Previous Research-Filling in the Blanks

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By Amanda Forson, World Vital Records, Inc.

This article is for those who already have some genealogical records, but want to increase their proof of these generations.

Day One: Bring out your dead! Gather the genealogical materials that are immediately available pertaining the living and deceased family (family group sheets, pedigree charts, pictures, etc.).

Day Two:
If the information is not already in a personal genealogical database program, use the rest of the fifteen minutes a day this week to complete this task (depending upon the size of the files). We recommend using Ancestral Quest, PAF, or RootsMagic to accomplish this. (World Vital Records’ members can get a discount on these items. Note: PAF is a free program. PAF Insight and PAFWiz Enhancements for PAF 5 can be purchased at a discount to World Vital Records’ members.) Then move on to the rest of this week’s tasks.

Day Three:
Look over your people and see where the “holes” are. A hole is either a blank space that needs information (birth date, birth place, etc.) or a fact without a source. Facts without sources are as common as being without a fact in the first place, especially when previous researchers only recorded information, but not from whence the information came.

Day Four:
Choose ONE hole to fill in. Enthusiasm for family history may propel a researcher to try to cover all holes at the same time. This leads to chaos and confusion. The purpose of the article is not to curb or crush the enthusiasm, but to channel and hone it into useful energy, not static electricity.

Day Five: Decide what repository has the records needed to search, to fill in the hole.

Ideas/ How to:

* Analysis of census records
* Looking up whether an original document exists via The Handybook for Genealogists
* Using Google to search the Internet for immediate possibilities
* Research handbooks, i.e. as Val Greenwood’s The American Researcher’s Guide to Genealogy
* Family History Library Catalog, available from for possible microfilmed records
* New York Public Library catalog
* The Library of Congress catalog
* The DAR Library catalog
* ProQuest/Allen County Public Library search
* Searching for the historical and/or genealogical society closest to where your family came from and contacting them about possible records

Day Six: After discovering the right material via catalogs and index possibilities from day five, find the closest (and cheapest) location for the record. Ask the library to make a copy for you of needed materials, or for the object to be sent via interlibrary loan. ALWAYS offer to pay for copies, shipping and handling, etc. Services are not usually free, unless you have researched through a local researcher via FamilyLink, who has offered his or her services for free, or through one of’s partners, such as Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness.

Day Seven: Once the materials are in town, search them for evidence. Find the putty for filling in the holes. Also, check for more information.

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