Start A Blog

You may think that the world doesn’t need any more genealogy blogs, but here’s a reason to start one:

A relative might contact you.

My recent postings on about my findings at the Family History Library in Salt Lake brought about a reply from a researcher in Scotland who descends from my wife’s 4th great-grandparents. I searched for these ancestors in several online databases, all to no avail. Despite this lack of any luck, within two weeks of my posting about the family, there was an email in my inbox.

I’m not saying you have to blog every day, or even every week. Personally I’d rather do actual research and analyze what I have. But an occasional entry about what you have found might bring another relative out of the woodwork.

I use for mine, but there are other sites /software that one can use.

Don’t Judge, Instead think Why?

Upon occasion, one hears fellow genealogists being slightly judgemental about a specific ancestor. Instead of getting bogged down in that line of thinking (which doesn’t help your research any), think “why?”

Putting yourself in your ancestor’s shoes gives you a different perspective. If you were twenty-six years old, widowed, the mother of two small children, unable to speak English and living where you had no relatives, what might you do? You might marry the first German speaking single male around–one who would not have been your choice if you were twenty years old and still living at home with no children to support.

If your great-grandfather “disappeared” consider where he might have gone and what he might have done in an attempt to find him. Was there a war he might have enlisted in? Did he have some type of psychological problems? Maybe it was even better that he left, despite the disruption it caused in the family.

If you never personally knew the ancestor, leave the judging to someone else. Focus instead on your research.

On the flip side of this, I know one researcher who thought it was “romantic” that her great-great-grandmother found the “love of her life” and left her husband and headed out West on some grand adventure. The researcher was completely enamored with the story. Now if HER mother had done the same thing, I’m certain her response would have been somewhat different.

More than Birth and Death Dates

Are you working to get more than just birth and death dates for your ancestors? After a while, lists of names and dates get a little dry for even the most serious genealogist. Consider fleshing out other details on your ancestor. County histories, newspapers, and court records are all great places to get beyond the bare facts.

In lectures, I refer to my ancestor’s 1850 era Mississippi River tavern as “Barbara’s Bar and Grill.” The local newspaper referred to it as a “house of ill repute.” You never know what you will find until you look. I still don’t have Barbara’s date of birth, but I know a lot about her from court records and newspapers.

How Was Life Different?

Have you really thought about how your ancestor’ s was different from your own? Things have changed since your deceased ancestor was alive. Some changes are big and some are small. I haven’t used directory information for years, if I need a phone number for a business I simply “google” it on my blackberry, click on the phone number and dial. Ten years ago I couldn’t do that.

And maybe when you think about how your ancestor’s is different from your own, you will realize there is something about that ancestor you have overlooked.

Salt Lake City Research Trip 2010

Ok, so it’s not an actual tip of the day, but I am pleased to announce we have set the dates for the 5th annual Salt Lake City Family History Library Research Trip in 2010.

The dates of our trip are 27 May-3 June 2010. This includes Sunday, but we either use that day for rest, siteseeing, or additional consultations with Michael in the afternoon.

Enrollment is limited and $50 will hold your spot until the complete registration is due. For more information visit our site or email me directly at We would love to have Tip of the Day viewers join us in 2010.

Back to writing more tips…I am a little bit behind–fortunately because I spent an extra day at the FHL and did a little bit of my own research.

Did they Reuse Names?

Yesterday’s post mentioned men who might have had wives with the same first name. Keep in mind that in some ethnic backgrounds “reusing” names of deceased children was a very common practice. One of my Ostfriesen couples had four daughters named Reenste born within a ten year time span. The first three died shortly after birth. The fourth one grew to adulthood.

And my genealogy software program thought I was nuts to have a family with four children with the same name. But it can happen.

Wife with the Same Name

There is a tombstone in the local cemetery. I can’t remember the husband’s name, but he had two wives, both were named Mathilda. One can only imagine how confusing this might be for his descendants.

Usually a new wife has a different name. If I researched this individual, the age of his wife might change significantly in census records, her birth place may suddenly be different, or other pieces of information may be inconsistent. Keep in mind that if the details on a spouse are different, it might because there was a different spouse–just one with the same first name.

What are you using?

Do you know what kind of record you are using and are you entering the information correctly into your computer database? I have one distant relative who when using records of infant baptisms enters those dates as dates of birth. The church record does not include the date of birth and most baptisms were normally done within a few days of birth. However, dates of baptism are not dates of birth. Fortunately I discovered his penchant for confusing the two before I used his information. All of which points that getting to the actual record is just as important as ever. His transcriptions were accurate—except for saying baptismal dates with dates of birth.