Websites that allow users to search digital images of newspapers are great. They can make the discovery of newspaper references take seconds instead of the hours, days, or months, it would take to manually search a specific set of newspapers.
But make certain that the site has the actual images of the time period you need–month, year, etc. If the newspaper was daily and you need an item that probably was printed in March of 1888, does the website have all the issues from that month? Do you know how to browse their set of images to find out?
Issues may be missing from that time period. You may not be searching all the issues you think you are.
When a researcher is “hot on the trail” of an elusive ancestor or relative, it is tempting to research as fast as possible to find the answers.
Chances are the relative for whom you are looking is already dead, so time is not of the essence.
Leave a trail of exactly what records you looked at and, more importantly, why you looked at them. Do this as you are doing the research when it is all fresh in your mind. Failure to do so may leave you wondering later where there records were from or what made you connect them to the same person.
Virtually any piece of family history ephemera can jog memories. Postcards are no exception. This June of 1970 postcard sent to my parents by my Mom’s paternal grandmother generated quite a bit of discussion when I posted it to my Facebook page. Getting some family history information was not even my reason for posting it–I commented how the only person still living who was mentioned on the postcard was me (the “Michial” my great-grandma mentions in the greeting).
Most of the memories were not even about this trip from Illinois to California, but were about other visits the family made to the West Coast during roughly the same time period. Sometimes all it takes is one small thing to get people to thinking and remembering. What do you have that might get some memories rising to the surface?
The John Sullivan of interest in Pittsburgh was a John L. who was a policeman. I found him easily in a 1928 directory. In looking at all the John Sullivan entries, I located a John J. who was also a policeman. This is something I need to be aware of. Individuals can easily be listed in records without their initials and it would be easy to inadvertently confuse these two people.
Even if you find “your person,” browse other names. In addition to potentially locate others living at the same address (at least in directories), you may learn of others whose names are very close to your ancestor with other similar characteristics that may cause them to be confused.
“That’s not their family.” “They weren’t married into the family then, they won’t know anything about that.”
Reaching out to biological relatives is an important part of getting family traditions, identifying old photographs, and determing if there is any family ephemera floating around in someone’s home. But do not limit yourself to the biological family.
I was having difficulty identifying a photograph recently and I posted it to my Facebook wall. A niece of the individual by marriage identified the photograph. I hadn’t thought to ask her at all as the picture was taken thirty-five years before the niece was born. But then I realized a few things:
The niece had seen the person for twenty-five more years than I had.
The niece had seen the person when the person was younger–and sometimes that really helps.
The niece had pictures of this individual dating back to when she married into the family–seeing those pictures helps.
Do not limit yourself to biological relatives in your search for the identification of photographs or other family history information. Someone outside the biologicals may help more than you think.
No matter how much FamilySearch and other websites have online for your area of interest, always consider the possibility that there could be records that have not been microfilmed or digitized for that location.
Reach out to local records facilities, contact archives/societies in the area, and reach out to researchers also working in that area to determine what materials may only exist in their original format.
What was the last genealogical item you shared with someone else? It could be some information you discovered, a copy of a record you paid to obtain, a family picture you discovered, etc.?
Sharing is altruistic, but from a genealogy standpoint there is more to it than that. Sharing means “getting it out there” in multiple places and increases the chance that what you share lasts past you. If there’s only one copy of an item (particularly something in paper format), it’s “fragility” is deceased when copies of it are shared with others. Of course the original may still be fragile, but the copies “floating out there” increase the chance that the item is preserved in some format.
Of course when you share, someone else may share something they have with you. That’s an added benefit. But preservation should be high on your priority list.
You have located several documents that suggest person A is the parent of person B. You ask another genealogist. Consider not telling them what you think. Instead ask them what their conclusion is.
You have a family picture that you think you have identified. Your identification may be a hunch or may be based on looking at other pictures or information. You are going to ask someone else. Also consider just showing them the pictures and asking them what they think.
In both cases, you want their actual opinion or conclusion. Not putting ideas in their head makes it easier for them to reach their own conclusion.
Then you can go from there.
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