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

Friday, September 7, 2018

Location Information is the Key to Finding Your Ancestors and Your Relatives

In a recent post, I mentioned the importance of location information for finding and identifying your ancestors and relatives. I would like to expand on that after receiving a comment asking for more information. The answer to the question is "location, location, location." The question is not so easily formulated.

This a true chicken and the egg problem. You can't find genealogically significant records without knowing where to look and you can't know where to look without finding records. Part of the problem has been solved for some countries by nation-wide census records that mention the location where the census record was obtained otherwise, you have to start with yourself and research where you were born or an event that is associated with a known place if you know. In order to accurately identify any person from a historical record, there needs to be a clear, step-by-step, physical location connection between the individuals in the ancestral line. As people move, it is imperative to document their movements to make sure you have the right people.

Too often, I see generational steps back in a pedigree where there is no supporting documentation connecting two individuals that live in different places. This always brings up the First Rule of Genealogy: When the baby was born, the mother was there.

Of course, we cannot assume that location solves all the issues, but it is the first step in making any positive connection. Individuals with the same names or dates are not at all dispositive of a relationship, but records that connect individuals by place, name, and dates, begin to build a believable relationship. Once you have a location, you can begin to solve the generational links, record by record and place by place.

For example, let's suppose you are researching a family that lived in Mississippi beginning in about 1837. Your ancestor is documented as being born in Tennessee. However, the existing entries in an online family tree show his father as being born in North Carolina. The question arises immediately concerning how the relative got from North Carolina to Tennessee to Mississippi. The dates start becoming crucial and there is also the issue of the State of Franklin. Now, if you think you have ancestors that were born or lived in Tennessee during the latter part of the 1700s, they were actually living in North Carolina or possibly the State of Franklin. Further, if you don't know when Tennessee became a state and when the State of Franklin was in existence, then your ability to determine the locations associated with events in the lives of your ancestors is extremely limited.

As you examine a record that you think pertains to your family, in every case, you should be asking how the event recorded could have occurred in the location i.e. farm, town, county, city, state, country etc. You should also consider the time period and whether or not travel was practical or even possible.

Here are two links to previous posts on the same subject.

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