2020.07.25 – How to Collect the Clues



  • Clues can be anywhere.
  • Start where you are and go from there.
  • What is a clue?
  • Who can find clues?
  • Why should we look for clues?
  • When should we look for clues?
  • Where should we look for clues?
  • What if you hit roadblocks?
  • What clues should we look for first?
  • What happens after we find a clue?


Clues can be anywhere

After you have approached your Relatives and tried to get as much information as you can about your ancestors, you need to start discovering what you have and looking for clues that can lead you to other sources of information.

Family History is similar to hunting for treasure. Sometimes you find a treasure map, and sometimes you don’t and have to dig a little deeper. Treasure hunters looking for treasure from ships that have gone down often only have a vague reference in some very old records as to where it went down. You may run into the same thing in some of your lines. Some ancestral lines may be clear and have a lot of documentation and some may not be so clear and require you to do so work to find them.

Remember that clues can be found anywhere, even in unexpected places.

Start where you are and go from there

Obviously, you can’t look everywhere all at the same time, just as you don’t visit all of the tourist traps in a foreign country all at the same time. You plan your trip and take it. Start from the information you collected from your relatives and go from there. Each clue you find in your treasure hunt could lead to additional clues. Be careful not to overlook the clues you already have. If you don’t take an inventory of the information you have, it will be easy to miss something critical to solving the mystery. And you’ll be upset with yourself when you find you had the needed clue all along.

What is a clue?

Okay, so we need to get a clue, or maybe two, or three, or more. But, what is this strange critter called a clue?

A clue is a bit of information that points you to the discovery of your objective.

One of the most important things you can do in ANY project is to start the project by defining your objective. In software engineering, this is the MOST important thing to do, bar none. You can create an awesome app that has all kinds of bells and whistles but falls flat because it doesn’t accomplish the REAL objective of the project, the thing the user really wanted. First, sit down and analyze what you really want to accomplish. If you don’t do this, you’ll get lost in a lot of details and won’t accomplish what you started out to do. Then once you’ve achieved that objective, create another.

Clues may also point indirectly to your objective, so don’t dismiss anything out of hand because it doesn’t point directly to it. The clue may come in handy at a later point in time.

Who can find clues?

All of us can find clues, and clues can be everywhere, but normally clues come associated with each other. One clue points to another, just as one relative is related to another.

Start with yourself and the information you have, then ask others for additional clues based on what you know. They can help point you along your path to your objective. It’s always good to have ideas from a different point of view. But be careful, because not everyone has good data, some sources of data are not as trustworthy as others, even if they are related to you. When you look for clues, look for sources of information that corroborate what you know and sources you can trust. Sometimes this may be a relative, and sometimes it may be a governmental agency that recorded documentation about events. For example, if you cannot physically go to a location to discover the information, you may be able to find a family organization or a professional that can do it for you, but again you need to be able to trust that they’ll return good information.

Why should we look for clues?

You may be given a lot of valuable information from your family members and have the Treasure map laid out and detailed without much effort on your part, but beware of falling into the trap that “Aunt Matilda” already did all the research and there’s nothing left to do. The matter of fact is that for each generation we go back in time, the number of ancestors can much more than double, based on the number of lateral lines descending from the ancestor you are currently working with. Some have personal databases with tens of thousands of family members all related to each other in some manner or other. So if you think everything has been done, you’re probably wrong.

There are several reasons for looking for clues. The first is to extend your family back in time a generation. The next is to find the descendants of that ancestor. After that, and very importantly, is to find missing family members. Some records are not kept for those who died in infancy. For example, a child born after a census that does not live until the next census is taken. These family members may be harder to find, but then we need to look harder for the clues that will find them. Sometimes we can mine a rich vein of gold, but miss a lateral line that is not as obvious. Don’t overlook the lateral line because it is not as rich as the main line. It could lead to another line that is far richer. Some family members may be hiding in the trees, other family trees.

When should we look for clues?

The time to work on Family History is a resounding NOW!!!

Time can be another trap people fall into. For example, if you think you’ll get involved with Family History research after you retire, what happens if you never make it to retirement? If you think you’ll wait another five years, what if another Covid pandemic hits and you are disabled? If you think you’ll wait until next year, what if a war in a foreign country wipes out the records you needed for your ancestors?

Start your life long search now and dedicate as much time as you can on a weekly basis to it. I’ve found that a lot can be accomplished with only 3 hours a week on a Saturday or a Sunday. This is time you would probably waste on less important activities.

Remember, to be successful requires that you do the IMPORTANT things first. Set your priorities and keep on a steady course. Don’t miss the window of opportunity. It may close and not open again in your lifetime.

Where should we look for clues?

So we know what clues are and why they are important, but where do we look for them?

As you search for clues, ask others how to search for them, they may be able to give you tips you didn’t expect and wouldn’t have gotten if you didn’t ask. At Seekerz.net, we have provided a lot of information to help guide you on the way, and plan to continue to add more and more information over time. We hope to give you tips and clues on how to do things that will shorten your path to finding your objective. And we’re open to adding suggestions and articles from other professionals that are interested in helping and mentoring Family History Seekerz. The more time you dedicate to learning how to track those elusive clues, the better you’ll get at it. Be patient, it will come, and soon you’ll start finding unexpected nuggets along the way.

Clues can be found in:

  1. training materials,
  2. certificates that include references to others besides the main character in the document,
  3. censuses, as they point to related family members,
  4. family organization records and books
  5. historical societies
  6. newspapers
  7. on-line databases
  8. county records
  9. national records
  10. port of entries
  11. military records
  12. university enrollment records
  13. etc.

Be creative. Anywhere records are preserved and available for review, they may contain clues to help you forward your search.

What if you hit roadblocks?

Successful people are those that don’t let roadblocks stop their progress. The larger the roadblock, the more creative you need to be able to find a way around, under, over or through the roadblock. For example, family member questioned another as to why they thought they were able to extend the family line past a period of time that it was known that the records had been destroyed. The other family member replied that she knew about the records that had been destroyed but had used land title and other records to get around the period of time of the missing records.

Don’t assume that since you can’t find direct records pointing to your ancestor, that there are no records available. Be creative. Look for other sources of information when and if you do run into roadblocks.

What clues should we look for first?

You’ll probably want to start with the easy records first: Births, Marriages, and Deaths. There are countries that keep extensive records of these kinds of events. Another type of record to start with is the census. Censuses are important because they can point you to other relatives that lived in the same household at that time. Once you find the above documents, branch out from there to look for additional supporting documents. The important thing to remember is that we’re trying to prove whether or not a specific ancestor actually lived on earth and if they really were your ancestor. They may have the same name and have lived in the same city and nearly the same time, but had different parents. Always be looking for additional clues that help determine whether or not this person was part of your family. If the data doesn’t look right, they’re probably not part of your family. Doing research for the other family may be nice of you, but it is not extending your own family line back further and may cause confusion in the future for those that come after you. Be a detective, be thorough, and corroborate your evidence.

What happens after we find a clue?

Finding clues is not helpful if they do not point to your objective. There are a lot of clues pointing to things that have nothing to do with your research. As stated above, you need to examine the clue to see if it is of any worth, just as you would examine a piece of rock to see if it is gold or iron pyrite (fools gold). California has a lot of iron pyrite as well as the gold it is famous for. Don’t be fooled; examine the data thoroughly before accepting it as gold.

After we determine that the clue is valid and valuable, we can use it to look for additional documentation that will provide even further clues. For example, after finding the name of a missing Mother in her line using one kind of documentation, one woman was able to go to a family tree in a Family History database and connect her line to another that already had hundreds of names from there. The more sources of clues we learn about, the more powerful our Kung Fu becomes.

Seekerz, © 2020

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