St Clair Cemetery, Mt Lebanon, Allegheny Co, PA

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Friday, August 06, 2010

Use Your Imagination to Investigate the Past

We've all heard it. "My family can't be found," or "The census didn't list slaves," or "The courthouse burned."

Well, yes, this can be a real mind blocker. Use your imagination when looking at various resources.  Don't just depend on the census lists.  And, for the sake of all genealogy racing heartbeats, don't grab a name from the census and plop it in your tree just "cause it was the same name."  Like no name has ever been duplicated in history!!!!

Look at everything. 

Examples include:
Estate Inventories  - (can be great if the estate had owned slaves)
Land Records
Church Records
Cemetery Records
Local County Histories
Orphans Court Records
Local Tax Records
Local Historical Societies
Local Genealogy Societies
Probate Court Records
Lawsuits -  (I found a part of one family after I ordered the records about a trial.)
Asylum Records
Old Church Magazines
Journals of old genealogy societies
Newspapers of the era and place of interest  (1888-1899 newspapers are great finds.)
Family History Library

As you look at every source you can find, have an open mind.  Don't be stuck in the "blame game" of genealogy.  Perhaps someone moved away.  Perhaps someone was listed as "chattel."  Perhaps you've looked in all the wrong places.  Perhaps the trail has gone cold.  Keep looking as it may warm back up one day.

My tip of the day:  Be open as you continually search for documentation to support your theories.  Be open to investigate the not-so-readily-available sources.  Be open to traveling to the area of your interest and digging in the old records or hire someone to do it for you. 

Use your imagination to investigate the past.  And use the facts to document your current family trees.

Ahh, genealogy.  It's only as good as the documented research.  Otherwise, it can make a pretty good bed time story for the kids, not to mention the hair pulling of someone who has documented the facts:)

©2010 AS Eldredge

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