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Zero in on an Ancestor

OK, you have worked on your family tree and have the pedigree chart in good shape with numerous names, dates and locations. The next step is to zero in on just one ancestor.  That person could be a grandmother, a great uncle, your father or a great-great-great grandmother; any one relative who intrigues you the most can be selected.

Start by keeping a separate labeled file on that relative where any paper copies of vital records, photos, etc can be kept.  If you are using the computer to store information, again a separate folder just for that individual is needed.

You will be investigating and concentrating just on that one person to learn everything you can. To gather additional information, ask questions of other living relatives who may have known that ancestor. Check with your cousins, aunts and uncles, again only asking for any documents, photos or information they recall on that one ancestor.

So as facts are assembled, divide into sections; such as the person’s childhood and youth, their schooling, military experience, occupations, marriages, children, civil / club memberships, places of residence, political interests, property ownership, businesses owned, travels to other places, illnesses and death.  Even if at first you only locate just some bits and pieces of these different sections, an improved ‘picture’ of what this ancestor was like and what they accomplished will emerge.

Contact the local historical and genealogical societies of the hometown of that ancestor lived in to see what is available.  These organizations tend to have many resources covering the well-known and the ordinary citizens of the town over the decades. It is a great place to do research just be calling or writing to the local institutes. When you are only asking about one person, it is much easier for workers and volunteers to focus they attention to find all that is available.

If the ancestor was in the United States or Canadian military service as any time; check the many databases available.  There can be some hidden treasures in the military files; such as special training the person received any medals awards or if they suffered from any illnesses while in the service.

You should have the birth-marriage and death certificated records on the ancestors, but also make sure you have the obituary. Check for an obit not only where they died but they original hometown if t was different.

With solely one name to investigate it is great to check any newspapers stories or mention of the person in the society section of a town‘s newspaper.  The hometown’s public library is a good source for securing copies of newspaper articles as well as the many online databases with newspapers. Checking the online Frederick, Maryland newspapers there were listings for my grandfather, David G. Everhart some 43 times between 1911 and 1940 and my great-great grandfather, Joseph Groff some 140 times between 1883 and 1903.

You will find it is a real challenge and quite rewarding when you zero in on one ancestor to learn as much as possible on them.  Once you feel you can not locate anything else for the time being, place that name aside and start the process over with another ancestor.  It is quite an adventure exploring each ancestor in depth.

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alice 20/12/11

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