This is another post to help you with your family history search. It probably should have been the first one in the series, which started with the post Tracing Danish Ancestors, as what I cover pertains to the others as well, but there you go. I hope you find these posts useful for what to do and what not to do when you’re trying to build your family tree.
When I first started my personal family history search I often needed help with my ancestry. I would get stuck and then go off on all sorts of tangents trying to get going again. After much trial and error, and a lot of helpful advice from others, I’ve found ways to get around many barriers that are prevalent when you start delving into the past, where records are sometimes scarce and hard to verify.
To be honest, sometimes you just have to use your imagination, but you also have to pay attention to known facts to make sure you stay on the right trail in your family history search.
I personally go to great lengths to gather all the known facts about a person. It’s important that you keep track of what you KNOW to be true. Then you can use those facts to verify that you’re on the right trail.
Just to give you an example, if I search for my own name, but leave out the middle name or exact birth date or place, I get about 65 possibilities. If I then add the middle name, the place of birth and the actual date, then there is only one choice.
You will occasionally find the actual record or transcription of the record is incorrect. That’s why it’s vital to have other supporting factual information. Just recently I searched for a person on whom I knew the exact birth place and date, and the supposedly official document that came up was four days off. This sadly happens all too often.
I cannot emphasis enough that you must gather all the information you can so that you can use it to help you verify that you have the right person in your family history search. As you accumulate facts, it will be easier to establish that you’re on the right trail. Important things to find are parents’ full names, any maiden names, sibling names, birth dates, birth places, occupations, names of nieces and nephews, even cities they lived in. Get verified facts up and down the tree – and use these to guide your choices.
I have to point out that one of the biggest mistakes I see people make in their family history search is to assume that just because someone has a person listed in their family tree that they have done all the research correctly. I cannot stress this enough – don’t fall for that! I’ve seen trees where the listed parents were 5 years old! Impossible – but those people were not LOOKING – and they were not verifying their data. They were just trying to take the easy way out and build a tree fast, even though it was wrong. It sometimes takes hard work to build your family tree, but the satisfaction of knowing you have the correct people in your tree is well worth the effort.
Gather facts that you trust and then USE them. Also keep track of “facts” that you find which you know are incorrect so you know NOT to be led astray by them. While you most certainly will run into pieces of information that do not match, it will not be that ALL the pieces don’t match. Look carefully at all aspects of a record. I have found many times that a person has had the same names for the parents as well as some of their siblings – or that someone was building a family tree and mistakenly took relatives from two different families and combined them. This can really bog your family history search down and can be avoided if you stick by your facts.
Be inventive when things slow down in your search. Use your imagination for how something could have been and use your known facts to guide you. If none of that works, then reach out and locate someone to help you with your family history search. There are many good sites on the internet where you can get help. One, among many, that I use is Family Search. You can also contact me as I’ll do what I can to help you. I really do enjoy helping people, so go ahead and reach me via the write me tab in the top menu.