Just Dig A Little Deeper


Digging for answers.As we all know records like Birth, Marriage and Death can have some discrepancies in them. If we just take them at face value we can end up with errors in our trees. So, what else can we do to determine if the information provided by these documents are true? Census records can help but again there could be some errors there as well. Of course if our Ancestor left a Will then we have hit a gold mine, but unfortunately not everyone left a Will

One way to determine if the documents that you have are correct or not is to consider looking at other information recorded at or near the time of the event. On death records for instance, we know that that date of death and cause of death would be correct, as would the residence at the time, name of the informant, name of the funeral home and name of the cemetery (if given) would be factual. The other information; date and place of birth, names of parents and marital status would have to be verified some other way as the informant may not know the correct answers to these questions or they could be too distraught to remember.

This is the time when we will have to dig deeper, using new ideas and sources. One way to do this is to learn more about the history of the town, city or particular location. We will have to step outside the normal routine of collecting documents and harvesting other information, like exploring the history that surrounds an individual or a particular family, we may be surprised at what we may find. It is amazing how many books there are on the history of families and State counties on Google books. Many of them are free. This would be an excellent place to start.

Another way to do this is to focus on the questions of Who? What? Where? When? and Why? Genealogists are good at answering the first four questions, but they frequently ignore the “Why?” When we seek answers to a wide variety of “why” questions, we can uncover some fascinating data. Example: Did your Ancestor move from one State to another? Why? Was there financial reasons? Did they go along with several other members of their family, or did they start out on their own?  Finding the answers to the “Why” can open new doors of research.

It also means identifying and studying the geographic histories where an ancestor lived. It may include such items as:

•        Town histories

•        County histories

•        Church histories

•        Trade and occupation histories

•        Ethnic histories

Exploring these can lead us to more specific resources, such as diaries, newsletters, special gazetteers, business records, and school records. As with any detective work, the evidence we gather will likely lead to further discoveries.

directoryDon’t forget about using City Directories. They have been in use for over two hundred years. The obvious usefulness of the directory is that it has alphabetical listings of names of people residing in a given location that can help us determine where our ancestors lived at a particular time. Very often it contains the person’s occupation, as well as both business and home addresses. Women are often referred to as the “widow of . . .,” thereby supplying us with a time frame as to when a male member of the family had died. An occupation may assist us in determining which person was our great-grandfather or maybe which one certainly was not.

City directories are being used to reconstruct the 1890 census. More than 20 million records have been identified for inclusion in this collection and additions will be made regularly as they become available. This in itself shows how important those directories can be.

As we search for our Ancestors remember that it can be a good thing to “think outside the box” and dig a little deeper. When we do so we may find those hidden treasures we all want to possess.

If you use any of these hints and find some valuable information on one of your Ancestors please let me know. I would love to hear about it!

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.


4 Hints for Visiting a Repository for Your Genealogy Research


A repository commonly refers to a location for storage, often for safety or preservation. This is where more than half of the documentation we are searching for is held. These documents are not “online” but are safely put away inside a brick and mortar building. We will have to, at some point in our search for answers, visit a few of these places. Genealogy is not the primary purpose of the repositories that keep documents. Their main purpose is to retain, recover and archive documents. Genealogy is a secondary thing for them so they do not feel the urgent need to upload all their files for those of us seeking answers. They are generally more than happy to help you find whatever you are looking for but this is a “side business” for them. In order to obtain some of the important documents you may need you will have to either write to the repository and pay a fee for them to find it and send it to you or you can make a trip there yourself.

If you do decide to go to the repository yourself here are some helpful hints:

  1. You will want to call each place you will be visiting before you leave on your trip to ask a few pertinent questions. Be sure you have a pen and paper ready so you can write down all the information you get. First you need to ask for their days and hours of operation. Even in a larger City some repositories may have short days or close one or two days during the week.


  1. You can explain to the clerk or receptionist what you are looking for just to verify that they do indeed have the type of document you are looking for. Yes you can look up the repository on their website and find out this information but websites are not always accurate and changes of what is available are not always made immediately on the website. One of my friends called ahead to a Historical Society in a small Town. Although the site gave their hours as being open daily she found out that they were only open two days a month. Because she called to inquire the woman agreed to open up for my friend so she could get the information she needed. All this happened because of a phone call.


  1. You should ask what information they will need from you in order to find the document you are looking for. This way you can be sure you have that is needed.


  1. This would also be a good time to ask about their policies and procedures. Make sure you know if you can bring your own scanner or even a camera into an archive and what their policies are regarding usage. Also ask if there is a charge for using their Research facility. I have found some repositories that will charge $5 per day for using their files.


It always pays to be organized and prepared. It will lead to a more productive search and a better chance of finding that “golden nugget” of information we all seek.


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.