Check with your local library and determine if they have access to subscription databases that may be helpful in your research. There are obvious ones like Ancestry.com, Fold3, HeritageQuest, but also academic databases, periodicals, etc. may be useful in your research. Academic journals may contain historical articles related to the area where your ancestor lived and while they may not mention your ancestor specifically, the history may be helpful. And these articles often contain references that may provide additional information.
In some cities, streets have been renamed and renumbered. If your family lived in the same house from 1880 through 1930, make certain the address didn’t change during that time period. Chicago had major changes to addresses in 1909, and other cities did as well. Before you type that 1890 address into Google Maps or another modern map site, make certain the address hasn’t changed.
I was working with tax lists while at the Family History Library in May. In my excitement over finding relatives in a 1831 tax list, I almost neglected to copy the headings for the tax lists. The headings were on the first page, not the page I copied. Fortunately I copied the page with the headings as well. If had just copied the page with the names I wanted, I would have been out of luck. The page with the names I need is posted here (without headings)
Always make certain the headings are on the page you have or get them if they are on a previous page. It may be a cliche, but haste can make waste.
If you have lost a female relative, have you considered whether or not they are really lost at all? They may simply be “hiding” under a new last name due to a marriage. If the time frame is after the 1850 US census, or any census that names all household members, look at the wives in nearby households. Is there one that has a female with the name of the “missing” person who has the age to be the missing person.
It may be that what you are missing is simply the marriage record.
Have you gone through your computer and paper files and organized them lately? Do you have multiple copies of the same things? Do you have stacks of papers or files on your computer you have not organized and completed data entry on? A good task would be to organize information in that “pile,” before you forget why you saved or copied it and before something happens to it.
If you are not certain how to spell the name of a location, do not know where it is actually located, and have never seen the place on a map, look them up.
Knowing the actual spelling, knowing the actual location (township, county, etc.) and seeing it on a map can cut down on “brick walls.”
When you find a deed for an ancestor in a record book, be certain that you look a few pages before and after the located record. People could not easily get to town to have legal documents recorded and materials might have been recorded in batches. There could be several of your ancestor’s documents filed and recorded together.
If you have found what looks like a deed where heirs are settling up real estate after a death, try and access other records if at all possible. Deeds are notorious for not clearly delineating relationships–after all, the people in the deed know the relationship and the purpose of the deed is not to leave a complete and accurate genealogy. Sellers on a settlement deed may be children and grandchildren, or nieces and nephews/great-nieces and great-grandnephews, or all cousins of varying degrees of relationships.
Try and access court and probate records along with other materials to refine relationships that are hinted at in what appears to be a deed settling up an estate.
Sometimes it pays to get that document or record when you “think you know everything.” One reason is that you might be incorrect in what you “think” you know. The other is that the record may contain an uncommon notation or comment providing information you never even thought about it providing.
Sometimes the greatest discoveries are in those records where we think we “don’t need that record” because we already know what’s on it.
You may be surprised.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the materials that the Family History Library has on microfilm and in digital format. But the individuals who enter in the catalog descriptions are human and sometimes are not intimately familiar with the materials they are cataloging.
Once in a while years of items will be slightly off. I’ve seen records that indicated the materials ended in 1915, but the index was also filmed and it went through the 1930s. I’ve also seen church records where the first few pages of the communion registers contained a brief handwritten history of the church.
Sometimes you’ll make unexpected finds in records that the LDS Family History has on microfilm. Use the catalog descriptions as a guide, not as script set in stone.