What Your Ancestor Did Not Finish

Sometimes life is just about getting things done, but there are many things that a person starts in life that they do not complete. Your ancestor may have done the exact same thing. Even if your ancestor did not complete something, it does not mean that there are not some records left behind. Those “uncompleted tasks” are often ones that do not get passed down as stories from one generation to the next. It’s possible that your relative:

  • Started college and did not finish. There could still be records, yearbook pictures, etc.
  • Started a homestead and did not complete the process. There should still be an incomplete homestead application (at least the initial filings) which could provide information.
  • Declared their intention to become a citizen but never naturalized.
  • Filed for divorce, but did not go through with it.
  • Almost got foreclosed on, but managed to “pull through” before the court process was finalized.
  • Filed for a marriage license but never actually got married.
  • Etc.

Sometimes a process that is incomplete generates just about as many records as one that is finalized. Failure to complete something is one of those stories that don’t often get passed down from one generation to the next. After all, people like to pass on stories of success and not ones of failure. Our ancestors are human. They didn’t complete everything they started.

Sometimes that sounds like my research process on some families.