The Organization of the Originals

Many indexes do not include every name, indexes can contain errors, and some records are completely unindexed. No matter the situation, there are times when the researcher needs to undertake a manual, page-by-page search. The questions to ask are:

How are the original records organized? Is it by:

  • date of the event or document–sometimes this is known, sometimes it is not
  • date the item was recorded–often not known–but it is after the event took place
  • the person’s residence, burial spot, or other geographic location–sometimes known, but not always
  • military unit or some other assigned number–can be difficult to know, is there some other record that provides this information?
  • something else–variability here

To find the person in the desired record, it may be necessary to look at other records (organized differently) that may provide the needed information to search the desired record manually. A city directory may provide an address for use in census searches. A family bible may provide a death date to use in searching death records.

Indexes won’t find everyone, but doing some homework before starting a page-by-page search can save you some time. Sometimes.