Research a “Different from Yours” Family

For some genealogists, their ancestral families are fairly homogenous, coming from the same ethnic background, geographic area, social class, religious background, etc. In cases such as these it can be easy to develop a tunnel vision in terms of research.

I see this on various message boards when advice is asked for and someone will say “land records always help,” “church records always provide parents,” or some other generalized answer. Land records help if your families usually owned at least a few acres of land. While church records should always be on the research to-do list, some denominations keep more detailed records than others.

One way to find a different family to work on is to use that of an in-law who grew up in a significantly different environment than you. For me, that’s usually someone whose family was urban and usually lived in rental properties. That’s different challenge from my rural ancestors who were generally at least small amount of property owners.

I had researched for twenty years before I discovered my 3rd great-grandfather was a native of Vermont. He was my first New England ancestor and that research was different from all my families from Maryland, Kentucky, and Virginia during the same time period. Researching him was a good change of pace and broadened my research skills.

That’s never a bad thing. A different perspective always helps.

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