Expanding the Scope of Your Genealogical Research


One of the most common genealogical research issues I am asked to help with involves help with finding the date of one particular event in an ancestor’s or relative’s life. Most commonly, the goal is to find a birth, marriage, or death date. Commonly, this inquiry is accompanied by only a vague identification of the possible place where the event occurred. Unfortunately, this category of research can become an obsession. See "Don’t get Obsessed with One Ancestor!

Let’s look at the reasonableness of searching for a particular document of a particular event. The first and main considerations are when and where did the event supposedly occur. Both birth and death records for ordinary people are relatively recent additions to the types of records that have been created since about 1850. Quoting from Wikipedia: Civil registration, "For example, in 2009, the World Health Statistics Quarterly of WHO estimated that only about 1% of the estimated deaths in low-income groups are reported and just about 9% in lower-middle-income groups. You can only expect that going back in the past the percentages are going to go down. 

My paternal grandfather was born in 1895. Despite years of research in a variety of records, my family has never found a birth record. That is not to say, we have not found a record of his birth, but we have not found any record that was created at or near the time of his birth. The best record we have found is World War I Draft Registration record where he entered his own birthday when he filled out the card. 

There is no doubt at all that he was born, so why should we obsess with finding a non-existent birth record? Remember the Second Rule of Genealogy: Absence of an obituary or death record does not mean the person is still alive. See An Update on the Rules of Genealogy

Suppose that you have found a real property deed with your ancestor’s signature and some limited information about the ancestor or a member of the ancestor’s family. Do you doubt that he was alive when he signed the deed? It is possible that the deed was fraudulent and that he did not sign the deed but if there is enough evidence to convince me that the ancestor did sign the deed, then we can assume that the ancestor was alive and depending on the time frame, that looking for a birth record would not be productive. Do we need to worry or obsess over the lack of a birth record? However, there is an issue here. You do need to find a document that clearly shows a parent/child relationship. It is very often the case that older birth records do not list the full names of both parents. We then use deeds, wills, probate documents, and church records to establish a parent/child relationship. 

It is always a better practice to expand your research and include a variety of types of records. Just because one type of record that you believe will be helpful is missing does not mean that it is the only possible way of documenting a person’s life or their parental relationships. 

Source: Genealogy’s Star http://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/

Posted On: April 14, 2021 at 05:30PM