Genealogy by Checklist (Part II)
Drawing the Timeline
Ok, you are chomping at the bit to jump on that internet, that website or do a Googeling. Whoa! There is one more step which is going to help you know where to look for data. A method that helps expose the omissions in the story of your ancestor, and that is the admin step of making a timeline. You have collected some information from your mother or other relatives. Maybe you know the birthdate, maybe not. Maybe you know approximately when they lived in Bummersville and or maybe you know where they were buried. Perhaps all you have is when one of their children were born, or where they were married.
Begin at the birth year or an approximate year and in a column draw out each point in a timeline of the history of your subject. Aunt Tilly was born sometime around 1900 to 1910. This is followed by, I know she married that brute, Thomas and most marriages are around the 20th birthday, so let’s put 1920 to 1930 married Thomas. Ok, now you know they used to live up there in Up a Bear Creek without a Paddle in the State of Confusion (that was the first state before the 13 colonies), and your aunt Mable said they lived there for most of their lives. So after the marriage, note the location. Finally, your father, who passed away last year, prompting you to get interested in family history in the first place, got a postcard in 1942 from Aunt Tilly that Thomas died and that it wasn’t a great loss.
Ok, now let’s see what the above data looks like in a time line:
Aunt Tilly (Smith) Bruiser
1900 – 1910 in same place as Dad was born, and that was in Paddle County, State of Confusion.
1920 – 1930 Tilly married Thomas Bruiser.. Location ?
1942 Thomas Bruiser died (most likely in Bear Creek, Paddle Co., Confusion)
Now, actually this is a lot of information to start out with and you are quite fortunate that Tilly was born after 1850, because that is when they started to list the first names of the siblings in the Federal census. Before 1850 all you got were 2 females between 10-20 years of age, or some such vague notation. I have a membership with Ancestry.com which makes it extremely easy to type in what data I have and watch the key census files arrive. There are other free sites which will also explore census information, like familysearch.org. You don’t have to even use “Tilly Smith” i.e. her maiden name, (your father’s sister) to find her earliest census, as you know your father’s name and birth. But, then again, if dad’s first name is “John”, Tilly is enough of an odd name to be used on a census. Now, having said that, “Tilly” sounds like a nick name and it may be necessary to use her given first name which sometimes surprises you to discover aunt Tilly first name was really; “Mary”. These are just some of the twists and turns one can be confronted with in finding an ancestor with search engine moronics as your guide. Keep in mind, you have to get as close as possible to the spelling that was placed on the database, it may not even be the correct spelling, and then sometimes the transcriber can’t read the name well and spells it so far off of what it really was, that locating the family is merely by luck. I recently found John Edward Miller as “J.E. Miller, Jonnie Miller and an instance where the transcriber though it was Milner, or was that a typo? Either way, you take your searches and you take your chances.
But, sooner or later you will find that first census record, or your lucky enough to find the county she lived in has a pretty decent website and you get a marriage or cemetery index etc. and you start filling in that timeline with good accurate dates, locations and other information. One thing leads to another. You find her husband’s last name was Winston, or something and using his name has brought up more census from 1900 to 1930. Boy, your cooking now. You got where they lived, that they had two children, Bow and Peep, and you also noticed how badly Aunt Tilly’s name was mis-duplicated, and you realize it is a wonder you ever found her at all.
You copy or write down the information. You switch back and forth on the names that appear on the census to see if Uncle Thomas Winston father is listed on an earlier census, or you got some greater accurate dates from a cemetery index which will be better to use in a search engine. Then bing! A group sheet shows up in Ancestry.com or Rootsweb etc., and you found an earlier researcher with even photographs. Life is good and your family tree grows.
Some people just write down in a note book what they found, where they found it and when they found it. Some even consider this log proof enough of sources without having to have a copy of the data. However, data does not always stay in place, databases disappear or are purchased or are deleted, and when you go back to the same web address which listed your Uncle Thomas’s birth date, you discover that it is gone, and with it your only link to it. Assuredly, a professional researcher would go to the horse’s mouth, or what is known as the source document, which is usually a copy from a courthouse or other government facility. However, if someone has gone to all the trouble to put such information and index it, and then put it into a database, one can at least copy the on screen info by using the “Print Screen” button, or whatever key or short cut system your browser employs in order to copy data and photos from the internet. Besides, purchasing every birth and death certificate, every SSDI form, etc. etc. can be quite costly. I usually do not go that far, unless I have no other way of acquiring additional information which is usually on the original document, but is not on the brief description of an index.
This might result in some paper and ink costs, but at least you have something to lean on, or fall back on, or at least show that otherwise pesky researcher who wants a copy that you do have some sort of a source for your claims. If he wants to pursue the source, he is most welcomed to it.
My Research log (see Figure 1-1 below) is a little different. Since I file everything in hard copy and file the log with every profile of any of my ancestors, the main thing I want is a combination cover or “summary” sheet with some method of displaying what data and where I have already looked for data in. So I have created a slightly unique form for both purposes.
Genealogy Research Log
Date: _______ Family File No: _______ Project No. ____
Name: ________ b.) ___________In:_____ d.)_________In:_______________ Buried in:____________________ SS#:_____-_____-_______ Father’s name: _____________ ID#____ Mother’s Name: _________ ID#_______ Spouses: _______________ b.)_____________In:______ d.) ____________In:_______ Buried in: ______________________ SS#_____-_____-_____ Marriage date:______________ IN: _________________ Spouse’s Father’s name: _____________________ Mother’s Name:_____________________ Spouse’s Male Line: GF> _____________G-GF>_________________ GG-GF>____________GGG-GF>___ References: __________________ Occupation:________________ Associations: __________________
Other Notes: __________________________________________________________________________
Local File Searches 1._____ Collect previous research, Pedigree Trees, files, documents, photos, data etc. 2._____ Create an Individual or family group folder for admin 3._____ Check for Souse folder or information from in-laws. 4._____ Check County __, state,__ Township records__ Primary Location: __ secondary__ 5.____ Check for Church__ , School__ and Military records__. 6._____ SSID__, Land records__, correspond with courthouses__, Press releases__. 7.____ Contact & correspond with researchers & family members as available. (Both spouses)
Internet Website Searches 1.____ Ancestry.com: Check; __ Trees, ___ census __Gene Pool Project ___ Military____ Migration Files ___ Misc. (Both spouses) 2.___ LDS Website: Check: ___ general search database (Both spouses) 3.___ Family Tree Maker (Both spouses) 4.____Rootsweb.com (Both spouses) 5.____ Government Archives (Both spouses) ___Misc. Websites 6. ___ Do a Google / search engine search of all surnames and important nouns . (Both spouses) 7.___ Check appropriate State__, and County__ & Forums__ genealogy sites (Both spouses)
Children Names Birth dates Death Dates Spouse Names Birth Death
I generally leave out the family number until I have most of my research completed. It saves a lot of changes if I discover I have found more family members. Social Security numbers are not in the final draft of the profile, but they are important if I want to order a copy of the SSDI in the future. The form is valuable as it has occupation and a list of residences an ancestor has lived since getting his number.
I broke up my checklists into two main areas, one being “Local File Searches” and “Internet Website Search”. You might notice that I did not check off every possible search. Sometimes I get enough information to write up a pretty good profile on a particular ancestor; however one could doggedly pursue every single possible source. But then there are some, like a military record or something that you know would not have any data on Aunt May Bell as her biggest fight she had ever participated in was a battle over feeding her family.
Again, one can alter or edit the below example to suit them on a word processor. It has helped me in my keeping things straight. I hope it serves others in a similar fashion.
Genealogy by Checklist (Part II)