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How much information in your genealogy files is there because you “thought” it instead of finding a record or source to provide evidence of it?
You may think that your relatives were married in a certain town, but the marriage record only says the name of the county.
You may think great-great-grandpa was born in Jackson Township, Coshocton County, Ohio, but all the records you have only say the name of the county.
You may think that your grandparents attended the same church as your great-grandparents, but it’s possible they did not.
Researchers want to think. It’s essential.
Just remember that before putting down locations, events, etc. we need more than just what we think to be true.
Review materials you compiled early in your research? Is there information you put down because you “thought” it was true? That could be why you have a brick wall.
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Sometimes records are kept on forms with with small print. Read that print–it’s the question the person was actually answering and that might not be what you necessarily think it is at first glance.
And when the clerk squeezes a word in a form? They are not trying to show how small they can write? Annotations and comments added in minuscule handwriting can be bigger clues than the rest of the entire record.
Knowing where something was located is helpful for a variety of reasons.
Before saving an image, make certain you have adequate detail. I thought I had enough for this 1947 obituary–after all, I had the name of the newspaper. But in reading it I realized that the state was not listed in the item. Of course, I knew the state and readers at the time knew it as well.
But someone later might not. Better to have too much detail than not enough.
My new image has the city and state spelled out.
Research revealed that this 52-year draft registrant listed his mother as his “permanent contact” on this US World War II “Old Men’s Draft Registration” card. That’s not who I thought it was because of his age and the fact that the last name didn’t “match.” The name needed to be researched as it also could have been a sister or a married daughter.
This card almost wasn’t looked at “because what can it really tell me?”
I found out just what it could tell me–a name that I didn’t have before.
It can be easy to get stuck in a genealogical rut.
Consider working on an entire new family–in a location that is different and with people who are members of a different ethnic group or social class. The location should really be different–three counties away in the same state usually isn’t different–unless one area is urban and one is rural. Consider changing up your time period as well.
In trying to “figure out” my DNA matches, I’ve been forced to do more mid-to-late 20th century research than I usually do. That’s good. Doing it has allowed me to go back to my other time periods and locations with renewed interest.
And I made a few discoveries in the process.
The 1950 obituary indicated that the deceased had been married in 1883 and that he died.
That was true. They were married in 1883 and he did die–he just died after they were divorced and both of them had married again.
Obituaries can leave out key details. Be careful in what you assume “just because you read it in an obituary.”
If you ordered a DNA test and are waiting for the kit or waiting for the results, do more than just check your mailbox for the kit or your email inbox for the results. Get prepared. One way to do that is to analyze what you already know about your ancestors. Work on making your “paper pedigree” as complete as you can. If you’ve got a line extended as far back as you can, try tracing down descendants of branches you’ve not worked on. Doing some of that ground work will help you to analyze your results when you get them.
And remember that you may make surprising discoveries. These surprises may involve close relatives.
Any record can be wrong. A person can provide different places of birth from one record to another. And…we sometimes can’t even be certain who provided the information about that person. Different informants can be the reason information conflicts.
Don’t immediately conclude that you’ve got “two different people” just because census records provide different places of birth. Look at the other information the record provides about that person–the age, the residence, occupation, other family members, etc.
It’s about the whole person and all the information–not just one record or one fact.
But don’t make inconsistent information “fit” just because it “fits” your theory or extends your tree further back. Analyze it, understand it, and make certain your conclusions and inferences are logical.
The “problem” with using certain websites, search engines, etc. is that one can locate images or content and not be certain what they are seeing.
A good way to solve that problem…
ask someone for help.
Not really knowing what you are looking at is a good way to not understand it. The illustration used in this post is an index card to naturalizations created by the US government to help people find their naturalization record when they had lost it and weren’t really certain where they were naturalized (among other reasons). It’s not the naturalization record and is not the same thing as the naturalization record.
Ask fellow genealogists if you stumble on something and do not know what it is. There are groups on Facebook where one can post a variety of items and get help. Don’t assume what something is if you’ve never seen it before.
These records are discussed in more detail in a post on my Rootdig blog.