- Select a fairly unusual surname
- Compile a list of spelling alternatives
- Determine if there is already an ongoing study for this name
Mail Lists have been created for some surname studies. I have subscribed to the Dudgeon Surname List for years. Be sure to check the Surname Resources at Rootsweb to see if there is a list for your family name, subscribe and read through the list archives.
- Begin gathering everything you can find, online & off, that mentions the family name or any of its variations
Today, I would recommend starting the "harvest" with online sources first, using such tools as Google, Mocavo, Google Books, Ancestry.com, Family Search, World Vital Records, American Ancestors and other online heavy hitters. Then, when you've exhausted those sources, you will better know what books, manuscripts, periodicals, microfilm, and special collections that you will need to consult. This is where those research checklists come in handy...
- As names, dates & places start to match up, begin compiling family groups
Whether you use a paper organization system, or a software program, devise a process and stick with it. I would suggest using your favorite genealogical software program to input names, dates, facts & sources. There's no law that says those individuals that you enter into a family tree program have to connect until you figure out how they fit together. And, using this method will make it much easier to locate individuals by name, date or relationship and will nudge you to state your sources.
- Consider starting a website or mail list with your findings thereby soliciting input from others researching the same name
If you're uncomfortable with the responsibility and/or cost of sponsoring a website, considering starting a Mail List like those mentioned herein. By all means, register your efforts with the Guild and advertise in genealogical magazines, periodicals, websites. Consider starting your own free blog.
In some cases, those that have conducted one-name surname studies have determined that all roads lead back to one progenitor or family. Sometimes the roads simply lead into the mist... In either case, you will no doubt learn new things about your branch of the family and make contact with new cousins.
Next time we'll talk about a specific one-name study with connections to Southwest Michigan.
Nameless Picture of the Day
Photographer - Packard, Kalamazoo
Can you identify the young couple in this cabinet card? Do you have knowledge of the photographer? Please contact us if you any information and we will publish it in a future blog. Please include the photo's catalog number with your e-mail.