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Part One: Seven long shots to find your ancestor

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Do you have an ancestor that is hard to find? The following seven ideas have been proven to help in the discovery of ancestors that are difficult to identify:


It makes more sense to research the children of your ancestor because it is possible the names of parents could be listed with the children on some records. Make a list of all the children of the ancestor in question. Fill out a family group record (see basic forms) which will help you identify information that you are missing.

If you notice that details about birth, marriage, or death are missing, research the appropriate records to fill in the missing information. In the process you may find parents listed.

Be sure to consult these records for each child:

  • Census
  • Church records
  • Obituaries
  • Vital records (birth, marriage and death certificates)
  • Wills and probate records


Why research neighbors?

… because our ancestors lived in communities, traveled in communities, and died in communities of people. And where you find their marriage witnesses, their children’s baptism godparents, their next door neighbors, their naturalization sponsors, their witnesses to deeds or probate, you find your ancestors.” See “How to Find Ancestral Records Using Friends, Associates, and Neighbors.”

If you research each child and still do not find the parents, go to the earliest census that you have and trace neighbors using the records listed in the section about tracing children above. Look for extended family members. It would not be uncommon to research siblings or cousins to link back to the ancestor you are trying to find.


At first newspaper research can feel like shooting in the dark. Many newspapers that existed long ago do not exist today. You need to research which historic newspapers are available for research and how to access them. Just recently, GenealogyBank released a list of 125 newspapers for Kansas genealogy. See 125 Kansas Newspapers Now Online for Your Genealogy Research.

Start searching available indexes and databases for obituaries on family members. Try searching the obituaries of people with the same surnames. Then search each newspaper published in an area for articles about family members. You may even find clues to other resources to research. Do not be surprised if the newspaper collections you need are only available on microfilm.

School archive

Enrollment records “can provide great information about your ancestors. You may find their name and the names of their parents, their address, their race/ethnicity, date of birth and possibly the name and location of previous schools attended.” See School Records as a Genealogy Resource.

Enrollment records, yearbooks, and old school district records, etc. can accessed through state archives, school district archives, university archives, or local libraries.

In the next National Genealogy Examiner article, you will learn three other places to look for a hard to find ancestor. Be sure to click here so that you do not miss it.



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