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Key Ideas When Researching Your Ancestors

You are just beginning or you have worked for awhile on putting together your family history. No matter what the situation, everyone comes across some stumbling blocks, those ancestors you don’t know where to research or you just not sure which direction to proceed with.

Here are some key ideas to try when you’re stumped.  First, remember you are trying to solve a series of mysteries about an individual or a family. The best is to start with one person, writing out what you do know or have located. Then select just certain questions like when the ancestor married and the full name of their spouse.  Tackle just that one mystery. Go through photos, family bibles, journals, diaries, vital records, newspapers, cemetery records, deeds, anything that might relate to the person and take notes.  Just doing that might provide enough clue or even answers.

One very important source I have found is super useful is that of the newspapers from the hometown or even surrounding towns of where an ancestor lived. Almost anytime will do from the 19th century through the 20th century, there can be some fascinating information in a newspaper about their citizens. There are fee-based newspaper databases which cover across the country or contract the hometown genealogical society or historical society, they can direct you then to the local newspaper sources.

A third idea is to reach out to others doing research.  As long as they are doing the same family line but different branches they just might have a key bit of information you were unaware of.  An example was the recent genealogical research I did for a museum on the life- saving station keepers and their families.  There was one family with ancestors named Lapp. It was unusual enough that I wrote them to see if they knew of an ancestor who had once been a life-saving station keeper.  Such enough, I hit the right family in spite of their names being different because that line when through the female line, so Lapp went back several generations.  That’s OK; they had some information and especially photos I needed for the museum. It was a win-win situation with the photos for the museum and the family learning even more about their ancestor from the 19th century.

Uncovering the life stories and information about your ancestors will take time, be patient.  Break each part down, work on it section by section and soon that family tree will have taken root and have many branches.

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