How to get beyond a seemingly dead end in family history research

I have done family history research for 30 years, and the following hints have been helpful:

  • Go from the known to the unknown.
  • Work with the most recent records first.
  • It is usually easier to find the death record of an individual than a birth record. The two records could be as much as 90 years apart. Many times death records contain information about the individual's parents, birth and marriage.

  • Look for siblings.
  • You may not know the parents of a certain person, but you may be able to find them if you can find his/her brothers or sisters. Often elderly people went to live with their children when one spouse died or when their health was failing. Maybe you can find them in a census living with another child. I knew one man's father but not his mother. When I found the graves of two of his sisters, I found that their mother's name appeared on the headstones.

  • Be creative with spelling.
  • Spelling was not standardized in most of the world until the 20th century. Don't assume that someone is not your relative because he does not spell the surname the way you do. Say the name aloud. If it sounds roughly like your surname, it may be your name. I was looking for my Great Uncle Alvin Luce. I found him in a census as Alvin Lewis.

  • Use census records.
  • Don't ignore state census records. Look for the people who lived nearby. Often close relatives moved from one place to another as a group. The parents of your "end-of-line" person may be right down the street from them.

  • Put a query on the Internet.
  • Almost all geographical areas in the United States and throughout the world have home pages were you can ask for information about your lost relatives. They are accessed through for the United States and for the rest of the world.

  • Don't give up.
  • You may have searched everything today, but next year the record you need may become available.

  • Pray to know which lines show the most promise.
  • The Lord knows where you can be most effective. Ask for His help.

— Loretta Evans, Idaho Falls, Idaho