1. Get organized.
- Whether you keep your Tree on paper, your computer, or in the Cloud, set up a system for keeping track of what you find and where and when you found it.
- Keep a Research Log that notes the repository of information found and annotate it for future reference (yes, you WILL want/need to check it again!)
- Maintain a system that links your research finds (certificates, news clippings, letters, etc) to the person it documents. When (notice I didn’t say if…) discrepancies arise, you will be able to evaluate the validity of your sources and review your data.
2. Consider collateral lines. As Kimberly Powell says, “It is called a Family Tree, not an Ancestor Tree.” When you may reach a dead-end on your great-great-grandfather, if he had siblings, they all had the same parents…Following these sibling lines will get you to your direct line ancestor just as well.
3. Don’t believe everything you read. Tombstones, census records, death certificates, even birth records all can contain errors. Sometimes a husband fudged his age by several years to appear older than his wife; or a woman would add years to her age to be “legal” to marry without parental consent. People didn’t trust the government and would lie to the census taker as to who was in their household. Check several sources to validate the information.
4. Collaborate. This means sharing information online at such sites as Ancestry.com or FamilySearch.org as well as with your own immediate and extended family members. There’s no sense in discovering information that someone else has already discovered. Of course, don’t just take their word for it, do your own fact checking and confirm what you’ve been given with your own research, but at least you have a starting point and aren’t heading out cold.
5. Periodically review and recheck dead ends. New information is made available daily on sites such as Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, Findagrave, etc. The document you need may have just been indexed and uploaded today!
K is for Klondike
Gold Fever! August 16, 1896 Gold was discovered in the Klondike Region of the Yukon. My great-grandfather, Thomas Connolly, caught the fever and headed West. He went twice: once for three years and again for five years. Between the two trips, two children were born. Extant letters he wrote to his wife back home are from the second trip which started in the blizzard of 1898. My great-grandmother drove him to the station in a sleigh, with the children tucked up in it too. Thomas staked claims the first time and went back to work them. With the gold he was able to find, he paid off his mortgage upon his return to Massachusetts, and the family was well off until the depression, when the bank they had their money in failed, and they lost everything.
The Connolly’s are a resilient, determined and hard-working lot though, and they recovered from that as they did from the hardships of the Potato famine years earlier.