1. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    How to start historical research...

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Link the Writer, Oct 15, 2016.

    Let's say, hypothetically, someone says they're researching their family history and they subtlety asked you for help in doing so. My question is this: How do you start with the historical research? How do you pinpoint exactly what they're talking about? How do you -- well -- even start? I would like to know because someone close to me has stated that they're researching their family history and I want to help them.

    Please, how can I do this?
     
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  2. MusingWordsmith
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    MusingWordsmith Member

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    There's a website called Ancestry.com. I think there's a free trial, but then you have to pay. My uncle did it a while ago and he found some really interesting people in his background!
     
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  3. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I know someone who might help me with that...

    What do you do if the name itself is very, um, scarce in the historical documents? Or is very general? Secondly, let's assume there's not a whole lot of people living who remember these people. What do you do?
     
  4. Acanthophis
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    Acanthophis ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) Contributor

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    I have no idea, but I'd love to figure this out as well.

    As a side note, my grandmother (fathers side) lineage can be traced back to 1066!
     
  5. bonijean2
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    bonijean2 Senior Member Supporter

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    The USGenWeb Project is a free internet site and might be a good start. Once you begin researching often times you can benefit from other family members research too who are accessing the same site. I was fortunate because on both sides of my family there was a lot of research that had already been done. I also discovered there was a book that had been published in the 1950's titled The Genealogy of Oliver Littlejohn and it contained information and pictures on my mothers side of the family back to the 1100's in England and Scotland.
     
  6. Iain Aschendale
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    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

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    I know my grandmother did a bunch of research into our family tree, and she told me that the Church of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons) keep very extensive genealogical records on pretty much anyone they can find. I don't share their beliefs, but it's an article of their faith that people can be posthumously baptized into their church, so they do the research so that anyone who joins the religion can easily find the necessary information about their family tree in order to induct ancestors in. I don't know the exact conditions under which they'll share information, but I'm fairly certain you don't have to become a member or anything (Grandma wouldn't have stood for that).
     
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes. I was doing a bit of research on my family who are not connected to Mormons in any way, and they appeared on the website.

    Mind you, I did know more or less what I was searching for.

    @Link the Writer - get your friend to dig up and collate ALL the information they already have. Names, birth dates and places, relationships. As much as they can come up with. Then start looking for patterns. If the family name is unusual, or if they have any notion of where the family might have come from, that is helpful. A friend of mine, whose ancestral name is of Irish origin and common in Scotland as well, remembered a family rumour that they were somehow connected to the Isle of Man. That made zeroing in on that particular family much easier than if they'd just been searching all the records from Ireland and Scotland. This kind of thing. Does your friend have any family stories or rumours that could be investigated? Any rumored connection to famous people?

    I know my family story was that we were somehow related to the Victorian children's author and illustrator Kate Greenaway. Nobody seemed to know how this had come to be, but when I got hold of a biography of hers ...booom. There it all was. I was able to go both forwards and backwards with the link and find many connections, including THIRD cousins from a branch of the family I didn't even know existed. And nail a few genetic traits that some of our 'tribe' possess as well.

    It's also useful to be aware that life events were handled differently a good while back. One thing that came to light during my explorations was that families whose children died, either shortly after birth or even later on, often named their NEXT child after the one who had died. That seems odd to us today, but it was their way of 'remembering' the one who died. Of course that plays merry hell with things like birth and death records, if you assume that everybody within a family's generation has a unique name. You assume the records are mistaken when you discover that an ancestor died before they were born. Not so. If a record seems wrong, don't dismiss it. Keep in mind that it might NOT be a mistake, but something odd instead.

    For example, the author Laura Ingalls Wilder's family was unusual in that her parents's siblings all married each other. I can't remember exactly what the ratio was, but I think Charles Ingalls's two sisters married his wife Caroline's two brothers, or something like that. There were three intermarriages, that I do remember. It would have made your brain spin, but back in the days when families lived near to one another, in isolation from large groups of other people, I imagine this kind of thing is a lot more common than it is now.

    There are zillions of sources out there to help you. I'd start with online ones and work from there.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2016

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