When encountering a family tradition, take each statement suggested by the tradition and put it in one of two categories:
- probably generated a record
- most likely didn’t generate a record
“Grandma sold sandwiches to support herself after her first husband accidentally drowned in the 1850s. Then she married Grandpa Haase and they moved to the farm.”
Probably generated a record:
- The drowning may be mentioned in a local paper
- There may be estate or probate records related to the first husband’s death
- There may be a death record of the drowning–although in some US states this is too early for a death record
- There should be a marriage record to Grandpa Haase
The place to start looking for these records is where Grandma was believed to have been living in the 1850s.
Probably did not generate a record:
- sandwich selling
We’ve simplified the analysis to keep this tip short, but this should get the general idea across.
Don’t forget that family traditions may be entirely true, entirely false, or somewhere in between.