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Monday, July 18, 2016

Genealogy: I'm Stuck, What Should I do Next?

Photo  taken on September 8, 2007 using a Nikon Coolpix L10
Photo credit: tao_zhyn / Jeremy Schultz
Many people are finding success in their genealogy research, however when you get stuck it is hard to figure out what to do next. If you have researched for even a short time, you probably can cite some of the pitfalls to research that can really stump you in genealogy:

  • misspelled names or names spelled differently
  • birth or death certificates not registered until long after the event
  • different surnames
  • different spouse or parents
  • boundary changes
Have you come across any other challenges that you would like to share?
"When it comes to family trees things are rarely straightforward. Families often disappear between one census and the next; records are lost or destroyed through mishandling, fire, war and flood; and sometimes the facts you do find just don't make sense." See "Brick Wall Strategies for Dead-End Family Trees" by Kimberly Powell

If you have met a challenge in your research, perhaps the ideas shared here may help you pick up the trail of your ancestor:

1. Go back through what you have. Look back over the resources and documentation that you have collected so far. Perhaps you have overlooked something important like the mother's surname or the name of a cemetery on a death certificate. Researchers know that they notice different information when they take a second look.
2. Try a collateral line. Too many people are ready to throw in the towel after they have exhausted every possibility on documenting their ancestor. If you ancestor had siblings, why not search for documentation on them if they had the same parents? If that does not work, research your ancestor's cousins to climb the next generation.
3. Take more stock in history. Study the resources in the county or parish where you ancestor lived. Make sure the boundaries did not change leaving documentation on your ancestor in a neighboring county.
Local history librarians are experts on family histories and local historical records. Tap in to see if you can learn about what collections exist. Ask them about indexes to newspapers and deaths.
4. Study online collections. Locate the descriptions of online collections such as those at Ancestry or FamilySearch to see if they include historical documentation generated during the lifetime and in the place your ancestor lived.
It is easy to learn about a resource at Find a collection, and click on it. Click on the link, "Learn more" in the description of the collection, and you will be taken to an article which describes the collection and how you may use it to identify your ancestor.
5. Take a class or join the local genealogy society and meet people who are experts in researching a specific area.
6. Hire a professional. If you live far away from resources that are not online, or you just need a link to the next generation and have tried everything without success, those are two good reasons to seek professional advice. If you just do not have the time to do the digging it takes, it is best to ask for assistance.


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