Indexes are Genealogy Research Friends

Today, I learned some valuable steps that could save research time and effort.  And I’d like to share them with you:

  1. Search indexes first, even those that are incomplete.  You may luck out and find what you seek from what has already been indexed–you may even share ancestors with the compilor.
  2. When you find an index entry of interest, check the original record from which the entry comes.  Most indexes do not include all the data in the original.  Read the original carefully for such items as death date, relationships to other families, references to documents you may not yet have looked at, or identity markers to separate out the person you are looking for from all the others who carry the same name.  For example, a christening entry that references a death date or age at death will alert you, ahead of time, to the possibility that this entry is not an ancestor.  So your search stops here–you can go on to more promising entries in other sources.
  3. Review what you already know and what information you have collected on key ancestors.   Data in your notes or on your family charts, that did not seem to fit before, may now make sense.  Sort of like turning on a light in a room you have entered many times and seeing a detail you did not notice before.  Especially examine your maps for localities you may have overlooked and proximity to cities or rivers you did not pay attention to.
  4. Update your research plan/to do list to match new insights after looking at the index entries.  For example:  now familiar places you have not searched for that ancestor. Middle surnames you recall seeing in the records where the key ancestor is also found.
  5. If you discover entries in the record not picked up in the indexes–check other spellings and misspellings in the index.  If those entries are missing, read the record carefully, line by line, for the time period your ancestor would appear.  Indexing is a fine art and it is easy for the unwary or the hurried or the untrained to miss entries.  When a record is re-copied and neat without blotches or interlined items, it is obviously easier to read.  If this is the first written version, you may even have to read the entries more than once to be sure you have correctly interpreted the handwriting of the clerk, the spelling of the names, and the letters scrawled in tiny script to fit minuscule spaces between already crowded entries.

And remember, when you eliminate candidates for ancestors, that is really progress toward proof.  Hang in there until you get the proof.  Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS  Each and every day I am grateful to be a professional genealogist with a new research challenge to carry me through the mundane, and on occasion the chaos, of every day life!

In Memoriam: George Nixon, died 10 Nov 2009, age 70.  Some people have the capacity to turn personal tragedy into what often seems as miraculous achievement.  George was one of these people.  I am so glad I knew him and could share his wit and his genealogical knowledge.  I still see Native American genealogy through his experience.

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