The National Institute for Genealogical Studies

LEADERS IN ONLINE GENEALOGY EDUCATION

The National Institute for Genealogical Studies - LEADERS IN ONLINE GENEALOGY EDUCATION

Timelines for the Ladies in our Tree

One of the most useful tools in our Research Toolbox is the creation of Timelines. There are various types or styles, but essentially, a Timeline is a chronological list of the life events experienced by our ancestors. Use the method that works for you, one that records the information in an organized sequence.

Major events to include are the births, marriages and deaths (BMDs) of their family members. Be sure to include the locations and dates, and most importantly, the source citations for the origins of your information. This can be as simple as stories from an oral interview with Aunt Gladys, or information extracted from a letter or diary, or transcribed entries from the Family Bible.

Historical and local events should be included in your timelines as these influenced our ancestors, impacting them both directly and indirectly, and effecting their daily lives. Exploring the Timelines of our ancestors brings their lives into focus. Events at specific times had a great impact on these families, such as wars, conflicts, natural disasters and epidemics. Seeing them as a whole, rather than as separate, isolated events, helps us to understand the situations our ancestors faced and perhaps, what led to life-changing decisions.

Timelines also reveal any gaps in our research. We can then easily identify where we need to focus our research skills next. Filling in these gaps may break down a brick wall, or provide the clue needed to direct our next research steps.

Further information on researching your female ancestors can be found in the National Institutes for Genealogical Studies course: Research: Grandmothers, Mothers & Daughters – Tracing Women 

Digging Deeper into HER Story

Social History invites you to take a peek into the everyday life of your ancestors and reveals their interactions with their friends and their families. No one lives in a vacuum. We take on many, many roles during our lifetime. It was no different for your female ancestors. They fulfilled many roles, especially as Grandmothers, Mothers and Daughters within their family units. They were also cooks, teachers, housewives, event planners and chauffeurs – and that’s only in the home! Occupations will vary depending on their residence and the time period they lived in. Some common occupations include: seamstress, servant, domestic, bookkeeper, teacher, nurse, and so many more.

They belonged to organizations, such as church guilds and charities. The potential list is endless. They participated in community life and they made contributions that may or may not be recorded. Resources may not be in the usual places. We need to think outside of the usual documents and search for clues related to their interests and local commitments within their communities. They may be behind the scenes, but don’t let their involvement be forgotten.

Create a list of possible sources to include in your Research Plan. Do you know what her interests were? Do you have an occupation for her on her marriage record or a census record? Have you searched community newspaper articles to find activities she participated in? These are just a few suggestions to get you thinking. Where will you look?

Further information on researching your female ancestors can be found in the National Institutes for Genealogical Studies course: Research: Grandmothers, Mothers & Daughters – Tracing Women

What’s in a Name?

The most challenging part of researching your female ancestors may be locating her maiden name. What was her name at birth? There are regions where your maiden name is always your legal name and it is not changed upon getting married. This is true for the province of Quebec in Canada. However, the most common practice in the past has been for women to take on their husband’s surname and pass it down to the next generation through their children. The maiden name is can be lost, especially if she moves away from the area of her birth. Even harder to track is when she becomes Mrs. John Smith, or even Mrs. J. Smith, in the records rather than using her full name.

An interesting clue can be found in the naming tradition of passing the mother’s maiden surname down to her children as a middle name, or even as a first name. If you see a surname as a given name, seek out its origin. A word of caution: Do not assume that this will always lead to a direct ancestor. The name may have been given for another reason. This is for sure – this middle surname has a story. Do your research and find the origin.

Create a list of Research Strategies. Census records may list a family member with a different surname. For example: the brother-in-law’s name is John Baker. Head of household’s wife’s maiden name MAY be Baker. Always seek documents to confirm your theory. Take note of witnesses at marriages and baptisms. These may be family members.

Further information on researching your female ancestors can be found in the National Institutes for Genealogical Studies course: Research: Grandmothers, Mothers & Daughters – Tracing Women

Researching HER Story

Our female ancestors often present many challenges in our research. They aren’t really hidden, but they can at times seem to be invisible in the documents. The Research: Grandmothers, Mothers & Daughters – Tracing Women  course offers Strategies and Guidelines to researching women’s history. Documenting the women in our tree may seem daunting, but she has left clues. You just need to uncover them.

As with all research, we start with our Home Sources. What do we know and How do we know it? Many clues can be gleaned from Diaries, Journals and Letters. These are a wealth of information and provide a glimpse into your ancestors’ daily life.
Heirlooms and Keepsakes are cherished family treasures. Do you know the stories behind them? Have you written it down so it will not be lost once you are gone?

Clothing and Jewelry show her style. Have you found photos of her wearing those pieces? It is even better when we can tie them together with a story or their origin.

Recipes and Traditions, especially around the holidays, have been passed from generation to generation. However, have they been written down? Do you know why certain food are prepared for specific holiday meals? Too many oral traditions have been lost once out of living memory. Ask elderly family members. What are their memories? How did they celebrate when they were children? For family recipes, be sure to record the recipes. A pinch of this and a dash of that – Have you tried to make it yourself? It may turn out differently in our modern ovens compared to using a wood stove or prepared over a fire!

Further information on researching your female ancestors can be found in the National Institutes for Genealogical Studies course: Research: Grandmothers, Mothers & Daughters – Tracing Women

Genealogy?

What does Genealogy mean?

A definition found in the dictionary states that “genealogy is the science of tracing your family back through the centuries.” Genealogies record the descent of an individual or a family from a certain ancestor.  It is the study of your pedigree.

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What the dictionary does not explain is the fun and the challenge you can have as you climb your family tree. Think of genealogy as a big, huge puzzle. And you are but one piece of that puzzle.

The mystery in this puzzle is that once you get started, you never know where you’re going or what you’ll find once you get there. With our Methodology-Part 1: Getting Started course you will learn more about these genealogy puzzle pieces. 

 

Who, What and Why?

Basic Questions

How do you learn more about a photograph? Here are some basic questions to help get started.

Photography: Clues Pictures Hold, Editing, Digitizing and Various Projects

WHO is in the photograph?

It would seem that this is a simple question to answer, but identifying people in photographs is not always that easy, especially if there are no other photographs of that person and no living person is around to make the identification. In that case, it may be necessary to rely on a name written on the photograph.

WHAT is in the photograph?

Some photographs have clues that can help identify the subject and the place, even the date, of the photograph. There are numerous things that can appear in a photograph:

  • Houses
  • Commercial buildings
  • Schools
  • Storefronts
  • Cars
  • Street signs

Even Mother Nature can help out if the landscape is studied.

  • Are the trees bare?
  • Is the ground covered in snow?

All of these items are clues to the time of year in which the photo was taken.

WHY was the photograph taken?

Before snapshot cameras became popular around 1900 or so, people did not usually have their photographs taken very often (if at all). So when they did have their photograph taken is was for something special such as a birthday, an engagement or wedding, their arrival in America or in a new town, or a funeral.

Keep in mind that 19th and early 20th century engagement photographs can look almost identical to wedding photographs as most women wore their best Sunday dresses when they married.

It is very helpful to know the basic history of people, places, and things when examining old photographs. These are just some of the topics covered in our Photography: Clues Pictures Hold, Editing, Digitizing and Various Projects course

Research Gaps

Previous Research  

Sometimes we get so caught up in the thrill of the hunt for our ancestors that we might not always practice good research techniques.  We find a document, pull a few bits from it, put it aside, and move on to the next search.  This is why reviewing the research we have already done should always be the first step when trying to break down a brick wall.

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Many brick walls can be solved simply by reviewing what we have done and identifying gaps.  Oftentimes, the records we already have contain the missing link and can help us solve our genealogy mystery.  Another reason we should take the time to review our research is because many of these brick walls probably were established when we were new to genealogy.

Even if reviewing our data does not demolish the brick wall, it will help us develop a road map for further research.  You should keep in mind that genealogy research is cyclic and as such, the process of evaluating and analyzing sources should be repeated until a conclusion is reached.

With our “Skill-Building: Break Down Brick Walls  course we will look at multiple approaches you can use in reviewing your research.

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