Friday, September 12, 2014

Which search results are about your ancestors?

Looking at search results can be daunting and exciting. It's easy to get overwhelmed. I sometimes forget who I'm even searching for! Whenever you look at a search results there are four things you can check to see if the record is about the right person.

Is the name similar to the information you have? The name doesn't have to be an exact match. Don't get hung up on spelling. Sometimes names are illegible and the index doesn't represent what the name really is. But there should be something recognizable about the name that can tell you if it really could be your ancestor.

Does the date match up with a time when your ancestor was actually alive? It's a good idea to figure out how old your ancestor would have been at the time to see if their age makes sense. They couldn't have had a child when they were three years old. Keep in mind that the birth year you have may be a little off and some records could have them listed after they died, so keep an open mind.

Is the record from a place where you think your ancestor lived? People didn't usually move without a very good reason. Some of your ancestors probably lived in the same town - maybe even the same house - all their lives. You can also use place and date to rule out records that couldn't both be right. For example, if you have Thomas Epplett in the 1871 census in England and in the 1871 census in Ireland, one of them is not the person you are looking for.

Do any of the family members on the record match the ones you know about? Are the spouse and children right? Maybe they are living with a sibling or one of their children on the census. Their neighbours on the census will probably include some family members too. Other records should have family members listed too. They might have their sibling as a witness for their marriage or maybe their daughter is the one who reported their death. Families usually stick together.

Simple, right? But easy to overlook. Don't forget to check the basics.

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