The patient researcher

I haven’t posted for quite awhile, but it’s not because I haven’t been researching.  I have been working on my husband’s family and this research has made me meditate on the value of patience to the genealogist.

Sometimes, on public trees, we find that the researcher has mistakenly latched on to a presumed ancestor simply because they have the right name.  However it’s often the case that two men with the same name are approximately the same age, live in the same town, and are both married to women named Ethel! Hard to separate the right ancestor from the wrong one.

Then there’s the case where someone is baptized as John Frederick, but shows up in the census and other records sometimes as John, sometimes as Fred, and sometimes as Fred J.  It takes careful research to confirm they are one and the same.

What’s the magic ingredient to finding the right ancestor?  PATIENCE, PATIENCE, PATIENCE!

The patience to research the siblings of the “same-named” people in order to differentiate by finding records that show parentage.

The patience to not rely on indexed records, knowing that indexed mistakes are made, and the original document may say something completely different.  I’ve found many an ancestor simply because I was willing to browse image by image through digitized records, be they a census, a church record, a death registration.

The patience to browse digitized city directories that are often very poorly indexed, especially if the the index is a result of OCR (optical character recognition) software rather than human transcription.  Scrolling through the images can confirm that the person you seek is living with a relative. It can also locate ancestors in the non-census years.   One of the unusual things about many old city directories is that they would continue to list names such as:

“Smith, Mary (widow of Simon)  123 Main St.”  FOR 10 YEARS AFTER THE HUSBAND DIED!

Strange, but does help confirm whether or not we have the right person.

The patience to spend hours searching through digitized newspapers.  What a treasure trove!  Obituaries are of course wonderful items to find, and if a search doesn’t bring  up the name, then, of course, we patiently scroll through the digital pages where we expect the notice to be.  The “social” notices seem so dated and comical to us, but what a thrill when you find that Mrs. Green’s niece, Margaret Black, is visiting from Chicago, and that leads you to discover what happened to a missing family member!

As tempting, and easy, as it is to research from the comfort of your home, we know that not all the records we seek are digitized and online.  Visits to archives and libraries can yield reams of important records. Sometimes the final “proof” we need to establish a relationship can only be found in a document that we  order from a government source, library, archive or genealogical society, and wait, patiently, for its delivery by old-fashioned snail mail.

Patience is not  rewarded 100% of the time.  We will always have unknowns and brick walls.  But oh, the happy dance we do when it pays off!