he had left behind a wife and children. Remember everyone did exist at one time and there are multiple documents out there.
When looking for records, numerous local documents may have moved to the state archives or into a private repository such as a historical society or even a museum. Records can be held in a national, state or province or district, county or local level or in all those locations.
Family tales and legends can point you in the wrong direction. Never accept a family story or tale as 100% accurate — check it out using every method you can locate. From my family tales was the statement that an ancestor had been the personal aide to General George Washington during the American Revolutionary War. By simply getting copies of the military pension records (where the pensioner had to submit complete written details of their service) for that ancestor from the National Archives, I found this ancestor was indeed an aide, but for Col. William Washington (a cousin of George). With that information, further research verified that new fact.
Examining all relatives during a time frame is helpful in finding certain people. A young daughter might now be living with her parents, instead she was a house servant for a neighbor, or lived with her grandmother in another state or even in an orphanage when one parent was still living. Imagine all the possibilities, there generally is a reason a family member is in another location.
Nothing is always spelled the same way, especially relating to names. You might not have found a person in a database because the name is misspelled. So now realizing that, you will need to review every single entry in the record to find them, not impossible, just be patient. Think how that name might be misspelled.
It can be helpful to keep a record or listing of each source you have reviewed. That way you don’t spend time redoing what you did 6 months ago — now that is frustrating. Of course if you need to re-examine some data, it is worthwhile to go over certain records again.
Keep positive — be patient and the results will come.< Return To Blog