Check Previous and Following Pages
When searching census records, be sure to look at previous and following pages. There may be a parent, sibling, or child who lived across the street from the ancestor you are researching. But if census taker went down one side of the street and back up the other side, someone who actually lived across the street would show up on a different page.
More Good Books
Loved the bit about the inspiring books! In writing my book about my Smith family, I’m constantly in search of good social histories of various areas where the family settled.
Some of my favorites include:
- There Stands Old Rock, by Thomas Walterman (About Civil War soldiers from Rock County, Wisconsin; we had two in our family.)Â
- Burdett Prairie Trails, ed. Jean Clark, Marie Dillenbeck, and Merle Thacker. Burdett History Book Committee (A history of Burdett, Alberta, Canada)
- Landmarks of Tompkins County, by John Selkreg (Tompkins County, N.Y.)
You can’t write about what you don’t know. I read these books to help me learn more about the places and their characteristics. Then I visit the location, and read the book again with a fresh eye. Once I’ve made the trip I can see the descriptions perfectly based on my own experiences.
Message Board Post Leads to Breakthrough
For many years I have been trying to research my ancestors in Belgium with little success, as there were not any sites that had the information I required. Unfortunately I do not speak the language and travelling to the country would not be easy even though I live in the United Kingdom.
A recent change in my situation led to me having some free time whilst recuperating, and I thought I would use the time to have another go at my family tree. I did the usual trawl on Ancestry.co.uk and the Web to no avail. I then thought I would look at the message boards. I was a little disheartened by the fact that a number of the messages were up to six years old and had not had any replies. Undeterred by this, I decided that I would post a message on the Belgium message board for direction in helping me trace any information on Jacobus Ferdindandus Pepinus Kolsteren who was born in Antwerp.
Three days after posting a message on the board, I received reply to my message on the board. I was disappointed to hear that all the records I required were held in the Archives in Antwerp, Belgium. However, the good news was that if I sent further details to the person who replied they would check at the record office for me, as they regularly went there.
I was a little concerned as to whether this may cost me. To my amazement, within six days of the initial response they had found multiple members of my family on several lines spanning nearly 100 years. When I asked if I owed her anything, she said there was no charge, as she was going there anyway! She had even found links to a Family of Dutch painters who lived between the late 1700s and early 1800s.
The success of posting on the message board has spurred me on. I have now started to contact other people on the Web who have the Kolsteren surname as it is not a very common name and appears to be concentrated in two main areas of both Belgium and Holland. I have since found someone else, whose family may well be connected but I am waiting for more details at the moment.
As I am sure you are aware, it can be hard work to research your ancestors, but it can bring joy when you find another connection, whether by a methodical process or just pure good luck! I hope that this will spur on some of your readers to find that elusive ancestor through message boards.
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