Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ancestor Research

About a month or so ago, on a whim, I decided to start a family tree using ancestry. Well, that was my first mistake, because . . . this became a sort of obsession consuming huge amounts of time. Who knew?

Now, rather then go into all the gory details, I'm first going to give some tips about doing family research, or, as I like to call it dancing with the ancestors!

  1. BEWARE - this can become an all consuming project that will eat up your time faster than my cat Squeaky - lover her dearly - eats her food . . . and then begs for more.
  2. Ancestry - is a great resource, but . . . the information on Ancestry is suspect (more on this later).
  3. Google - is a source to be reckoned with since they digitized thousands of books, many of them genealogical related (more on this later).
  4. Dig, dig, and dig some more - the information is not always readily available, but . . . some perseverance and patience will do wonders when searching for dead relatives.
  5. State Archives - every state has one. Luckily, the archive for my state is not far from my house. Huge, huge resource - census records, cemetery books, death records, birth records . . . you name it, and they're probably there.
  6. Family Trees - okay, a lot of times you'll find a family tree that doesn't list your relative. Don't despair. Just because your relative isn't listed as a child of so-and-so, doesn't mean your relative wasn't a child of so-and-so (more on this later).
  7. Family Search - this is a wonderful website created/run by the Church of the Latter Day Saints. They have copies of many death certificates, that you don't have to search through microfiche at the State Archives to find. I was able to find my great-grandmother's death certificate this way.
So, those are the basic tips you need if you decide to do family research.

Now, on to the more on this later items:
  • Ancestry - be careful when compiling your family tree using this site. Some of the information is accurate. Some of the information is, well, not so much. People sometimes build their trees without paying attention to the details. Case in point: Edwina Carter was born in 1862, and yet her parents are listed as being born in 1870. Uh, yeah, do you see the problem? Sometimes, people get carried away and don't pay attention to what they're doing, or what they are linking to. The further back you go in your ancestor research, the more iffy the information.
  • Census Records - these are a great source of information, but the census takers were, well, only human, and errors did occur. For example, my great aunt married a man named Hoffman, yet on one census, she and her husband were listed as Mollman. On Ancestry, you can correct the information, which I did. Oh, and birth dates - unless you have a birth certificate, these are going to be suspect on census records. When searching for someone on a census record using Ancestry, always do +/- 2 or more years.
  • Google - ya gotta love Google, especially the digitized books. When I run into bumps in my search, I'll often do a simple search . . . Nathan Swett, son of John Swett . . . and see what happens. Since Google digitized books, I've actually been able to find books related to the Swett side of my family.
  • Relative Not Found - okay, this is a biggie, but . . . a lot of times, when people are compiling their family trees, they don't give a flippity-floppity about brothers/sisters of their ancestors. They're only concerned with their direct ancestors, not the ones branching off. Case in point: in one genealogical book, John Swett and Bethia Page have five children listed, Nathan was not one of them, and then there was the line and probably others . . . which meant, they probably had more children, they just weren't mentioned in this book. To that end, I did find a birth record for Nathan Swett listing his parents as John Swett and Bethia! Woo-hoo! So, just because you at first don't find your relative listed, don't give up and think you've hit a dead end. Keep. Searching.
And, that's it for this initial post. I'll be posting a lot more as I continue this research, and I'll also be putting out information on my family line, as well as pictures, copies of death certificates, and other such stuff.

This is an amazing journey I've started. I love the mysteries that surface . . . my great-grandfather on my paternal side seems to have appeared out of thin air. Seriously. More on that later . . . Ha! I hope you follow along with me as I take this journey.



  1. Compiling a comprehensive family tree has been a goal of mine for ages. With such a large family (I have over 50 first cousins), it's a huge undertaking. Good luck with the new blog!

    PS. You're NOT a blog slacker.

  2. Charlie - thanks for dropping by. I'm one of 36 grandchildren and my mother was one of 100. Can you say . . . Catholic? Ha! My grandmother was one of 15 kids. Geesh.