Publisher of Quality Genealogy Materials
Volume 9, Number 10 Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369 June 28, 2017
Publisher's Notes In this article, we discuss more mistakes in genealogy. They are so easy to make and no one is immune to them. I have written several articles lately about mistakes and have included the links below in case you missed them.
Happy 4th of July!
James L. Douthat
MORE BIG MISTAKES
In our search for those allusive ancestors, we often make big mistakes in gathering the material or drawing the conclusions. This happens to everyone, so you are not alone.
One of the main mistakes is that we have too narrow of a search. Far too many limit their research to the standard records of census, marriages, wills/probate, or even birth/death records. There are so many other records out there that can give us a much better picture of ancestor’s lives. Just knowing how to search the internet is a great start. There are several articles that can give you tips and tricks on search techniques such as using quotation marks and including a date range. Google “Search Tricks for Genealogy” to find out more tips. A new world of information is out there if you just know how to locate it.
You will never find all of your information in one place so be prepared to go beyond the usual and you might find a world of information. I knew my grandfather was raised in southwestern Virginia and worked on the local railroad, but never knew he traveled much. I found a photograph of him in a collection I inherited from my grandmother at the Chicago World’s Fair before they were married. I was familiar with the photo from my early days, but only recently looked at it again. I had always labeled it as one of my father in his early days. Looking at the background, I then saw the banner behind him for the World’s Fair. This was long before my father was even born, so it had to be his father. Such simple things are often right there in front of us and we ignore the background of photos as we are more interested in the people.
A second problem is that many researchers limit themselves just to the internet. There is a lot of information on the internet - some right and some wrong. When we take only what we find there, we can make big mistakes if we don’t have a “second opinion”. It is a known fact that only a small percent of information is on the internet even with the millions of pieces of data already online. Nothing beats reading the original material.
I have been told all of my life that when my grandfather worked on the railroad as an engineer and that he and his brothers made up the entire crew of one train on the line. In fact, I have been told that there is an article in the company newsletter about them. The company has been sold to other lines now and I have spent about fifty years trying to find the article to back up this claim. I have even talked to archivist for that railroad and no results. It is fact of fiction? I may never know, but will keep looking and asking around. Perhaps someday I will find it
A third failure in our research is not asking for help. Most of us limit our questions to Aunt Sally Sue who may or may not have it all straight. She may even swear it is right, even if you find out information to the contrary. We say to ourselves that she should know, after all she was there and with the people at the time it all happened. Time and memory do fail all of us as we remember only what we want to remember.
Case in point, my mother-in-law knew her oldest sibling was from another father and was later adopted by her father. All I could get from her is “I think the father’s name was - - - - “. The name does not fit with anyone in the neighborhood at the time or even in the older families involved. It may be time to reach out beyond those close to you for answers. Local clubs, forums, or even online groups can all help if you will take them into your confidence. Many folks out there just live to help others with their own research. As they help you, they might be helping themselves.
Finally, far too many of us give up to quickly. I have worked with so many societies and groups through the years and have heard more than a few say that they were deeply involved for years and finally just gave up. We can never give up. If it is in your blood, the answer might be in the next book, next cemetery, or even next courthouse. Frequently, we hunker down on one person and ignore their siblings and cousins. Perhaps expand your search to others and it might help with the information you are researching.
One of most unused books in a library is a five volume set of Civil War Questionnaires. Veterans were asked to fill out a rather lengthy form telling about other soldiers in their units, and thereby giving information of persons that you might have overlooked. It takes some time to research these five volumes, but the results is well worth the effort. This is just one approach where broadening your search might help find out about your ancestors.
CIVIL WAR BOOKS
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