Friday, March 13, 2009

Researching Outside of the Box

In a recent seminar about researching Irish ancestors, David Rencher made an interesting point. Because many Irish records were destroyed in 1922, researchers have been forced to think outside of the box and use creative methods to develop clues to find ancestors. This same idea can be applied to any research in any location that presents a challenge.

As an example, in the counties of Georgia where courthouses have been burned, alternate resources can be found with a little imagination. Tax records might replace deeds. Wills have multiple copies, if the courthouse record is gone, search the lawyers. Archival collections generally contain a huge number of copied records. A case in Atlanta, a Fulton County Justice of the Peace kept his copies of legal notices and court orders. Those have all been donated to the Atlanta History Center. A huge collection of records that document the daily legal system of North Fulton County sits waiting to be utilized by genealogists and other historians. A large number of names of individuals living around North Fulton County are available for anyone willing to search.

A more common example is with the 1890 census. Since a majority of these records were destroyed long ago, new methods to search the decade of the 90s needs to be found. Again, tax records and court records need to be explored. In addition, for metropolitan areas, city directories can be used. Farm directories and almanacs may also serve the purpose in place of the federal census.

So you see, although David Rencher was making a point specific to Ireland, the same ideas have a universal application. As genealogists and researchers we need to think outside of the box, move beyond the conventional resources and find our ancestors in other, more accessible records and documents. They are out there, we simply need to use imagination to find these hidden treasures.

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