Trying to find ancestors with little or no research experience can prove frustrating for beginning genealogists. These methods used by experienced researchers can help you to find ancestors that may have otherwise proved elusive. A little insider knowledge can go a long way in an ancestors search, as there are techniques that can only be learned through experience. If you’re having trouble locating ancestry records for certain relatives, these insider tips can help you to overcome those genealogical hurdles and quickly find ancestors.
Many people have nicknames, and that was true of our ancestors also. In fact, in the past, a person may have been known more by their nickname than their given one, and so the nickname is often used in ancient records. This is especially true of obituaries and census reports, so experienced researchers will use nicknames or variations of common given names to find ancestors. For instance, if the name of your ancestor was Robert Brown, search for Bob, or Bobbie. This would also be true of the feminine form – Roberta – and common nicknames for her may have been Bobbie or Berta.Try Ancestry.com and get 14 Days FREE!
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Of course certain nicknames make it easier to find ancestors than others. If the nickname reflected a character or physical trait, it will be more difficult to find such ancestors, but this is where family papers and word of mouth prove useful. Search any family records you can get your hands on, and speak with older relatives that may have such information. Really look into what nicknames are presently popular in your family, as a living relative may have got their nickname from a previous ancestor. Knowing popular family nicknames can go a long way to helping you find ancestors.
In the case of an ancestor being named after an older relative; a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, they would often be referred to by their middle name. Occasionally this would even be used on official records, making it difficult to find ancestors where this is so. When searching ancestors, if you don’t find them by their given name, search using their middle name as their first. Again, this is especially common on second level records such as Baptismal Certificates and School Records.
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Middle initials may also have been used in recording an ancestor’s personal info. If using an online search engine to find ancestors, type in an initial instead of a full first name. If this yields no results, type in the middle initial as the first, you might be surprised how effective this can be in an ancestors search.
You don’t have to do it alone! When trying to find ancestors, it may be worth considering that someone may have already found who you’re looking for. Some researchers specialize in one-name-studies, i.e. they are dedicated to studying a particular surname and its branches. If so, he or she might be a member of the Guild of One Name Studies. Here you will find a wealth of researchers that have a deep knowledge of certain surnames, and are more than willing to share it.
You can search for researchers that are studying the name that you are using to find ancestors, and have the option of contacting them via email. There is an alphabetical directory you can use to search names, or you can type your surname directly into the search box. Often these researchers will know variants of the name as well, which can be valuable information when searching ancestors.
The quest to find ancestors can be a long and tedious one, but the possible rewards are well worth the effort. Use these tips to find ancestors when you get stuck, or an ancestor disappears. And definitely don’t overlook the value of working with other researchers, especially experienced ones. You’ll find that most people involved in an ancestors search are passionate about what they do, and are more than happy to help beginning family historians find ancestors.
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