Here’s a tip: use the Member Connect tab on a census record to see who’s researching your ancestor’s neighbors. They may hold more clues about your ancestor than you realize.
See, for most of the last five-ish years, I’ve been frustrated by how easy it is for some of my coworkers to grow their family trees — every new record collection turns into a new branch.
My family tree, however, remains a malnourished twig.
A year or so ago, I’d had enough. “Listen,” I shrieked. “I’m sick of hearing about your finds. My family didn’t own land, didn’t homestead. They weren’t politicians or well-reported criminals. From what I can tell, they only made it into the newspaper when someone died — and that’s if they remembered to put away some cash for an obituary. So when you can tell me how to find my regular-Joe, working-class ancestors, THEN I’ll be ready to listen.”
As usual, they ignored me. But somewhere in my rant, I remembered I had a magazine’s editorial calendar at my disposal. And if I really wanted to find my blue-collar past, I could get experts to write articles that would tell me how.
Those articles, including tips and how-tos, appear in the January/February 2010 issue of Ancestry magazine. And in that issue, which is on newsstands now, you’ll find one of my favorite tips: using Member Connect to see if the neighbors’ descendants know where their ancestors worked. Because when I’m looking at my great-grandfather’s census record and it says he’s a miner but I don’t know which mine he worked for, I might find family historians researching other miners in the neighborhood. Odds are good that those miners worked where my great-grandfather did. And maybe their family history-savvy descendants will know which mine that was.
There’s plenty more in the issue, too. From researching women workers and locating labor archives to details about new tools and record collections at Ancestry.com that will make your research easier than ever, our January/February issue is packed full. Hopefully the ideas inside will help you as much as they are helping me have a super productive new year. Let me know if they do.
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