One of the first questions I ask someone when they say they are stuck on an ancestor is what records they have accessed that may mention that ancestor.

It’s an important question to ask and an important question to answer. Determining if you have “everything” is not always easy. There’s the records that are typically easier to access, such as vital records and census records. There may also be land records, probate records, court records, newspaper references, church records, naturalization records, military records (including pensions), a variety of federal records (besides census records), cemetery records, funeral home records, etc.

One approach is to list every document you have that mentions an ancestor on which you are stuck. Then ask someone familiar with research and records in the areas where your ancestor lived if there are materials that you might have overlooked.

It’s possible you have not overlooked anything.

It’s also possible that you have. Sometimes we can be so focused on the problem and our frustration with it that we overlook something that could help us. It’s also possible if we are researching in a new area, era, religious community, etc. that there are materials of which we are unaware.

Another question to ask in an attempt to make certain I’ve looked for everything is to ask myself, “how is this ancestor different from other ancestors I have researched?” It may be that those differences resulted in records that I have not accessed before.

Join Michael at either the Allen County Public Library in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, or the Family History Library in Salt Lake City this summer!



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