We have all been there … an ancestor you just can not gather any information about. In such a case, first never give up. Many answers can be found. So the following are a few approaches you many not have tried yet and need to attempt.
Do research in locations that are not solely online. The Internet genealogical databases still do not have all databases and records yet. So see if there is a local Family History Center near you. Just a super place with all types of records on microfilm. Plus books filled with information from places around the globe. Here is the link to pinpoint the closest center to you.
Also, do a Google search for the museums and genealogical societies in your ancestral hometown or home county. You would be surprised how much local information, photos, newspapers and records that city, town or county museums and societies keep permanently. Email them, provide as much info as you know, again keep it simple, just one or two names for them to see what is available.
When you do your own general searches online for a specific ancestor, set the keywords so they are a more effective search. For example: You know the ancestor’s given name but there may be various spellings for the family name. Place in the search as an example – Sarah Sweft OR Swaft born 1854 NOT Swift. Not the use of ‘OR’ and ‘NOT’. This helps refine your search in what is acceptable. But be willing to adjust since you might not have most accurate information. The birth year could be off.
These type of narrowed searches are known as boolean searches. Besides using ‘OR’ and ‘NOT’, also use ‘AND’ and ‘NEAR’. With ‘AND’ you want the search to include the additional word or phrase in the search. With the ‘NEAR’ you include anything similar. That would work for listing a hometown and home county name.
Another effective search method is to zone into one specific item, such as where the ancestor was buried. That way you are not sidetracked, you are looking just up cemeteries, funeral homes, obituaries, etc. Once you do locate that one aspect, more on to a different area.
One of my favorite approaches is doing research on any known siblings to this ancestor. Once you have gathered info on birth-marriage-death-hometown-parents, generally finding the sibling that is your direct ancestor becomes easier.
Photos: McIntosh siblings – sons and daughters (by Stephen Daniel Gratke); Family History Center / Genealogical Societies; and Museum.
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