Easy Breakthroughs?

I’m afraid it is a fantasy that hard-to-find ancestors can be found easily in today’s genealogy databases. Each find, however, is a contribution to your next breakthrough. Fact by fact, step by step, your focus on documenting each generation as you go back in time, will match your information and what you already know to the right links in those online databases.

It is easy to link your ancestor to the wrong entries. For example, a Scots-Irish ancestor in West Virginia, named James Ferguson, was linked to Broadalbin, a township and village, west of Saratoga, New York. The printed immigration database,  published by Gale Research of Michigan, included Scottish ancestor James Ferguson  of Broadalbin, Scotland. The problem: Broadalbin, Scotland was a Highland district. This James Ferguson arrived in New York and stayed in the Broadalbin Valley. Here his children were born and here he died. James Ferguson, who came to West Virginia, arrived in Baltimore and resided in Cumberland Maryland, before moving into West Virginia. These men were contemporaries–just not the same man.

P. William Filby and his research team prepared Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1538-1900 with accompanying volumes of sources used. Three volumes were published in 1981 by Gale Research of Detroit MI; then two volumes were issued each year through 2002 listing those printed lists compiled during the following six-month periods. More than 10 million immigrants were identified from passenger lists, church records, statements before local courts and as preambles of deeds and wills. Annual volumes continued to appear for several additional years. This is one of the remarkable publishing events in genealogy history.

See James L. Tanner, “Find Your Immigrant Ancestors Naturalization Records, Part I,” Locating Your Ancestors in the Old Country: A Research Guide (Morgan UT: Family History Expos, Inc., 2015): 133-37 for a more complete list of volumes published. These volumes have also been indexed on CD-ROM and online.

The correct solution emerged from the evidence once both James Fergusons were researched and compared. Here is the gap–searching the basic records that are available–that back up the brief entries in the databases. A growing number of the original records are now available online, as if you were using a microfilm reader or a printed book. The images appear online before the indexes are completed; the indexes require more work than the scanning of the records. [You could be an indexer–contact http://familysearch.org/Indexing.]

Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle.

PS If some of these precepts seem familiar, that is because you’ve heard them here before. And probably will again. As long as genealogists grab the first name they find and attach it to their ancestry, as if it belonged. Without documentation. Without supporting research and comparison for fit.

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