Blimey, Harry. You’ve slayed dragons. If you can’t get a date, who can? — Ron Weasley, Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire
Blimey, Harry. You’ve slayed dragons. If you can’t get a date, who can?
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If you’re been researching your family history for some time, chances are you have started “climbing down” your family tree. Your great-grandfather no doubt had a few sisters. Have you tried branching out to find them? It can be difficult finding female family members since they often married after leaving the home. If you don’t know who they married, quite often you stare straight into a roadblock and move along in your research.
The time has come to knock some of those roadblocks down! I’d like to share with you a few quick tips on locating females in your family research when you don’t know their married names. This will take some time, but it can have wonderful results.
This exhaustive search method assumes you know the approximate area (county, township) where she lived at some point, but you don’t know who she married.
Let’s pause for a sanity check. Have you done your due diligence? Make sure you have already searched for her in the following types of records:
If you didn’t have any luck with those methods, then you’ve got a true roadblock on your hands. With all of that searching behind you, it’s seriously time to tackle it!
Note: This search method is very time consuming but if you are serious about finding her, it’s worth a shot. It has worked for me a few times already.
Searching for Married Women in the US Census
Enter her First Name, Birth Year +/- 1, Birth Location, last known Residence information and her Gender. I suggest starting with an “Exact Match” search and widening it if you don’t find what you’re looking for. Click on search and see what comes up. This search assumes she hasn’t moved too far away after moving out of the house. Once you exhaust the results from the county she was from, you can widen the search to the state and country if necessary.
Research Every Lead
For each female, run her married name through all of the common websites you search frequently for genealogical information. Look her up on FindAGrave.com and at FamilySearch.org to see if any familiar surnames are unearthed. Search for her on Ancestry.com to see if someone else has a family tree with the lead listed. See if you can find her obituary for listings of family members.
If you still can’t find her, consider the following possibilities:
I wish you the very best of luck in your searching. If you have any tips to share, please leave a comment below!
Jessica M. Green
Please visit my personal genealogy blog, Random Mews.
If you have ancestors in Michigan, changes are you have searched through all of the wonderful records of SeekingMichigan.org. The site has some incredible resources for Michigan researchers. Death records, civil war records including manuscripts and photographs, historical documents, maps and more are just the tip of the iceberg for this genealogical treasure trove.
SeekingMichigan.org Advanced Search
Did you know you can search death records by the name of the deceased person’s father? This is helpful when you are trying to locate daughters in your family who were married and changed their last names prior to their death. It is also an excellent search method when you want to find children who died very young and may not have been listed on a Census record.
SeekingMichigan.org Advanced Search Fields
You might be asking yourself, how do I search by a person’s father? It’s simple, really! You just have to dig a little.
Good luck in your search! If you have any tips to share, please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear how you have been successful in your alternative searching methods.
I was fortunate enough to visit the Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana in July 2011. I had three glorious days to research as much as possible. All of that research amounted to a massive pile of photocopies from various branches in my family; 259 pages to be exact! That’s a lot of paperwork. I knew once I got it home, it would be really difficult for me to scan it all in with my little home all-in-one machine. I was also worried about checking it in at the airport; who knows if I would ever see it again?
Lucky for me (and you) there is a little copy shop called OfficeOne around the corner from the Allen County Public Library that has a high speed scanner. Simply feed in your stacks of copies (I sorted mine by Surname) and they will scan directly onto your USB thumb drive. I had one PDF file created from each stack and named to correspond to the surname, but you can choose to scan each page as a JPG individually.
Sure it costs money, but what is your time worth? I made 259 copies at the library at 10 cents each, and promptly had them scanned in at OfficeOne for 10 cents each. I can say without a doubt that my time is worth way more than $25.90, especially when it equates to immediate digital access to share my research with my family around the country. I was able to email the PDFs to my family members from my tablet while I was waiting at the airport.
If you’re looking for a place to scan in all of your ACPL research before you get back in the car or head off to the airport, check out this copy shop. The staff was friendly, their equipment was new and I felt very comfortable working with them. They were able to scan everything in while I waited, and showed me how it all looked, verifying all the files on my thumb drive before I walked out the door.
1021 S. Calhoun Street
Fort Wayne, Indiana 46802
I have spent many moons scanning and cataloging images for my family archive. It contains more than 6,000 images which were all painstakingly dated and fully detailed and tagged with descriptions and locations to the best of my ability. Documents can be fairly straight forward since many of them contain a date written upon them. Photographs, however, are often much trickier.
My Mom did an excellent job throughout the years of writing the exact date on the back of our family photos. I thank her so much for that – it makes sorting and organizing the photos much easier today. She often wrote the exact date and day of the week on the back of the pictures, which is amazing.
My DaD on the other hand… he didn’t often write dates on things. (Sorry DaD, it’s true.) To his credit, he has tried to go back and write dates on photos decades later, but I have learned to take those dates as a starting point. I recently came across a photo that has his handwriting on the back: “Diane and Carol, 1977?” just above the ink stamp from the developer that shows “June 1980″ as the film date… Thankfully he is getting much better at dating old photographs and has recently helped me to identify many pictures correctly. Yay DaD!
I often get asked how I date photos, especially when I have no worldly clue when the photo was taken. There are many books on the subject, including several that target specific time periods and help you identify dates based on clothing, backgrounds, style of portraiture, wardrobe and more. They can be a priceless resource when trying to identify an ancestor’s photo from the earlier parts of the 20th century.
My mother, Diane
Since I grew up in the 1980’s, most of the pictures of my childhood are not covered in these types of books. Instead, I have relied a lot on my knowledge of pop culture and family events to help date photos. As an example, take this lovely picture of my mother. I offer the following process of elimination which led me to a fairly accurate date for this one:
Close-up of Items
If you look very closely at the items on the table behind her, you can see what appears to be a sewing kit and a magazine which doesn’t really help me much.
This is a simple example of the types of details I look for in photos to help date them. Does it matter whether it was taken in January or February or March in 1986? Not terribly in this case. I am satisfied with “Early 1986″ as the date for this one. In the case of your photo, these extra-sensory detective skills might just make all the difference in the world.
I wish you the best of luck in researching and dating your family photographs!
Agnes Barkley in the Valparaiso High School 1928 Glee Club
Ancestry.com recently added a significant amount of content to their online collection of U. S. School Yearbooks. I have been able to locate several of my family members throughout the country, but it hasn’t exactly been easy.
Of course, it goes without saying that if you really want to find someone you need to dig deep from every angle. Here are some tips to help you learn from my trials and errors.
If you have any additional tips, I’d love for you to leave a comment below. Good luck finding your family in this wonderful collection!
- Jessica M. Green
PS: I still can’t believe my great-grandmother was in the Glee Club! That’s awesome.
Capturing my Facebook Profile
Have you given much thought about how to preserve the social media you use every day? There’s no telling how the stuff we put online today will be made available, if ever, to our descendents. While the National Archives is grabbing all of our public tweets, if yours aren’t public they may be lost to time.
One of the things I have started to do is capture screen shots of Facebook profiles of my family members, myself included. This is especially neat to do on unique occasions such as someone’s birthday, prom, Christmas, graduation, etc. I simply take a screen shot and paste it into Photoshop and save the file as a JPG. I name the file with the date and a description, such as 20110830_FacebookProfile_JessicaGreen.jpg.
This is also a good way to capture your family member’s Profile information at a point in time, especially for the younger generation. Don’t forget to copy the text and paste it into a document to go along with the JPG, that way it will be searchable later. It’s fun to look back at the status changes over time, like when your nephew is “Single” and then “In a Relationship” and then “Single” and then “In a Relationship” and eventually “Married.”
I’d love to hear your tips on how to capture today’s technology for tomorrow’s genealogists. What do you suggest?