Assumptions Can Get in the Way of Your Research

Assumptions Can Get in the Way of Your Research  Find more genealogy blogs at FamilyTree.comAre you having difficulty finding a vital record for an ancestor? It’s possible that you haven’t exhausted all available resources yet, and that the record you are seeking is somewhere out there. Or, there is the potential that the record doesn’t exist at all. There are times when an assumption can get in the way of your genealogy research.

The things you think you know about your ancestors might not actually match up to reality. As a result, some genealogists may find themselves chasing after documents and vital records that simply do not exist. If you are stuck, take a moment to consider if your assumptions about your ancestors are getting in the way of your research.

There are many assumptions surrounding marriage. We tend to assume that female ancestors took their husband’s surname after they got married. This is a reasonable assumption, because it was the way things typically worked. However, it is possible that the woman kept her surname – or changed it again after a second marriage. Try a few different surnames and see if any of them lead to the documents you are trying to find.

Another common assumption is that your ancestors got married first and then had children after that. Again, this is a reasonable assumption because that is how things worked for a lot of people. However, it is entirely possible that the baby arrived before the couple got married. If you can’t find a birth certificate for a certain ancestor, try adjusting the date when you do your search.

Can’t figure out how your uncle connects to your family tree? There is the potential that the man you identify as an uncle wasn’t actually genetically related to your family. He might have been a friend of the family.

You found some old love letters that a female ancestor wrote, but cannot figure out who that ancestor’s lover was. It is possible that the letters were written to a person who was the same gender as the writer. The two could have been involved in a Boston Marriage. The exact nature of the relationship between the two women could have been a close friendship, or they may have been sexually involved.

While you were doing your research, you came across another genealogist’s family tree. There was a person on their tree that has the exact same name as one of your ancestors! Many genealogists will automatically assume that the two people, with the same name, must be the same person. Instead, it could easily be two entirely different people. Keep that in mind before you excitedly incorporate someone else’s family tree into your own.

Image by Kumon on Flickr.

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