Helping a Friend with Her Tree

Yes, I’ve been absent for several weeks but it’s been a very busy summer! Lately, I’ve burned through some free time helping a friend trace her family tree. She took the AncestryDNA test and it’s been submitted. While she waits for the results to come back (and hopefully some DNA matches with info), she’s working up through the branches on her tree.

It has been no small feat just getting back to her great-grandparents; figuring out who they are, where they came from, when and where they died, and more importantly – who were all their children. That in and of itself is how you climb your tree (once you’re pretty sure you’ve got the parents’ names): Who were all the children? One name is all you need to start and a general vicinity in which they resided at some point in time.

Although the surname may be spelled umpteen ways, you eventually find the children – maybe not all of them but enough to help you paint a bigger picture. Your picture will expand as you find more documentation. The reason this is important is that there will (in most cases) be birth and/or death records, and hopefully, marriage records for each child born into the family; each child has two parents. Both parents are usually named on the record. The names may be spelled differently from record to record but they will SOUND similar when you say them out loud.

Don’t just take the information that the search engine serves up – be it Ancestry or Family Search. If you can eyeball the actual record you will often find that the individual who transcribed the information spelled the names wrong. They do the best they can with what they’re given. Further, the courthouse clerk that recorded the info may have guessed at spelling, spelled phonetically, or wrote what they thought they heard.

In (my friend) Lori’s case, her father was, as far as she knew, an only child whose mother (apparently) abandoned him at a young age. The paternal great-grandfather’s surname has been a bear to figure out BUT not as difficult as her paternal great-grandmother: Her surname was spelled differently on nearly every record we’ve uncovered so far, especially the children’s death records. That’s where I use; It often has records that Ancestry can access but doesn’t have the rights to publish.

The good news remains that we’ve discovered ancestors back into the great-greats. The bad news is there’s a sad story in there waiting to be learned. 8 children out of 12 (so far) wound up being adopted out about 1933 (the other four died in infancy). Mother disappeared so the assumption is that she died; Dad left the area and there’s no evidence he returned. On his death record, aged 79 in the next state over, it says “never married” so his friends or acquaintances who reported his death never knew about the gaggle of kids he abandoned. Let’s face it, the Depression was on and brought with it a lot of sad stories.

TIP: Never use someone else’s tree (shown to you as a hint in Ancestry) as fact. Don’t copy their tree but do make a note of the info, who posted it, and where you found it (and how). Those folks are looking for the truth just like you and family trees abound with some fact, some fiction.

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