The best part of last night’s Who Do You Think You Are? When Reba McEntire told herself not to get angry until she gathered more facts about her 7th-great-grandfather, the one who sent his child to the New World as an indentured servant. It may not have been the immigrant-ancestor story Reba had originally imagined she’d uncover, but her journey to this discovery was amazing nonetheless. Ancestry.com is a sponsor of the show, which airs Fridays at 8/7c on NBC. You can watch Reba’s episode online at NBC.com.
It’s easy to make a quick assumption if you’re just looking at one record. However, when you seek out details from a variety of sources, you can gain a better understanding of your ancestors’ circumstances.
In my own research, my great-aunt introduced me to my 3rd-great-grandfather Thomas Tobin via a letter that mentioned his violent death during the Civil War. A Civil War hero in our family? Not quite. A newspaper article about Thomas’s death indicated that “in a state of intoxication, [Thomas] fell down on a brick pile … and received a concussion on his head that resulted in his death.”
So don’t stop at one record—always look for more. It may turn out that the story you initially uncover happened exactly as told. But sometimes, when you dig a little deeper, you’ll get an even better picture of what really happened. And why your own ancestor did what he did.
About Juliana Smith
Juliana Szucs Smith has been working for Ancestry.com for more than 16 years. She began her family history journey trolling through microfilms with her mother at the age of 11. She has written many articles for online and print genealogical publications and wrote the "Computers and Technology" chapter of The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Juliana holds a certificate from Boston University's Online Genealogical Research Program, and is currently on the clock working towards certification from the Board for Certification of Genealogists.