As you gather information on your ancestors, building the family tree, it is a great adventure ever so often to focus on just one ancestor or a married couple. Here you really go in depth to learn everything possible about a specific ancestor. You would be creating a detailed profile.
So how do you begin? If you have the basic known information such as birth date and death date and locations, you expand from there. As always it is best to work back in time, which would be the person’s death date. Make an outline / timeline of the person’s life. This way you will know what is missing.
Knowing the hometown they spent most of their life is a benefit. Contact the hometown museum, the local genealogical society and the historical society. Even smaller communities have at least one of these organizations and just might have a wealth of information on your ancestor. In your request, if my regular mail, include what information you do know, including occupations along with a SASE. If the request is done by email, still provide information, but don’t write a length letter, just the information – dates, businesses owned, churches attended or along if buried there.
Make sure to go to the search on FamilySearch.org and review everything available there. Even if you had checked there before, go back again since new databases are added all the time. Tied into that site, go to a local Family History Center in your own community. They have a treasure chest of information, microfilms, books, databases on people and places all across the United States and the world. All of those sources operated by the Church of the Latter-Day Saints is free to use.
On Google, go to the book section and do a search of that ancestor’s surname and include if a female, her maiden name if known. Many a surprise can be found in those vintage scanned books (many being family histories) done by Google. If even highlights and takes you right to the page with that name.
As you do research on the ancestor’s hometown, review the historical events of the community and certainly the state and nation. If they lived during the American Civil War, was their hometown affected directly in any battles? Adding historical events really enriches the information about an ancestor and builds a great profile.
Send out letters or emails or phone calls to other living relatives asking directly what knowledge they have or photos or letters, etc relating to this specific ancestor. Who knows what could turn up in someone’s photo albums?
At your public library or if you have this subscription service, do newspaper searches for this ancestor. It is best to use the surname since not knowing if a newspaper used the person’s given name or initials or even just ‘Mr.’ could make the search more difficult.
It becomes a mission to learn as much about a specific ancestor, however not one ever complete. Once you have done one, attempt another ancestor, pick a different branch and see what can be discovered. It is a like solving a puzzle, putting the pieces together to create a profile on one individual’s life … because everyone has a story.
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