5 Rules of Genealogy Research Strategy
I have been researching for many years and have worked on hundreds of family trees for my clients as well as my own genealogy and this has enabled me to fine tune my own research strategy which I want to share with you today. It is very easy when you get stuck working on one ancestor to throw your hands in the air declare them unfindable (is there such a word ? – well there is now!) and because the number of direct ancestors doubles every generation you go back there is always someone “easier” to research. You will find yourself going back to that problem ancestor every now and then, rereading all your notes and going through the “they are unfindable” routine yet again. You might even hand the problem over to a paid researcher like myself who seems to find them quite quickly and easily – you declare the researcher a genius (it’s very nice when clients do that!) and feel despondent that you couldn’t do that. Often the paid researcher has worked through your genealogy problem using something very similar to the 5 Rules of Genealogy Research Strategy set out below. Follow these simple rules and you will be surprised by the results you get.
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You might find the Project Planner I have created that is in the MadAboutGenealogy Resource Library useful when following this strategy. It’s free just Click Here to access.
So here are the MadAboutGenealogy 5 Rules of Genealogy Research Strategy.
1 Ask yourself what do I know about this ancestor and how do I know it? For example do you know they were born in Hampshire in 1874 because you have their birth certificate or was it on an online family tree? Do you know their wife was called Mary Smith because it was on their son’s baptism entry or did great aunt Maud tell you. It’s important to separate out primary, secondary and hearsay sources. This is where citing your sources is so important and can save you a lot of time. See my recent blog post on Genealogy Citation Click Here to access.
2 What do you want to know ? So now you have a firm grip on just what you know, the next question is what do you want to know and saying everything isn’t the right answer! You need to be very specific as to what it is your are seeking, is it a birth date and place, a marriage, a census? Once a list of missing information has been established ask yourself what records might hold the information you are seeking? This isn’t as obvious as it sounds, an example would be if a marriage date, place and maiden name of the bride is what you seek then the maiden name can be found on an offspring’s birth certificate or perhaps a search of a newspaper archive might bring up a report on the wedding.
3 Have you checked all available records? And I do mean all the records, looking at just one census isn’t enough you need to have found the ancestor in all available census. Have you looked at indexes only when a collection of images of the original records are online? Have you done a deep dive into the records (I’m preparing a blog post on how to do this) Are you sure you have looked at everything? This is also a good time to take another look at what records you have got. When looking at a census for instance take a look at who else is living in the street, in an 1841 census I found my 3rd great grandparents as children living next door to one another, if I hadn’t looked at the neighbours then I might have missed them.
4 Have you searched all possible online catalogues? It is very easy to just use one source of information, for instance if you have a subscription to Ancestry it is all too easy to just search on there and ignore the rest of the internet! Here is my list of sites that you should check – just click on the link and it will take you to the site
Find An Archive – this is a search engine for locating the web address of the archives for the county you are researching
Genuki – look at the resources available for your county using this website and then check out your parish. You may find links to indexes etc that individuals have created and are willing to search.
5 Have you researched all the family? You need to widen your genealogy net, as the information you are missing may be found when you research a sibling or other relative. My 4th great grandparents died in London just before the 1851 census when the enumerator would have asked them where they were born. Not to be defeated I simply set about researched all their children, some of whom were quite young when their parents died. I found the younger three children living with an older sister who had moved them to another part of London, but carried on the parents trade of selling second hand clothes. Also living in this hero of an unmarried sister’s house was an unknown to me brother who stated that he had been born in Bakewell, Derbyshire. I hadn’t found him on the 1841 census because he wasn’t living in the family home, I subsequently found him living elsewhere in London in 1841. With that clue I then searched the Bakewell parish registers and found the brothers baptism, my 4th great grandparents marriage and worked back a good number of generations. If I hadn’t researched all the children just my direct ancestor I would never know my 4 x grandparents with their young son had moved from Bakewell to London.
5 Rules of Genealogy Research Strategy – Summary
I do hope this helps you with your research, I hear a lot about brick walls in genealogy, about ancestors who have disappeared and impossible to find family. However in my experience most of these problems can be solved by using these 5 rules. Try the 5 Rules of Genealogy Research Strategy it and see what a great help it is. Go find those missing ancestors!!
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