Sunday, January 27, 2013

Do you get a headache while doing your genealogy?

The most common practice when attempting to resolve a brick wall is not using the proper tool. Knowing the proper tool to resolve your genealogy problem is key to solving your genealogy mysteries.

I am convinced as you do your genealogy that the answer is out there. Look at your problem in several directions. What have you done to resolve the issue in the past? What sources are available that you have not found that would help you? A common belief is if it does not exist on the Internet it's not out there. Don't get me wrong there are many excellent sources on the Internet for research, but it is by no means all of them. Let site some examples.

Alright a common one is your are looking for a birth record. You have looked all over the Internet, but have not been able to locate it. First step is to decide if it does exist. Majority of states in the US did not start keeping track of records of birth until the latter half of the 19th century. They really did not start being kept well until the twentieth century when more importance was put on keeping track. Prior to 1867 they were kept hit and miss. It really depended on what part of the country.

So you can't find that birth record, but where do I look? The first place to look is at offline sources that are in the locations where our ancestors lived. Start by working backwards. Look for the individuals death certificate. These records were kept very well and will record the date of birth of the individual. Understand it is only as good as the informant. In most cases we are going to have to validate the information in more than one source. A place that is becoming more common to find information is at the funeral home and the interment cards at the cemetery. These offer validation of the birth date. We need to find more.

Moving back towards the time of the birth event the next source is the marriage certificate. Here you will find the list of the year of birth. It became common in the latter half of the 19th century and into the twentieth century for more information to be provided. Another place is the children's birth certificates where it became common to list Mom and Dad's age at the time of birth.

Combining the first three searches with a census records search helps in making sure you are on the correct track. Proceed with caution, because a lot of inaccuracies can occur with the recording of dates, names, locations and ages listed in census records. Try to look as many census records as possible. Work from their last year of record to their first recording. In the years after 1900 you get the month included as well. Again be cautious though. Recently I did a search for a client and the individual we were looking for aged three years in ten years. Now that's a trick.

Finally take a look at the church where they attended. All denominations kept track of these records, but the quality and consistency may vary. They are worth looking for.

Remember their is more than one way to look for what you are looking for when it comes to resolving your brick walls. Not all of them can be resolved in the same way and often times the answer is in records that we did not even think of using. It is very important why you are on your genealogy journey to keep adding tools to your box. Most importantly take a look at them all and make sure that you use the correct ones to get the job done.