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Undercover Genealogy
Employ these 10 investigative strategies to locate living relatives and discover key family history clues.
Even though Sherlock Holmes is fictional, genealogists can learn a thing or two from the way this private investigator doggedly tracks down his targets. The legendary detective’s use of keen observation and deductive reasoning is key in helping him solve tough cases.
These same skills can help you even if you’re not fighting crime. Holmes’ techniques will enable you to find living relatives who may have family information—stories, photos, genealogical details—to share. With a bit of high-tech surveillance and some shoe leather, you may be able to uncover the ancestor answers that have eluded you for years. So channel your inner Sherlock Holmes and grab your magnifying glass, because we’ve got 10 sleuthing strategies to track down living relatives and get genealogical clues.
1. Observe and gather facts.
Your first step as a pedigree private eye is to write down or organize all the information you know about the relative you’re looking for. For example, if you’re looking for your grandfather’s sister, was she older or younger than your grandfather? This helps narrow down an age range. Also note the person’s name (maiden and married, for a woman) and last known place of residence, as these crucial pieces of information will help you get closer to your target. Other information, such as religious affiliation, alma maters, occupation and hobbies also may prove valuable. No piece of information is too obscure to ignore, but remember Holmes’ wise words as you begin: “It is of the highest importance in the art of detection to be able to recognize out of a number of facts, which are incidental and which vital. Otherwise your energy and attention must be dissipated instead of being concentrated.”
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