Quick-Start Research Strategies

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By Amanda Forson, WorldVitalRecords.com

This blog is for researchers who already have their family information recorded into a genealogical database (i.e. PAF, Ancestral Quest, Family Tree Maker, Legacy, RootsMagic, Brother’s Keeper, the Master Genealogist, etc.).

Case scenario:
i. John Forson, b. (Abt 1829), Scotland d. 23 Feb 1872 Garrison, Putnam, New York
His son,
ii. James Smeaton Forson, b. 5 Oct 1871 Cold Spring, Putnam, New York d. 9 Feb 1965, Garrison, Putnam, New York

This case scenario deals with trying to find the correct father for James(ii), not proving that John(i) is the right father.

Day One: When trying to go backwards in time, start with the most recent (chronologically-forward information) and then proceed backwards. To begin, review the date and place information for the generations in question.

Day Two: Although this information is possible, it is less likely as the one son was born when the father was approximately forty-three years old, and died four months after his birth. While an accident may have occurred, the searcher has no verified information leading to this possible conclusion. To find out whether this is the right father for James, a death record is likely information needed. In 1965, New York was issuing death records. Financial backing would be necessary for this endeavor, and at present is not available, but the most direct way of finding out if James is really the son of John would be to purchase the death record from New York State.

Day Three: If the death record is not readily available, the next best thing would be to look over censuses for siblings of James, if known, and to look for records of John’s possible wife. The name, Forson, is less-common in New York state and surrounding areas, and even though with the death date such that it is not likely that both the father and son would show up on the same census, looking for only the father and son relationship and dismissing the rest of the family is unwise.

Day Four: I personally prefer to make census survey forms. That is to say, noting which people show up in which census, with marks for when someone is deceased, or marks when someone should not show up anymore in census searches. Examples are attached on the end of the article, though dealing with another family in the filled-out information sheet. This step, if taken, may also take the rest of the fifteen minutes per day allotted for the week.

Day Five: From here, it depends upon what information is available for an area. If researching from a distance, as I almost always have to do, looking up online resources is the fastest method of “travel.” If not used for the census survey, online subscription sites come into use here.

Day Six: Once those sites are exhausted (keep checking back with them as they tend to update on a regular basis), then check free sites like the USGenWeb, WorldGenWeb, CyndisList, etc. As both of these people have vital information happening in the same county, a US GenWeb Project check for this county revealed the area’s historical society and email address.

Day Seven: Any and all found information needs to go on research logs and (if possible) digital information placed as documents in electronic genealogical filing systems AND as paper copies in possession of the searcher.

Example of Blank Census Survey form. © 2005 Amanda Forson.

1930 1920 1910 1900 1890 1880 1870 1860 1850

2 Example of Census Survey form for the Dennis Sweeney family.

1930 1920 1910 1900 1890 1880 1870 1860 1850
Dennis Sweeney Dead Dead 71 60 Missing data 40 Can’t Find
Anna (Heiser) Sweeney 69 60 50 Missing data 30 Can’t Find
Fawdie or Vawdie or Vaudie Vau(Van) C.
Dead 50 29 Missing data 10 Can’t Find N/A N/A
Charles E. Sweeney, Sr. 58 46 38 28 Missing data 8 N/A N/A N/A
William A. Sweeney 58 44 34 25 Missing data 4 N/A N/A N/A
Herbert D. Sweeney 50 40 28 21 Missing data 1 N/A N/A N/A
John L. Sweeney 48 37 28 19 Missing data N/A N/A N/A N/A
Ada May Sweeney Dead Dead Dead 15 Missing data N/A N/A N/A N/A
Grace Sweeney 10 Missing data N/A N/A N/A N/A
Alice K. Sweeney 58 44 37 29 Missing data N/A N/A N/A
Charles E. Sweeney, Jr. 28 (going by Edward C. )
8 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Sterling F. Sweeney 34 23 12 3 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Alice H. Sweeney 20 10 7/12 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Edith (Eva P.) Sweeney 17 8 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Thelma Sweeney 26 16 7 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Ira Sweeney 25 15 5 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
(Charles E. Jr.’s wife) Francis Sweeney 28 19 Not in US N/A N/A N/A
Geraldine Sweeney 9 6/12 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
(William’s wife)
Loula Sweeney
56 39 34 22
(Herbert’s wife) Henrietta M. Sweeney 54 41 32
Ralph H. Sweeney 21 1 3/12 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Robert D. Sweeney 11
(John’s wife)
Bertha A.
48 37 28
(Sterling’s wife)
Betty Sweeney
Julia Sweeney (Vaudie’s wife) 48 27
Charles R Sweeney (Ray C.) 39 29 9
Anna May Sweeney 27 7
Elizabeth Sweeney Goodnough 24 5
Wilford P. Sweeney 29 21 2
Helen Sweeney 1/12
Julia Sweeney 17
Ada Sweeney 15
William Sweeney 22 13
Donald Sweeney 17 7
Rex Sweeney 3
Rosa(Charles R.’s wife) Sweeney 33
Jean M. Sweeney 4 9/12
Rex E. Sweeney (Elizabeth’s son) 12

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