Libraries, archives, and historical societies do acquire new materials, digitize items that “you never thought they would,” or create new indexes or finding aids. If it’s been years since you looked at their catalog, viewed their website, or inquired about their collection, it might be time to do so.
There may be something there that was not when you originally checked.
Several years ago, modifying pedigree charts by adding color to represent ancestral traits was a popular pastime. One of my takes on this was to simply list the occupation of the ancestor in that position on the chart.
My chart went back six generations and included a number of farmers and farm wives. I knew there would not be much occupational variation in my chart, although now I might break up farmer into:
Or something like that to make a little more distinction. Still a good exercise to help me see that there is a little variation in my ancestral occupations.
Researching for information on your ancestors and distant relatives can be a lifelong passion. It’s a great way to learn about your personal connection to history and perhaps to discover something about yourself as well.
But do you have any genealogy goals other than continuing to search? Is it proving or disproving a family story? Is it identifying who is in that old picture? Is it tracking as many ancestors as you can? Is it locating as many descendants as you can of a specific set of ancestors?
Think about what your genealogy goal is and how you are working to achieve it.
And it’s ok to just want to locate more information–there’s fun in that too.
No index is perfect. Because of that genealogists should always be aware of limitations of indexes that they are using. Genealogists with any amount of research time under their belt should be aware of incorrect transcriptions on the part of the indexer and incorrect renderings of the name on the part of the clerk.
But there are other things to consider and remember.
Does the index include every name in the record? If not, what names are included? Many local indexes to land records only include the name of the first grantor and the first grantee. Some index all grantors and grantees, but those indexes tend to be the exception to the rule. In some locations, land records are in one consolidated series of indexes, in others each volume of records is indexed separately.
Court records generally index the first plaintiff and the first defendant listed in a case, but there are exceptions to those items as well. Some court indexes give the file number to a the “case file” and include references to the court case in various journals and order books. Some do not. In some cases volumes are indexed separately instead of being compiled into a consolidated sort of index.
Modern census indexes are usually every name indexes.
Indexes of digital images of newspapers (and some city directories) are computer generated indexes that, while helpful, can easily misread type that was only partially legible or blurred on the microfilm copy that was used to create the digital image.
Not every record series is completely extant. There can be gaps.
One way to get some practice in using an index is to find a random item (or two, or three) in the original record and see how it appears in the index.
For any index, I usually try and ask myself “what potential limitations are there to this index?” If I don’t of any, I try and find out what they are. Every index has them. If I am unaware of them, it impacts my ability to use the index effectively.
Years ago, on myRootdig blog a list of things that relatives do that seem to make research more difficult. That list is reproduced here.
These are a little tongue-in-cheek. Well, at least some of them. It’s also not meant to be complete either and is based upon personal frustrations. Your frustrations may be different.
Genealogy would be easier if:
Brothers would not marry women who shared the same first and last name before marriage.
Expand previous rule to state that anyone cannot marry someone with the same first name as the spouse of a sibling.
Individuals marrying more than once could not have a second spouse with the same first name as their previous spouse.
All name changes were required to be recorded with a local court.
Women would not marry men whose last name was the same as their last name before marriage. This does not apply in locations where women keep their maiden name through their entire life as their name is not changing.
Census takers were paid based upon neatness.
Illegible handwriting was sufficient to defrock a member of the clergy.
Use of initials in place of first names was not allowed. Ever.
No one was allowed to have the same first name as their cousin if it was because their fathers were brothers.
First names of any two individual children of a couple were not allowed to start with the same two letters. This would prevent couples from naming separate children Lucinda and Lucena. This is confusing.
States that have towns with the same names as counties within that state must locate those towns within those counties.
The phrase “permission of parent” was banned from marriage records, licenses, etc. Parents must be named.
Random people were not allowed to witness documents.
Some documents clearly state who was the informant. Many though do not provide this information. When considering the accuracy of information on any document, consider the probable informant and how likely they were to know the information being provided.
Normally an ancestor has to be dead to have an estate settlement, has to be born to have a birth certificate, etc.
Think about what really HAS to be when you research your ancestor. He didn’t have to get married to reproduce. He didn’t have to name his oldest son after his father. He didn’t have to get married near where his first child was born. He didn’t have to have a relative witness every document wrote. There are few “have tos” in genealogy. Make certain you aren’t using “have tos” to make brick walls for yourself.
People can be mentioned in a book or other publication without ever being named specifically. My Mom is mentioned in a book of recipes my great aunt published several years before her death.
She’s not named specifically and I almost missed the reference to her until I was reading one of the short stories she sprinkled throughout the recipe book. My great aunt mentions her “niece in western Illinois.” I knew immediately that the reference was to my mother. While my great aunt had eight nieces, only one of them lived in western Illinois. I was glad I caught the reference as it gives me extra motivation to make the recipe in which she was mentioned.
Recipe books are not the only print materials that can make references to individuals without naming them. County histories, newspapers, and other publications may refer to individuals as mother, husband, wife, sister, etc. without naming them specifically. That’s why it is important to search for the entire extended family in these materials.
And why sometimes the best way to get results in the genealogical pot is to read the entire thing.