Archive for 'Research'

Successfully Logging Genealogy Research

Researching your genealogy can be a rewarding experience. Truly digging into your family’s background can help you feel more connected to your own roots, your existing relatives, and history itself. Finding out what your ancestors did makes you own life feel like part of an extended narrative that ends with your own family and will surge onward into the future. Extensive modern record keeping and the advent of the Internet has made it easier than ever before for almost anyone to do genealogy research themselves or as part of a team. People doing genealogy research in the future may well have databases of information right at their hands for easy research.

An Antebellum era (pre-civil war) family Bible...

An Antebellum era (pre-civil war) family Bible dating to 1859. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Unfortunately, genealogy research can be a complicated project. It is common for people to have to consult multiple sources, particularly when working with potentially less trustworthy historical records. Researchers can also feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information that they need to find in order to complete their searches to a satisfactory extent. Genealogy research should be treated like any other substantial research project: researchers should keep detailed records of what they find, what they want to find, and update them with the addition of each new piece of data. The value of record keeping should never be underestimated by anyone embarking on such an endeavor as detailed genealogy research.

Research logs should have a number of important pieces of information. They should include bibliographies of sources as a start, but they should also help researchers organize their information adequately. Researchers can list what has been found and what needs to be found, and they can try to sort out new and better strategies for their in-depth searches for documents. They should organize specific records of specific ancestors, goals for particular places of research and points in research, and which facts correspond to which documents. Making hard copies or scanned copies of particular documents and filing them according to which questions they answer or which ancestors they correspond to can also work wonders in avoiding losing genealogy research.

Research - IMG_1367

After viewing sources in libraries or similar institutions, it is a good idea to record the item’s document number. Researchers should also describe the results of the search in depth, as well as just how much of the item and items like it were perused for information – researchers should mention whether or not they thoroughly read the documents in case they need to revisit them later. Even recording information that was unhelpful to your search can still be valuable, if only as a means of avoiding searching along the same pathway again. Even missing one document during the search can make for a very difficult process later, for any diligent researcher. We are able to do genealogy research because our ancestors kept relatively good records, from census records to personal ones, and we can see them today. Applying the same principles to your own research can hopefully yield satisfactory results in the same vein.

The Role of the Census in Your Genealogy Research

One very important tool in your genealogical research is the census; however, they can also be problematic. When researching your lineage it is important to establish when and where a specific relative lived, which is one way the census is helpful. Yet, you have to understand that these records were compiled by other human beings and are not always error free.

Front page of the 2011 census form.

Front page of the 2011 census form. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pros:

United Kingdom census results, particularly those dated 1841 and later are very valuable tools in that they were the first to list all members of a household. Previous census would only list the name of the head of the household, ignoring children, spouses and other relatives that might live under the same roof.

Census data is often considered the foundation of genealogical research and depending upon the era in which it was taken can contain a great deal of information. Let’s say you have traced the movements of a particular ancestor and you are pretty sure where they lived, but you cannot find property records to support your conclusions. A census of the area could tell you where they lived  and even where they were born (if this is missing from your research).

Cons:

Many census data was often copied several times for different organizations, which increases the margin of potential error. At the end of the day, a fallible human being was the enumerator and there are bound to be a few mistakes.

What You Should Know

When it comes to researching census data you will want to become familiar with the manner in which they were taken and the meaning behind certain abbreviations. For example, in the 1841 UK census professions would be abbreviated, some examples include:

  • Ag Lab- agricultural laborer
  • FS- Female servant
  • Sh- shopman
  • M- Manufacturer
  • m- maker (boots etc…)

Conclusion

A census can be very important to your research, filling in the blanks and even helping you locate a particular ancestor who seems to have fallen off the map. That being said you have to be aware of their limitations and propensity for mistakes or errors. Utilizing census data is not difficult but may require a little reading between the lines, so to speak. As of 2012 the UK census data is complete and searchable from 1841-1911.