TSGS Cruiser Blog

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Research Tips


Every time I really want to break down one of my genealogy "brick walls," I think about doing "back-door" research. This is when you try to go around the "wall" instead of over or though it. Sometimes I call this "side-door" research. It is that day when I take time to see what I do not know about the person and the family. Generally, I notice that I have not checked into the siblings and their lives. Was Richard the older or the younger brother? If I check him out, I might learn that he is the older brother and he was born in a different location. By going through this "side-door" (via Richard & where he was born), I might find new clues to find out about their parents... my brick wall.

Since I have researched for a lot of years, there was a time that it was more expedient to just gather data on my direct line and just recording the minimum on the brothers & sisters. I am talking about the days before the Internet, Ancestry.com, Find-A-Grave, HeritageQuest, USGenWeb Project, Fold3, and the many, many more resources available on the Internet. Back then, I had to pay a small fee to get a microfilm of a census for a certain location that I thought my ancestors lived. When it came in, the library would call to say it was here - we had about 10-14 days to use the microfilm (only at the library - when it was open!) before it had to be sent back. It usually took several hours to browse through the microfilm looking for anyone that had the surname you were researching... all the while, the pages rolled by causing you to get sleepy. I hated it when I would dose off while continuing to crank the handle on the machine and then not know how much film I did not see!!! The Willard Library at that time was not open on Monday, so if you worked during the day - you only had the weekend and Tuesday night to go through your microfilm. The library had far less research books available, too... many without an index. All of this meant you had little time to get info on your direct line of ancestors, let alone the siblings.

What a difference having a computer to record your data and to be able to use the resources on the Internet. You still need to go to the library, to courthouses and other repositories, but you do not need to order microfilm anymore. Ancestry.com, Heritage Quest & others have posted the US Census and a lot of other actual records on the Internet. Most are not free, but it is searchable and nearly all of it is available!!! Too often we are not sure what county or even which state to find them in 1860, for example. Granted these searches often give you many more choices than you want, but the first ones are more likely to be the one.

I have always used the computer software called "Family Tree Maker" to record my database for my family history. It has a special feature that allows you to go online with a button to search all of Ancestry.com for each individual in your database - one person at a time. It is perfect for checking out the brothers & sisters that you have not had time to check before. The search engine uses all of the data concerning that individual that you have entered into FTM. In just a few clicks you are usually taken directly to the page in the census listing your family. and you can copy & paste it right into your FTM program. Ancestry also allows you to put your data onto their servers and when it discovers something about one of them, it puts a leaf by that person's box for you to explore what clues & documents that may relate to your research. Ancestry costs about $100 a year as a subscription and may not be what you want to do. But Google or Yahoo can help you find free sources for most of this data online.

Just remember that Friends and Family uses the back or side door to visit... start using that approach more in your family history research.

- Written by JGWest

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