Sage Research Advice Comes from Experienced Genealogists

Two of America’s genealogists, who are no longer with us, left considerable instructional legacies on which we can draw for guidance. Let’s look at two articles:

James Walker, “Preparing to do Research,” Tree Talks 22 (June 1982): 67-73.
Meldon J. Wolfgang, III, “Sleuthing in the Stacks: Using Non-Traditional Resources to Uncover Genealogical Clues.” Reprint of genealogical seminar talk, 1994.

They both agree that creation of a resource list of records and sources to check is a must– Beginning with what you already know, you look for information compiled, indexed, abstracted, listed, and thus identified to expand what you know. This research strategy is called “working from the known to the unknown.”

When you draw a blank in one database, you check another. In my opinion, sometimes it is better to search each database separately to begin with. Matching what you already know and what you have already documented and consider to be correct. Each time going through the formal step of comparison of the data. It is so easy to pick up an entry in a database with the same names, or the same dates, or the same migration patterns that do not actually match–because your ancestor had moved out of the area. Or, because your ancestor was already married. Or because your ancestor had died the previous year.

One of the biggest traps is the birth/christening of a child at the right date with the right name. This child having died as a child, cannot be the ancestor you are seeking, because your ancestor survived. The record category documenting the birth does not always document the death too. And it is really important to look!

Perhaps the culprit to a true pedigree is cutting the research off too soon–concluding that because the database does not have the entry you want, the ancestor cannot be traced. Or that since this is the only entry in the database that seems to fit, the information has to apply to your ancestor.

Both authors agree that  too little data or too few searches will defeat you. Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS The search for proof goes on, even when the research comes to a close. Remember, rarely are you the only person looking.

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