Deeper Roots Genealogy

~ Discovering Your Family's Past To Shape Your Future ~

when to leave the dead alone

Everyone has dead-ends in their family tree.  Since starting my genealogy, those dead ends are much, much farther back in time than they used to be. But is there a time you should just leave the dead alone?  If so, how do you know when you are there?

Old graveyard in Elazig, Turkey; Foto: Michael Lucan, Lizenz: CC-BY 3.0

Old graveyard in Elazig, Turkey; Foto: Michael Lucan, Lizenz: CC-BY 3.0

The correct answer is it depends.  (When you have complex issues, it’s always ‘it depends’!) Why are you considering stopping your search?  I can think of a handful of reasons:

  1. you don’t know where to search next
  2. you think you have looked everywhere
  3. you think the records are lost
  4. the records are in a foreign country and you don’t know the language, history or culture
  5. you can’t find any more information on the internet
  6. you need to eat and  sleep

I consider only the last to be a good reason.  🙂  The others are merely reason for pause.  And during that pause, in addition to eating and sleeping, there is really only one thing you need to do: acquire more knowledge!

1. Make a list of all the places you’ve searched. Now start researching the time and place your ancestor (may have) lived.  What records would have been made at the time during a normal life? Were they a member of a specific faith that would have unique records? Did they acquire land or serve in a war?  What other life events may have occurred to create a paper trail? Does the community they lived in have a local historical and/or genealogical society that might be able to help you identify these additional records? Perhaps there was a natural disaster or tragedy that generated some sort of court records or newspaper documentation.

2. See #1.

3. Sometimes we think the records are lost, when we are really looking in the wrong place. Are you looking in the right county? Were they merged with another county’s records? Were records from several places housed in another, and then never separated when the collection was moved to a new storage facility? Is the record in an off-site warehouse?

4. So you have some thinking to do. Do you want to learn another language and learn about the political and social history of that country? If not, consider hiring a professional or a local researcher to get copies of documentation for you.  There may be a local historical or genealogical society there who may be able to help.  You can also search at the Association of Professional Genealogists (yes, I’m a member) for someone who can help you.

5.That’s right, folks, not all the records extant are on the internet, though more of them are digitized every day.  So if the internet has failed you, it’s time to do some real work. Find a local repository – and you can even use the internet to do that and get their (gasp!) phone number.  Give them a call and talk to someone. Order copies of records, or hire a local researcher to search and get copies for you. Or, if you have time or a lot of ancestors from one area, maybe even plan your own research trip!

6.  Eat, sleep, and get back to it!

Last but not least, if you feel antsy about finding one of your ancestors in particular, maybe they are ready to be found.  Take the hint and start acquiring the additional knowledge you need to find them!

This post is in response to a question posted on my Facebook page – Deeper Roots Genealogy.

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One comment on “when to leave the dead alone

  1. thegenealogygirl
    25 February 14

    I agree with you. Dead ends, in my opinion, are just an opportunity to learn.

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This entry was posted on 25 February 14 by in Tools n Tips and tagged , .

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