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Trace Your Ancestors

Posted by Grace Mitchell on November 7th 2011 under Genealogy Record Searches

Trace Your AncestorsWith today’s lightning fast and ultra-common communication methods, it’s pretty safe to assume we’re all aware of those clichés and truisms of Genealogy: you will hit a brick wall, you have to keep on going, being stuck is a part of the fun, tracing ancestors can be a bitch, and so forth. But not many address what to do in case of these brick walls. How do you go on from there? As you may have already heard, the definition of insanity as coined by Albert Einstein is “trying the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results.” As Einstein poignantly pointed out, if you’ve arrived at that ever expected and ever bothersome dead end, trying what you’ve tried in the past is, quite simply, insane.

Okay - perhaps it’s not entirely insane – maybe you missed something in a record you scanned, or didn’t notice a lead that was right in front of you. Yet it’s reasonable to say that to break those brick walls and move past them, you’re going to have to try something new. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Let’s put on our detective and think: what institutions keep identifiable and personal records? If you were sneaky ancestral records, where would you hide? Well, we all know the regular ones: governments, cemeteries, and so forth. But what about hospitals? Did you think about checking there? If your relative was a patient in a hospital or died there, check their website – it might have an archive. Or maybe call them and see if they have a records database. Another idea: Alumni records from schools and universities.
  • Any other ideas come to mind? How about library cards? It’s a long shot. And it doesn’t say much in terms of cold data, but it might shed some light on what your ancestors loved to read and how they were. Stories are also a part of the pictures, not just numbers and names.
  • What’s in the DNA? Though it’s still in its early stages, DNA testing can provide answers to difficult and as of yet unanswered ancestry questions. Collecting a DNA sample is easy and painless – you simply swab the inside of your mouth to collect cheek cells and return the swabs to the service of your choice. It costs money, but the results might be well worth it!
  • Meet up! Whether online or in “real life,” two genealogists are better than one (unless that one genealogist is a super awesome one with the power to peer into the past). Yes, yes. I can hear what you’re saying – “this is what you call an uncommon method?” But from what I’ve gathered, many of us are transfixed on only one way of interacting with fellow genealogists, whether it’s just forums or just your online meetings. Try both. Expand your horizons. You will find more information.
  • These ideas are only the beginning. They are meant to get your creative juices flowing, because uncovering your heritage does require a dose of creativity and a willingness to try new things. If you have both, you might soon find yourself relishing startling discoveries and uncovering wonderful secrets about your ancestors and family heritage.

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