How to Get the Most Out of Every Genealogy Record

How to Get the Most Out of Every Genealogy Record

Waaaaaay back in 2000, Family Tree Magazine was born. To celebrate 10 years of helping genealogists trace their family trees, I’ll be sharing some of our best advice from each year of publication. Kicking things off, Marcia Yannizze Melnyk’s advice from October 2000 helps you squeeze every drop of usefulness...

Waaaaaay back in 2000, Family Tree Magazine was born. To celebrate 10 years of helping genealogists trace their family trees, I’ll be sharing some of our best advice from each year of publication.

Kicking things off, Marcia Yannizze Melnyk’s advice from October 2000 helps you squeeze every drop of usefulness from genealogy records. It’s still quite relevant—not everything has changed in the world of genealogy.

Leave no stone unturned. Many types of records provide clues that are often overlooked. Take what I call the “Doberman” approach to your genealogy research: Latch on to a fact and don’t let go until you’ve gotten everything out of it. Squeezing every single scrap of information from a record as a clue to other research will pay big dividends. “Ask” every document these questions:

• Why was the document created in the first place?

• Are you looking at the original or a copy?

• To whom does the document pertain?

• How close to the original event was the document created?

• Who are the witnesses, informants or other persons mentioned in the document?

• Are any family relationships stated or implied?

• Did the person executing the document sign with a signature or mark?

• Is the information reliable, usable, or simply a clue to further research?

• What’s the full citation for the document?

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