Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Monday, July 25, 2011

You can observe a lot by just watching

The title is a quote from Yogi Berra and is eminently applicable to genealogy.  

Yogi Berra., Xplore Inc, 2011., accessed July 25, 2011. 

The most successful researchers know how to look hard at all of their sources and pull all of the information possible from every source. Most of the time, even a simple source will suggest a lot more than you might think on a first impression. For example, here is a World War I Draft Registration Form filed out by my Grandfather Harold Morgan:

 There are many more suggested sources in this one document if you take the time to observe. Here is a possible list of additional places to look for information about Harold Morgan:
  • Birth record for 1892 in Nephi, Juab, Utah
  • Employment record in Apache County, Arizona
  • School Records in Apache County, Arizona
  • Marriage record possibly in Apache County, Arizona
  • Birth record for child 2 years old
  • Tax records for 1917 in Arizona
  • Land records in Apache County for years around 1917

And this is just a start. I am sure you can add more. You cannot be content with just finding a record and letting it drop. Every record, from newspaper accounts to death records, suggests further places to research. Do not assume that the search would be unproductive. Every search is productive even if the results are negative. But if the results are negative, you always need to ask the question as to why the individual or family did not appear in the record. The answer may be as simple as a misspelled name or as complicated as an unrecorded death. For example, failing to find an individual in a particular census year's records may suggest a lot of different things, including that the family moved out of the jurisdiction. This issue becomes especially interesting when you find the family in both the preceding and succeeding censuses. Finding the individual with a badly misspelled name can lead you look for more spellings that may uncover additional records. 

Even finding a name listed in an index of death records opens a whole world of possibilities. I have found as I help people look, that they usually run out of patience long before they run out of sources and places to look. The successful researcher not only look hard at their sources, but keep looking even after failure after failure to find any mention of the target family or individual. Keep Observing. 

By the way, a World War I Draft Registration Form was the key to finding more than four generations of a Spanish speaking family in California.

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