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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Do Not Get Stumped with Genealogy Research

Do you struggle or become sidetracked with genealogy research? Many researchers are overlooking some of the same key principles that help save time and wasted effort. Which of the following should you incorporate in the quest to identify your ancestor?

The research question
Has your research turned up piles of information that you do not know what to do with? Most people who have challenges in their research have begun with too vague an objective. Formulate your research question on paper. The further back you go in your research, the more questions you will have. Be as specific as possible about what you are looking to discover about your ancestor.

Consider what you know and what you want to learn:
  •  ancestor’s name, event places and dates
  •  spouse’s name
  •  descendant’s name
  •  documented findings
  •  oral history
It is possible to research and only turn up information. With a clear concise question, information becomes evidence instead of an unused pile of information. See A Preponderance of Information; a Plethora of Evidence.

Flawed assumptions
Flawed assumptions in genealogy usually lead you down the wrong path with much wasted effort and time. Some researchers assume names have never changed or were always spelled the same. Others do not study boundary changes and miss documentation generated in the parent localities (ex. former districts or counties). Sometimes researchers get stuck because they do not use a timeline that helps point to events which can be documented.
  1. Consider name variations: It is possible that centuries ago your ancestor actually used a different variation of his name. See Name Variations in the United States Indexes and Records.
  2. Begin with the boundaries. Search your locality at FamilySearch Wiki to learn about boundary changes. For example, see South Carolina Maps.
  3. Create a timeline that documents historical and personal events that happened during your ancestor's life. See US Timelines.
Types of records or resources generated
You need to actually research record types and resources that may answer your research question. Search the Wiki to learn about genealogical resources in a particular locality. Take a look at all the resources available for South Carolina.

Finding access to records or resources
As you discover records and resources that were generated and that may document your ancestor, research where they can be accessed. Search out all potential record holders in the locality where your ancestor lived (county and university libraries, archives, societies, museums, etc.). Many records can be found in places not commonly used for genealogical research.

Extracting the facts
Scrutinize the quality of your sources. Enter names, events, and sources using a family tree database. A family tree helps add a dimension to your findings that enables you to discern the direction you need to take to discover more.

Family Tree at is free. Add your ancestors’ names. Then add sources on from the individual’s person view. For example while signed in, take a look at the person view for Emory Wallace Vance, Sr. Take a look at the sources for Emory. It is a great benefit to be able to access all the information you know about an ancestor from this view.

Linking to further information
Learn how to use your findings to link to further information. Ask yourself this question as you extract the facts: How can I use this information to discover more? Be sure to record your sources in case you need to return to a record collection to learn more. Also,
  • Take a look at the names of all persons mentioned in a record. Research each individual’s connection to your ancestor. Consult wills and probate records.
  • Research the history of organizations or institutions or localities for mentions of your ancestor.
  • Trace personal and real property. This involves learning how these records are organized and where they are held.
  • Research the holdings of archives, societies, county libraries, and university libraries to learn the types of records that exist. It is often easy to do this just by visiting their online catalogs and reviewing record descriptions. In many cases you will find written or electronic publications published by archives and societies provide this information.
  • Follow the experts who specialize in your area of research on social media networks where you can ask questions and learn more from what they share.


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