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Genealogy Search Tips to Discover your Ancestors with Location, Name, Date and Relationship Challenges

When it comes to starting your family history, most questions involve finding names, dates, locations, and/or relationships. Creating a chart for each person like the one below shows what documents you have to verify the life important facts and relationships for that individual. This is a good way of identifying where your holes are and where you should spend your time doing research. Along the way, it is important to fill in other family history information with photos, personal interviews, etc.

Search for Genealogy Records to Help Uncover Location Challenges

Finding a person in a particular place can be a challenge due to county formation and changes, as well as knowing where our ancestors were at a given time due to them moving. To try and resolve these issues, look at county formation maps for the time period and see when the county was formed or changed. For tracing your ancestors due to them moving, use books that have the major and minor migration trails. Many gazetteers will describe the land, where people were traveling from, and reasons why some people moved at specific times due to issues such as disease, religion, and land problems, all of which can give insight to your history. Note the counties they would have to go through so you can trace their movements and research those counties too.

Search your ancestry by finding land grants or deeds for the individual. If you can’t find your ancestor, try the same method for another relative or someone they were traveling with. Often a person got married or had a child, so look for possible records that help solve your family history question by expanding your search with other kin. Follow and trace their footsteps to help unlock information about the ancestor you are searching. Documents that may help are: tax, voter registration, directories, wills, probate, military, land patent, plat maps, and deeds.

Issues with Names and Finding your Ancestor

Finding a person can be an issue due to the way the name was spelled either on purpose or by accident. Because the US census takers often did not confirm the spellings of names, the soundex calculator was created to index names in the 1880, 1900, 1910 and 1920 US Census. The soundex calculator can also aid genealogists by identifying spelling variations for a given surname.


How to Figure out Important Dates to fill in your Family History

Trying to figure out when someone was born, married, or died is a challenge for anyone that is researching an ancestor that we do not have first or second hand knowledge of. When you don’t have a clue as to when a relative was born, married or died, it is a good idea to use estimates to begin your search. Using estimated dates of 5380 people from a personal family tree spanning from 1740 to 2000, the average age at marriage for males is 24 and 20 for females. If you are looking to use more scientific data, the chart below has been provided to help analyze important dates to solve ancestry search questions.

Search Ancestry Documents to Find Family History Information

You may find answers to fill in dates issues by locating these ancestry documents: religious archives, marriage license, obituaries, tombstones, military evidence, social security, birth, and death certificates.

1According to Colin R Chapman author of Marriage Laws, Rites, Records & Customs, “the legal age for girls was 12 and boys was 14”. “In medieval times marriage was arranged to protect family assets”.
2Life expectancy for 1700’s
3Life expectancy information, USC
4Life expectancy information
5The average marriage age for males / females We used the year 1950 as the average age for the 1900’s. For 2000’s the chart went up to 2003. Since we see the average age going up the number is conservative.

Ancestors and Relationships

The most common relationships are trying to link a child to their parents and link spouses. Figuring out an ancestor’s relationship can sometimes be a challenge when no direct evidence can be found linking them to the family by blood or marriage.

Most people start with trying to find a child with their parents listed in census records to help establish a child / parent relationship. Even if you do find them in a census, are they the child to both the mother and father? This should be verified with a birth or death certificate. What if they don’t exist for the person?

Look for clues to try to connect a child to a parent by their name and use abbreviations, nicknames and alternate names based on how it sounds. Look for biographies, church records, military pension applications, birth and death certificates, obituaries, immigration records, passenger lists, naturalizations, and cemeteries (families often bought plots in the same cemetery).

When you can’t find a marriage license, probate, or will, you may find clues to an ancestors spouse by monitoring what families traveled and moved together, or found moving into the same area by analyzing census records. Look at the people found on the pages before and after the pages that you find your ancestor on to help with your ancestry search. Other records that may give clues: land records, church records, and obituaries.