K is for Key strategies


Thomas writes home from the Klondike

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!

Family Vignette

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.

About Gail

Genealogist, librarian, writer, traveler, Mormon
This entry was posted in A-Z Challenge, Family, Genealogy & Family History, Travel and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to K is for Key strategies

  1. Ann Hinds says:

    Great tips and ones that I will start applying today. I have a new computer and all my old documents stored on an external hard drive. As I add them back, I will make notes on who they belong to and setup a research log. Perfect timing. I am also adding back my pictures one at a time under folders for each person. A lot of extra work but getting control of what I already have will help me go forward. Thanks!!

  2. I had a great-great aunt who lied about her age, but only by one year. No one ever knew why she did it, and it remains a family mystery.

  3. I’ve done a bit of research on my family–it’s an interestingly diverse one–but I never followed up on several leads. I like your suggestion of thinking *family* instead of *ancestors*; so right! Maybe I’ll take up that research again 🙂 What a lovely find about your great-grandfather and the Klondike!

    Thanks for visiting over at Life In Dogs yesterday, and for the lovely comment. Happy A-to-Z-ing!

  4. Oh, yes, I know only too well that I will need to recheck research information and have to search for it! Unfortunately, computer crashes don’t help. Lucky for me, I had backed up my entire Family Tree program. Love the story about your gggrandfather working the Klondike. Sad that the banks lost all his moneey.
    Stopping by for the AtoZChallenge Aloha, Gail

  5. Maria Dunn says:

    I wish I could get organized, but alas, that may be among my fatal flaws. I like your key strategy of colateral lines. Again, love your vignettes. Maria at Delight Directed Living

  6. gapark says:

    “If wishes were horses then beggars would ride.” actually, I need to practice what I preach, the organization part is one of my less-than-strong areas as well! I have lots of bits of post-it notes and scraps of paper with now totally undecipherable scribblings on them.

  7. melinda says:

    Great advice here. I’m a novice at this kind of thing. My aunt (my dad’s twin sister) wrote, and I edited, a fabulously detailed eight-generation genealogy of her side of my family, but on my mom’s side, I come up against a dead end when I get to my grandparents, who both came from Poland. I know nothing of my great-grandparents or any other family members at all, not even their names. Your fascinating post about your great-grandfather makes me want to find them all! 🙂

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