It’s important to understand the history of any area prior to researching your genealogy roots. Without the history, you are browsing through a huge amount of records without any light upon them. Just imagine yourselves walking into an unfamiliar room of darkness filled with unknown obstacles. You can feel the items in front of you but you don’t know exactly what they are.
Names & Dates versus Details & Stories
So many genealogy researchers forget this common mistake. They will continuously depend on clues and hints rather than facts and reality. The main question is this; Do you want names and dates or do you want to preserve your heritage by getting to know your ancestors on a more personal level? It’s a simple question that creates a great deal of mixed reactions. The most common reaction is, “I don’t have the time or the resources to investigate the local history.” Another common reaction is, “I don’t know how to research on a local level. I do all my research online.”
These two typical responses were the primary reasons why I decided to publish my “Footsteps Tracking” method. Anyone can research the details of their ancestors with the same amount of devoted time or less. All you need are the following: organizing your skills, determining your targeted location and sticking to the criteria points. If you broaden your research techniques, you will quickly find more records and your online routine will change to reveal a brand new plan of action for your research.
The above photo shows one of my old notebooks from many years ago. When I first started my personal genealogy, the data that was available online was very limited. Therefore, I began writing letters to several organizations inquiring information about the area and what records they may have on hand. I first had to find them either by phone book or word of mouth. The mailbox soon began pouring with responses on a weekly basis. Then, I began using email and I achieved even larger goals with people and relatives located across the nation. Looking back on those days, I now realize that researchers today have many more opportunities that are beneficial to them if they will only use the tools. These days, you can easily locate a historical/genealogical society online or a particular church or a individual town or city society. All of these organizations hold valuable genealogy records.
I will quickly share one of my experiences with you before I end this article. During the summer of 1999, I was researching an ancestor who simply did not want to be found. I knew he lived in Davidson County, NC just after the war but had no clue what happened to him afterwards. I was learning the history of the area and found that a smallpox epidemic was reported all throughout the state of North Carolina following the Civil War. I decided to learn more about this and concentrated my efforts on the small community of Abbotts Creek, Davidson County, NC. I learned from a local church record that my ancestor died of the disease in October of 1865.
Capture these tools and apply them to your normal online routine. You have to learn the history of an immediate area in order to fully understand the recordkeeping process, what records are available and where they can be found. The amount of records you are missing from not doing this is enormous and catastrophic to your research. Don’t limit your resources and concentrate on one area at a time. You will soon be following your ancestor’s footsteps and learning more about them.
Enjoy Your Journey !!
I hope you all research the history of your ancestor’s community and add new light to your discoveries. Wishing you all great success !! Be sure to share your findings with me !! Simply leave a comment or contact me directly.
Categories: Genealogy #OffTheGrid, North Carolina
For researching my ancestors, I still find visits to local genealogical societies and libraries in the area where my ancestor lived. I realize many cannot do this. I estimate I can find “on line” about 20-30 % of information/facts. I enjoy seeing the areas where they lived and in many cases walking on their land. I have been known to kneel beside their grave and contemplate the life they lived.
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I agree with your points completely. It’s not just a numbers game by any means. History is important and so is familiarity with the language the records are written in. Many people seek me out because I am multi-lingual and can correctly read old records in several languages. In the end, we want a greater understanding of who we are, not just a collection of dates.
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