How Far Back Should You Search for Ancestors?

ancestors-1918groff-sistersWhether you are a beginner on compiling your family tree or have been researching for many years you may have wondered how back you should search for ancestors. Some people are happy just finding information on grandparents and maybe even great grandparents. Going back three, four or five generations would take you to great-great grandparents. However, the key is to verify all names dates and locations. Never depend on someone else’s family tree, especially if they have no sources backing their information. Having a list of relatives without full information and sources to back it up is not worth anything.

Of course, you can be stopped in your search after finding your grandparents, hitting a brick wall to locating any other ancestors further back. In such cases, don’t depend solely on direct lineage, follow and research another branch, say your grandfather’s siblings (your grand uncle or aunt).

ancestors-18990002-namesTo find any siblings, refer to any obituaries, marriage licenses, newspaper articles, city directories and census records related to the grandparent. In obituaries, living siblings would be listed as survivors, in marriages license, a sibling may have been a witness, in newspaper articles there could be any numbers of articles related to brothers or a brother and sister, with city directors scan the listing for other surnames as your grandparent and see if they live nearby. With census records, examine the ones where your grandparent was younger, maybe living at home with their siblings. Look over census records in a hometown to see if siblings to your ancestor are living there, maybe even just down the street. The same is true, years later when a grandparent was older and siblings could be living in the same household.

Once you have any possibility of a sibling, pursue the research on that name completely, just as if they were a direct lineage. Find vital records, censuses, documents, anything that can verify the information gathered. Along that path, look for other names that could be siblings or better yet those sibling’s parents and grandparents. You could learn of a couple more generations further back.

There are no quick and easy methods to be thorough in your research. You need to have patience. Remember it is not the total number of ancestors you have gathered but rather the quality of correctly putting together your family tree accurately. Make the correct link to each generation – that will be your best achievement.  ancestors-shimer-brothers-1908

Photos: Groff sisters in 1918; Root siblings in 1899 and brothers Corydon, Isaac, William, and Caleb Shimer in 1908.

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