A Research Strategy for American Genealogy Research Before 1900–

Extract onto family group worksheets, everyone with your surname of interest.  Get them all out of the records at the county level, where they can be compared for fit and match.  You can do this manually on paper charts or digitally on charts included in your genealogy software.  Major rule:  Oneone family per chart, one source per chart,

  1. Search the marriages first.  Watch for names of men who marry the daughters.  Start  tentative family units, by extracting each marriage on a family group worksheet–each marriage as the beginning of its own family unit.  Sort by census year so each married couple can be located in the next census after the marriage and followed each census year.
  2. Search census records next.  Extract all the entries for your family surname from the  census records–census decade by census decade.  Extract all the men who marry the daughters–so you add to and build the family units as you go.
  3. Interim Analysis–identify the re-marriages, especially for the women. Which families appear to move away?  Which ones stay in that locality?  Look for “Gretna Green” marriages.  Spot middle names which are surnames.  Identify unusual given names–Permelia, America, Europe, Cinnamon, Trauma, and so on.  Watch for given names that are repeated in each family unit or each generation.  Identify other families who marry into your family units.
  4. Set aside family units which clearly don’t fit for later consideration.
  5. Plan follow-up searches–in the marriage for those re-marriages you spot.  In the probate records–if the head of house is elderly, look for a will, inventory, or estate settlement.  If the head of house is a farmer, look at the deeds–what lands did he own or farm?  Where are the lands located?  How did he acquire his lands?  If there are young males in the household, search the tax rolls.  If there are males age 16-18 years old in 1820–check the militia lists.

This strategy works every time.  It will separate out for you where there is more than one family or person by exactly the same name.  Multiple people combined into the same person or family is the most common problem in genealogy–in the past and today.  Break your losing streak!  Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle    http://arleneeakle.com

PS  Check my speaking schedule for updates posted this week.  And plan to attend one or more event.  Some exciting things on the agenda!

PPS  I used to have a computer/digital phone.  But, I live at the end of the world–where electric service is interrupted easily.  So when the power was off, I could not communicate.  I have replaced that phone with a land line (in a world where many people are getting rid of their land lines) so if the power goes off, the phone still works.  You can reach me by email, by postal mail, by phone, and by FAX.  Check Contact US on the menu on my home page http://arleneeakle.com

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