Baffling Ancestors - Some Hints



hints-searchEveryone has more than one elusive ancestor in their direct lineage or extended family line. It can be quite baffling for a family researcher to find our details on that person.

Here are a few hints and suggestions to help in the process.

If you have found their death date and a possible location, search for a Will on file. Those legal documents can be filled with information. Remember to check for a Will of their parents and siblings, might be further details.

hints-1775-newsCheck out as many newspapers (many are digital now; such as fee-based Newspaper.com and Free Chronicling America) sites. Try different spellings for the name and for sure different locations.

Try searching with the person’s middle name (if known) or their initials. Many people used other names, including nicknames.

With surnames or given names there is always the problem of misspellings. If an ancestor was not educated, they may have varied the spelling over the years and many times a clerk writing the name for a document got is wrong. If an ancestor has an unusual given name, try searching that way without use of the surname, but do use a birth year range to narrow the search. hints-will-1850

Never assume an ancestor only lived in one given area. County lines changed over the years, so they may have been in Chester County and years later that same place was not Green County. Or they actually moved to one or two counties away from the childhood location.

Church records in an ancestor’s hometown are good sources. Also contact the hometown or county museum, genealogical society or historical society and see what information they have on your relative. hint-church

If you happen to know the ancestor’s mother’s maiden name, many individuals used that name instead of a father’s surname. This might happen if the mother never was wed or the father deserted the family. A clue to a mother’s maiden name can be in any sibling’s given names, or her death certificate.

Individuals also were known to want to start a new life, so they moved to a totally different location and totally changed their name. Sort of the idea of a person running away to join the circus. Those will be more different to search, but use any information on their siblings, the parents, as other pathways to see if there is any clue of the ancestor’s location.

There is HOPE – many people to stay the course and try numerous methods have found their most baffling ancestors.

Photos: Searching, 1775 newspaper, 1850 Will, and Church records.

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

Tips on Census Searching

Being Successful in Family History

Musts in Doing Genealogy

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