We get the most interesting questions from our members at firstname.lastname@example.org, and please keep those questions coming! While we can’t get to all of them, we have found some really challenging and interesting questions to share this year. Here were your favorites:
This was the most popular column this year, and I suspect it is because we all have ancestors who don’t want to be found.
The searches for this article centered on the census records and our readers came up with a lot of good suggestions to help finding those elusive ancestors:
- Look for your ancestors using their initials.
- Think of possible misspellings, like Hull instead of Null and see if that pulls up anyone interesting.
- Try transposing the names; search for Smith John, instead of John Smith.
- Search for neighbors in other census record to see if you can find them, then look on those pages for your ancestor.
The title alone made this one popular! And the question was a good one – why was this woman listed as a concubine, and how do you sort that out. My favorite comment on that post was from Roxie Moreland:
I had a relative that showed up on a census with an occupation of “harlot” It was during the Civil War and she was a widow. Not the most desirable occupation but you have to do what you have to do to keep body and soul together.
Roxie, you have a very practical approach to the past. We have to report the facts that we find and not whitewash our history. And these types of ancestors are somehow just a lot more interesting than all those farmers, aren’t they?
Identifying your ancestress’ maiden name can be tricky. In May, I walked through an example with some suggestions on where to start. Member Linda Bartlett came up with an excellent suggestion: Read through local and county histories for clues about the people, family histories and migration patterns that may lead you down the right track. She also gave us these words of advice:
SOLUTION: noodle, noodle, noodle with curiosity & patience. And enjoy the finds!
Couldn’t agree more! Sometimes walking away from a problem and thinking about it will help you come up with a new idea or approach.
We started with a wonderful newspaper clipping and a family story that our member was a descendant of one of the signers of the declaration of independence. And although we didn’t completely solve the puzzle we did move it a few steps closer to an answer, making the family legend seem likely.
We also discovered that it is possible for sisters to be sister-in-laws; they just have to marry brothers. This happens more than you might think.
Some ancestors don’t seem to leave much of a paper trail. I recommend starting with:
- Make a timeline, so you can easily identify what you know, and when and where you know they were.
- Create a research plan for each location, and make sure you investigate records other than census and vitals. Clues are everywhere.
I hope you all have smashed a brick wall or two and uncovered a great story about the past along the way. And hopefully 2014 will be even better!
About Anne Gillespie Mitchell
Anne Gillespie Mitchell is a Senior Product Manager at Ancestry.com. She is an active blogger on Ancestry.com and writes the Ancestry Anne column. She has been chasing her ancestors through Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina for many years. Anne 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. You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook and Finding Forgotten Stories.