Finding the Connection

Associations between individuals other than those of biology and marriage can sometimes be difficult to determine. Biological connections may be documented in a variety of records, vital records, court records, probate records, etc. Relationships by marriage may be documented by the record of the marriage in addition to records that can document a biological connection.

It can be more difficult to determine other connections between two individuals. Determining that connection frequently involves researching everything extant that mentions one of the two individuals to see what overlap there is.

That overlap can be difficult to determine, but admittedly sometimes the connection is more of a curiosity than a research necessity.

Scanning through my hometown newspaper for obituaries, I ran across a name I recognized. The names of other individuals in the obituary meant nothing to me–the man was not a relative. It was only upon reading the biographical portion of the obituary that I realized the deceased was the “round baler man” who had sold and serviced some of my Dad’s farm equipment when I was growing up.

My research did not hinge on the connection–it was just curiosity. But it reminded me that connections are not always easy to find.

Write and Sketch Before Entering

Before entering information into a genealogical database, consider writing the information down and charting the relationships on paper to make certain you understand them and can visualize them. In families where individuals were married more than once or had children with more than one person, it can be easy to enter relationships incorrectly.

What Did Not Change When She Married

Searching female ancestors in many countries is complicated by the female adopting the last name of her husband at her marriage. Think about those things that do not change when trying to search for that female relative after her marriage:

  • her first and, if she has one, middle names
  • her date and place of birth
  • her parents–she may have lived near them after her marriage. They may have lived with her in their old age.
  • the names of her brothers–she may have lived near them after her marriage
  • the names of her unmarried sisters–they may have lived with her at some point in their lives.

All of these can be ways to search finding aids to some records in your attempts to find the missing married female ancestor.

A Picture Scrapbook to Jar Memories Loose

From a few years ago…

A reader on our Facebook page had an excellent idea for helping to jog the memories of older family members. She made a scrapbook of old pictures with room for the person to write down what they remembered about the people in the picture, the location, etc. Generally the pictures were used as memory prompts.

The relative could then write in the book at their leisure as things came to mind.

Sometimes an interview simply isn’t long enough or memories come flooding back after it’s over.

Multiple Newspaper References to Same Event

There were quite a few articles on Philip.

If your relative was part of a “breaking local news story,” an account of the incident may have made the local newspaper. One account of an event can easily contain incorrect details, particularly if the event took place close to press time or witnesses were originally difficult to find. Obtain multiple newspaper references to the event and compare/contrast the details provided.

  • a reference a few days later may contain more accurate information-or it may not.
  • if the incident resulted in court action, more details may be mentioned in newspaper articles during the trial
  • if the incident was sufficiently noteworthy, there may be retrospective articles on anniversary dates of the incident
  • the incident may be mentioned when a key player dies years later
  • check other nearby newspapers for mention of the incident

Keep in mind some newspapers may have essentially “copied” what was in another paper. Two sources saying the exact same thing does not make it twice as likely to be true–just twice as likely to have been copied.

Learn more about newspaper research in Jim Beidler’s  The Family Tree Historical Newspapers Guide: How to Find Your Ancestors in Archived Newspapers.

That “Hint” with the Same Name

Your ancestor named Bernard Dirks immigrated to Adams County, Illinois, in the 1850s where he lived until he died in the 1910s. He’s in 1860-1910 census in that county, buys land there, etc.

Ancestry serves up a naturalization for a Bernard Dirks in Tazewell County, Illinois, in the 1860s–suggesting it’s your guy. Do you assume it’s your guy? Here are some things you should do–in no particular order.

Geography: Determine how far apart Adams and Tazewell Counties are. Locally did it: Is there a naturalization for Bernard Dirks in Adams County, Illinois?

Said so on census: Did the Adams County, Illinois, Bernard Dirks indicate he was naturalized in any extant census record? Is the year relatively consistent with the Tazewell date?

Contemporary dude search: Look at census and other records in Tazewell County around the time the Bernard Dirks naturalized there. Does that name appear in those records–during that time when your guy is in Adams County? That would really suggest there were two dudes in different places with the same (or similar) names.

Just some thoughts.

The Nearest Post Office?

Do you know where the nearest post office was to where your ancestor lived? That post office name or town name (which may not have been where your ancestor lived) may be listed as their residence on various official documents.

It may seem liked they moved or lived in different places when they in fact did not.

Try a Genealogy Search on GenealogyBank.

Include a Source

If you are going to have someone analyze a document or record, indicate where the document or record was obtained. It is very difficult to analyze something without an idea of when, where, or how it was created.

The Front and the Back

A reminder from a few years back…

Always look at the front and back of every document. This document from a military service file was folded into thirds and the “cover” contained a comment made by the clerk–that wasn’t really supposed to be there. That’s why it’s always advised to make certain you see both sides of a document. 


View Deaths in Context

Always think about the family that was left behind when someone died? Were there children who would have needed looked after? Was there a spouse who would have needed some assistance? Was there an adult child who would have been unable to look after themselves?

Who would have been nearby to help these individuals?

Were there court records, guardianships, or other records resulting from issues when the person died?

Try a Genealogy Search on GenealogyBank.