From the Ancestry
Problem Solving: An Example
Thanks to all who sent me additional problem solving strategies based upon last week's column.
The key, as several pointed out, is that methodical and reasoned research is preferable to research that is unfocused and unorganized. This week we look at an example in light of the framework discussed last week.
Understand the Problem
This is still a specific problem. However, my search needs to remain focused in the United States, and I will need to use records created after Louise immigrated, documents I can probably locate using information I already have. Initially settling in Rock Island County, Illinois, in 1880, the family spent a few years across the Mississippi River in Scott County, Iowa, before returning to Illinois. Fortunately, Louise did not move much after her immigration. That will make this search easier.
This problem (and its solution) reinforces the importance of researching the more recent information on a person and working back in time, even when the real goal is to use earlier records and locate earlier generations. Researching a person‘s life from the end to the beginning is usually the best approach.
Sources that might provide Louise's place of birth include:
The location of each of these records is a problem in and of itself. But that is the great thing about having a focused problem (locating her place of birth). It allows you to brainstorm for all the possible sources that might contain the desired information. I need to think, “What document could contain the name of that village?”
One Search at a Time
Records from Louise's church may also indicate information about her origin. A mention of her death or funeral is the most likely item to mention her birthplace, but other types of church records may provide similar information. Some denominations may include in their records where members were baptized or confirmed. Such a location would obviously be helpful for Louise.
Louise's obituary may also provide information on her origin. It is imperative to think about every newspaper that might have carried such a notice. There were several newspapers in the Rock Island area that should be searched. Morning and the evening editions should be referenced if appropriate. Rock Island also had a large Belgian ethnic community and the potential for a Flemish language newspaper should also be considered.
I may even need to go beyond Louise's death to locate her place of birth. The death records for Louise's children may also provide information on her origin as well. All of Louise's children died during a time when the death record has a space for place of birth of parent. The record may simply say “Belgium” but there is always the chance that it says something more. I will not know until I look.
There Are Other Sources as Well
Some Records Might Not Help
Naturalization records are not likely to be helpful in this situation. Given the era, Louise was not naturalized in her own right and her husband's pre-1907 naturalization reveals little information on his origins and none on hers. The family's appearance on a ship manifest, located initially through the Immigrant Ship Transcriber's Guild (www.immigrantships.net) and later confirmed by accessing the actual manifest, also provide no specific clues as to the family's origins.
Devising the Plan
Carrying Out the Plan
In a future column, we'll see what record provided the missing place of birth and look at problems where the location of such information requires even more analysis and problem solving.
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 currently a member of the board of the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) http://www.fgs.org. He conducts seminars and lectures nationally on a wide variety of genealogical and computer topics and contributes to several genealogical publications, including Ancestry Magazine and Genealogical Computing. You can e-mail him at email@example.com or visit his website at www.rootdig.com, but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.