Turn the Page to Another Chapter in Your Family History
There’s nothing more satisfying than finding your ancestor in a digital database, archive or other record collection, especially if the document you found is packed with valuable genealogical data. That is indeed cause to celebrate, but some researchers are content to stop there. Many documents and databases have hidden information however, and if only you learn to “turn the page,” you could begin another chapter in your family history. What I mean by turn the page is simply to look deeper into the record collection or index you are researching. This could be as easy as clicking the “next” button in an online index or other database, or turning a document over to see if there are any additional note on the back. There are actually many examples of record collections I have come across that yield that kind of information, both online and off, where simply turning the page I discovered more ancestral information. One such collection is Ship Passenger Lists.
Just because your relative’s information isn’t listed in chronological or alphabetical order doesn’t mean it’s not in the place you’re looking. I have discovered that when researching in Ship Passenger Lists or Manifests, where the first page will show the passengers name, but the second page contains additional information such as deaths or disturbances that may have caused passengers to be “secured” for the duration of the voyage. Always check the second page with Ship or Passenger Manifests, as that is where your ancestor may be hiding.
I was fortunate to learn early in my research that the 1830 Census of the United States contained not one, but two pages. If you are viewing the 1830 Census Online at Ancestry.com, you’ll discover that each name listed is associated with two separate images – one for each page. Make sure that you view both pages; the one containing your relative’s name, and the image associated with it, as the second page contains additional information, as the 1830 Census was the first to include data regarding those who were deaf, dumb or blind. The additional page will also list any “free colored persons” or slaves who were members of the household.
The 1830 census also went farther than previous reports to include a breakdown of the ages of members of the household, as well as to include people who were a hundred years old or more. This helps to illuminate the life spans of people during this period, which can help you to track down death and birth certificates. The additional information regarding those who had hearing, speech or visual impairments allude to the fact that there may be institutional or guardianship records which could reveal further ancestors or information about those you’ve found. The 1830 census also listed foreigners if they were present in the household, and if so, you could do well to search in immigration and naturalization papers.
The above are two major examples of how you can find ancestors by digging a bit deeper, or broadening your genealogical research. The theory holds true of any type of genealogical record, and so it’s good practice to always look for clues to additional records, or search a page or two on either side of the ones you’re researching. Learning how to interpret genealogical data takes time and experience, but experience only comes with practice. If you make such n integral part of your research, you’ll inevitably become a better researcher, but you may also end up finding additional ancestors or at the least additional family facts.