Or "Rednecks, Brick Walls and Blind Alleys"
by Uncle Hiram
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION
Now I will be the first to admit I am about as patient as a 5 year old on Christmas morning, but I try hard to remember that there aint no GOOD shortcuts in Genealogy. As much as we all hate to admit it sometimes that proof, that documentation, that one vital piece of paper that will establish an undeniable link form great great Aunt Ethel and Jim Bowieís brothers Grandson by Marriage simply does not exist.
When you reach this point of no return you have several options on what step to take next. The first option that may pop into your head does not work. Shooting your computer wont find your missing ancestor and if your spouse is anything like my sweet blonde she wont be very understanding when you want a new monitor. Not to mention that the local cops really frown on shooting unarmed innocent computers. (It took me three house to convince that Deputy I wasnít crazy enough to be dangerous).
There are several viable options that you can try that wont get you in trouble with the law or your spouse. First go back to your census work and find your last entry for this person. As an example lets use my paternal Grandmother (My Daddyís Momma). She shows up in the 1920 census as my Grandfathers wife but they had not married in 1910. So I had to cast a wider net, I found all the Cox families in the 1900 census, the Cox families in the 1910 census and compared them to the 1920 census. Using this method I was able to identify which Cox family she belonged to and found out the names of her brothers and sisters. Since the census said that the whole family was born in Alabama but I had not been able to find any paperwork in Tuscaloosa County I took a shot and checked in Walker and Fayette Counties. This turned up the documents I needed for the Cox family. Of course this method does not always work so lets move on to the next option.
Again you need to backtrack a little on your research. Go back to the County Courthouse and if you are researching a male ancestor you can check the court minutes for Jury Duty, Poll Tax and various other official government duties the average citizen was required to fulfill. Of course as much as I hate to I need to point out this method will only work if your ancestor was a white male. You might also check the land deeds and wills of your ancestors neighbors. Quiet often you will find that your ancestor of one of the other neighbors were the witnesses. You might get lucky and prove your ancestor was in a location years before you thought he was. This may not work as a primary source but it helps to build a mountain of secondary sources.
OK, so you have tried both of these methods and you are still striking out donít despair, donít sign up for those Cyber Quilting lessons just yet, there is still hope. Your next option is church and obituary records. Check the records for the churchs in your ancestors area. If there records still exist and he joined a church or served as a deacon or as a pallbearer for one of his neighbors you will have documented proof he was in the area when you think he was. Again not a primary source but it is more evidence to support your conclusions.
If you ancestor was in the West you will also wanna check at the courthouse for brands. If they owned any livestock they would have registered their brand. The single unifying point of all the methods I have described is the need to be a detective. So break out your Sherlock Holmes gear and think outside the box. Remember check the census record, land records (Including the names of the witnesses), Court Records (Jury Duty), Church Records (Deacons, Pallbearers), brands and other court records.
If you try all of these and nothing has worked I have three other suggestions that donít involve firearms.
- Write the historical society for that area and see if they have any of the old ledger books for the local General Store. Quite often the farmers would run a tab until their crops were sold. You might get lucky and find your missing ancestor.
- Work on a different branch of the family for awhile. This will keep your frustration level at a manageable level.
- Chuck the whole thing and take up quilting... (GRIN)... just kidding. Basically the key is persistence and patience.
- Adios and Keep Smiling!
- Bill Hocutt (Uncle Hiram)