What we did: Genealogy

Had name wrong

For many years, neither my father nor I could find his Great-Grandfather Turner. A knowledgeable friend told told me I must have the name wrong because we had searched the 1820 census records in every state. My friend was right. Family tradition had him as William Turner, but when I finally found him he was Jabas or Jobe Turner.

My breakthrough came when another friend pointed in my notes to a marriage of Jabas Turner and Betsy Smick. I knew the man's wife was Elizabeth Smick, and when court records proved Jobe to be our man I found over a hundred other family names to do temple work for. — Norval Turner, Murray, Utah

Pray for guidance

Pray for guidance, then sit down and map out a written plan of attack. Include networking in that plan. Begin your internet search with FamilySearch at www.familysearch.org and then explore surname organizations, chat groups or E-mail lists. You may find others searching for your dead-end surname.

Visiting a local cemetery once helped me locate my great-great-grandparents' graves, complete with birth and death dates. I had stopped to talk with the caretaker. He remembered their names on a tombstone "in the back on a hill" of a tiny private cemetery a few miles away from where we stood.

The local library's reference section may yield family histories, unpublished papers, manuscripts and historic maps or photographs. They might know of museum collections or where to find school, Church, business or fraternal organization records. These are often the dead-end block busters. Always check the visitors' register or card file for your surname before you leave, after adding your own, of course. — Beverly E. Field, assistant director, Union Stake family history center, Guadalajara, Mexico

Never give up hope

You need lots of patience and perseverance, and there is no one answer. However, the following has helped me:

  • Analyze the problem. People usually don’t look at enough records. They look at a source or two, and if their surname doesn’t jump out at them, they think they’re through. Figure out what sources are available to you for your search.
  • Take advantage of Church sources. Study the Church’s SourceGuide.
  • Make contact with living relatives. For example, I visited an elderly aunt in our family who had a photo album of old pictures with no names. I took pictures of those photos and sent copies to other relatives to identify the people. I was able to identify many. Don’t procrastinate. The longer you wait, the fewer the chances.
  • Do a broader search than you’ve done. People tend to search for their ancestors in the country of origin. Broaden the scope. Search town, county and military records. There are little wars we’ve forgotten about that there may be records on. For instance, one may be doing a census search, but an ancestor lives on the border of a state. I helped one man with a search, and we found his ancestor in the neighbor state’s records.
  • Think phonetically. Many people in early days didn’t read and write. How the census taker heard the name is how it was recorded.
  • Search a broad range of records. For example, wills, deeds, probates are good sources.
  • Publish ads in local papers. If your ancestor came from a small, out-of-the-way town, you can write to the local newspaper and ask for information from readers.
  • Search telephone directories. Never give up hope.

— Nelean Meadows, Salt Lake City, Utah

Hearts softened

Submit or take your names to the temple to have their ordinances done, even if it's only one name. This is why. My husband was a recent convert to the Church when we started working on his family history. We had asked his parents for family history information, and it seemed they were very hesitant to give it to us. They are not members and didn't understand our belief in the redemption of the dead. However, we found his grandfather's name on the Social Security index, based on information my husband knew.

After he did his grandfather's ordinances, he found that his parents' hearts softened and family history information just kept pouring in. — Jennifer Patnaude, Claypool, Ariz.