Switched First and Last Names

When last names can be first names and first names can be last names confusion can result if records and the people providing information are not clear. An aquaintance of my daughter has the last name “Summer.” She refers to him as “Summer.” It was only after I referred to Summer as “she” that she told me Summer was his last name.

Could mixing up the names be why you cannot find your ancestor in an index or a record?

Are The Records Public or Not?

It is important to remember that some records we use in our genealogy research are not public records and may only be available to us through the courtesy of the record holder. Funeral homes, businesses, and churches do not really have to allow genealogists to use their records. Many do, but these groups are different from local or state governments who maintain records. Government records are open, subject to a variety of restrictions.

You Can’t Break Every Brick Wall Online

Some genealogists think if they post their question to enough message boards, websites, mailing lists, etc. someone will discover that magic missing piece. Remember that not every problem can be solved by getting help online. The answer to your problem might lie in a document or record in a courthouse that has never been digitized. Asking for online help is always a good idea, especially when you are unfamiliar with the time period, location, records, etc. But not every problem can be solved by posting online.

You Are Not Your Great-Grandma

Sometimes we might have an idea of what great-grandma or great-grandpa did in response to a certain event in their lives. Be careful assuming that you know exactly what great-grandma or great-grandpa would have done. Sometimes you may very well be right. Other times you could be wrong and could be creating a brand new brick wall in the process.

Is it just a little typo that’s confusing you?

Sometimes one letter can make a big difference and move a location across the country. I was typing an address and I intended to type “CA” for California. Instead I typed “VA” and implied Virginia. I corrected the error, but in this case it would have been easy to create confusion.

I could easily see what I meant. Are all “quick errors” this obvious, especially when the error was made 100 years ago?