Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Research Tip : Use of Checklists to Enhance Family History Research (Part 1)

If you pursue a family line very long you inevitably do two things.  First, you accumulate so much paper that organization becomes a must (a topic for another blog), and second, you run up against the proverbial "brick wall."  Brick walls are different for everyone - it can be that a certain piece of information eludes your discovery, or more commonly it means that you are unable to carry further your ancestral line backward in time.

First of all, I'm not a believer in "I've looked everywhere."  There is always somewhere else to look for information.  Granted, there are cases where the information we seek doesn't exist, but do you want to sell your research short by not being thorough?

One of the best ways to insure that you've looked under most rocks is to create research checklists.  These can be of four types: 

  1. General Sources Checklist
  2. Internet Checklist
  3. Locality or Topic Specific Resources
  4. Ethnic Sources
 The General Sources Checklist will be the biggest category and where you will spend the most time.  Back in 1995, I decided to create my own checklist of sources that would cover every conceivable form of information.  It ended up being 20 pages and was a short-run publication entitled SourceCheck : a resource checklist for United States genealogy research.  The broad categories included in the book were:
  • Home & Personal sources
  • Court & Governmental Records
  • Vital Records
  • Cemeteries
  • Census
  • Military
  • Maps
  • Land Records
  • Tax & Assessment Records
  • Directories
  • Family & Local Histories
  • Immigration & Emigration
  • State & Local Facilities
  • Periodicals
  • Computer (this one is a little prehistoric)
  • Family History Center
  • Church Records
  • Fraternal Orders & Secret Societies
  • Biographies
  • Newspapers
  • Patriotic & Lineage Societies
  • Educational Records
  • Genealogical & Historical Societies
  • Medical Facilities
  • Records Pertaining to Youths
  • Railroad Records
  • Photographs
  • Employment & Business Records
  • Miscellaneous
 These were just broad categories and were broken down even further.  For example, under Immigration & Emigration are the following subcategories:

  • Naturalizations (with sub-categories of Declaration of Intent, Petition, Depositions, Record of Naturalization a.k.a. Oath)
  • Passenger Lists 
  • Oaths of Allegiance
  • Alien Registration
  • Immigrant Aid Societies
  • Newspaper at Port of Entry & Departure
  • Customs Records
  • Merchant Records
  • Permit to Emigrate
  • Passport
  • Emigration Registers
  • Indentures
  • Ships Logs & Manifests
  • Ships Accounts
As you can see, these are not the types of things that you can expect to memorize or think of off the top of your head.  In order to be methodical in our attempt to cover all bases, checklists are crucial. 

SourceCheck was my attempt at a listing of general resources to spur me toward undiscovered information.  The ideas for the sources came from articles & books that I had read including The Source, conferences & lectures that I had attended, and from my experience to that point.  To my knowledge, there is no other published "checklist" of resources that is more than of a broad level.  Perhaps we can inspire the creation of such a resource, and even make it into a software program.   Wouldn't it be nice to be able to click on a category like "death" and have a list of sources pop up that can lead to death information? 

More about checklists in the next installment...

Nameless Picture of the Day

Group of students, a Pine Grove Township [Van Buren County] 
rural school, around 1926
Only child identified - Max Earl Green, middle row, third from left
[photo provided by Jessica Green of Gilbert, Arizona]
Can you identify the children in this photo?  Do you know which school this is in Pine Grove Township?   Please contact us if you have any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the five character catalog number with your e-mail.