Folks come by my office
all the time and visit! It's always fun to meet the people who read this
column and always interesting to hear their genealogical problems.
Some of the things my visitors tell me.and ask me.may be addressed
Sometimes a family researcher will say, "I'm stuck. I don't know what
to do next."
When I hear that, I will ask them a few questions. Even one "no" could
be the solution to the "being stuck" problem. Remember, a genealogist is
always a pretty good shade-tree detective.
If you are stuck, have you talked to every single living relative?
If you are stuck, have you interviewed and talked to former neighbors?
If you are stuck, have you identified every single family photograph?
If you are stuck, have you considered ALL of the spellings of your
surname? Remember, spelling doesn't really matter. If it "sounds alike"
it can "be alike." Make a list of all of the variations of your name that
you can think of.be sure and add new ones as you uncover them in your
With a simple name like "Gay" I had quite a list of names to check when
I was working on Mel's family: Gayre (the original Gaelic spelling) ,
Gaye, Gear, Geare (How it is spelled in The Domesday Book), Gair, Guy,
Gee, and Gay. In the Gaelic, "Gayre" is pronounced "Geh." It's easy to
see how the name evolved.
If you are stuck, think about the name. I spent years looking for
Anders Stilley. He was nowhere he was supposed to be. I woke up suddenly
in the middle of the night one night and thought."Anders Tilley!" There
Have you considered all of the pronunciations of your name?
Have you gone back and read and re-read the information you have?
Have you just taken a break and worked on another line of yours.or
maybe a family of your spouse's?
Have you written up or entered into the computer the information you
have? Sometimes, just putting together what you have will make you think
of something else you can do or that you can check.
Here's a checklist of records that you should check before you say,
Check church records; fraternal records, military records. Check
occupational records and organizations? Check vital records - remembering
that your ancestor may have never moved anywhere but the county lines may
have moved. Check the history of the county and state where your ancestor
Have you just looked at a historical time-line? What was going on in
the world? Check military records for that period. Check the places
where free land was available (If your family goes missing about
1816.check Alabama records as they were giving free land away about
then!). Check land records and court records and probate records. Check
local records and state records and even federal records.
Learn about the particulars of a certain time. For example, after the
War Between the States, salt was distributed and the government kept
records of that distribution.
Check agricultural records.
Have you checked your own assumptions? As in the rest of your life,
assumptions can really get you in trouble.
Be sure you are researching from the present to the past! You just
can't start with a famous - and most likely untrue tale of being kin to
the rich and famous - and work forward. You work from YOU to the past.
Have you organized your information and really read and looked at it?
More help next time!