Given Name(s) Last Name

from the Ancestry Daily News
  Michael John Neill 11/8/1999

Jumping to Conclusions

I immediately called my mother and asked her who died. Her recent e-mail indicated she was going to a visitation in Loraine, Illinois, in two days. My father has relatives in that area and I wondered who had passed away.

"Who died?" I asked when she answered the phone, barely saying hello.

"What do you mean, who died?" she replied.

"Your message said you were going to a visitation in Loraine?" I queried, still curious.

"I'm going to a school visitation of one of their elementary classrooms. Every so often we have to visit a neighboring district's classrooms." My mother is an elementary school teacher.

"Oh, I thought someone died."

That's how stories get started and funeral flowers get sent before it is necessary. Are you misinterpreting something someone has said or written? Are you jumping to the quick conclusion, which might not necessarily be the correct one? Hunches are not always wrong, but they are not always right either. Get clarification wherever possible.

I Made My Own "Brick Wall"
While traveling to a recent workshop in Kansas, I arrived at the hotel several hours before I had anticipated. I decided to use the collection of the Wichita Public Library to do some research on the cousins of my great-great-grandfather who settled in Colby, Kansas. I was a little tired from driving, but I easily located the correct family in the 1900 Kansas Soundex.

I then went to the microfilm cabinet and looked for the roll of microfilm for Colby County, Kansas. I looked and I looked, but it was not there. I even checked the roll numbers to make certain no rolls were missing or misplaced--all to no avail. I politely asked the lady behind the desk if she could help and she said, "I'll go check." She came back a few minutes later and very gently pointed out that Colby, Kansas was the county seat of Thomas County. If I got the roll for Thomas County, I most likely would find what I was looking for.

Embarrassed, I politely thanked her and waited for my face to turn every shade of red. Once I had the roll for Thomas County, locating the family in question was easily done. I had made my own "brick wall." I just wish they all came down this easily.



  • Re-read any document or the section of the how-to book you do not understand.
  • Get a different how-to book which may explain the document or material differently.
  • Refer to a dictionary or glossary (a specialized one may be necessary).
  • Ask lecturers to clarify any points or terms with which you were not familiar.
  • Put the document aside and read it again the next day.


Think, Go Back, Read Over, Don't Jump to Conclusions. You might be failing to open the door because you "push" when it says "pull."

And remember: We all have "bad hair days" and some of us won't be getting most of ours back!


Copyright 1999, Michael John Neill. Michael John Neill, is the Course I Coordinator at the Genealogical Institute of Mid America (GIMA) held annually in Springfield, Illinois, and is also on the faculty of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Michael is the Web columnist for the FGS FORUM and is on the editorial board of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly. He conducts seminars and lectures on a wide variety of genealogical and computer topics and contributes to several genealogical publications, including Ancestry and Genealogical Computing. You can e-mail him at: or visit his website at:

Used by the Author on his web site with permission.

More Genealogy Articles by Michael John Neill

Genealogy Section of Ebay

---type in your surname or county and state in the search box that comes up on the left hand side of your screen. I've found and purchased several books this way!