Ancestry Daily News
Michael John Neill – 3/7/2000
Tigger's Family Tree Search: What We Can Learn
I recently saw The Tigger Movie. The theme of
the movie, Tigger's search for his family, got me thinking about genealogy.
I won't reveal the results of Tigger's search, but the movie actually
pointed out several things worth remembering when researching people instead
of stuffed animals.
1) Tigger did not start his search at home. He
began his search by bouncing through the forest looking for his family tree.
Every search for genealogical information should begin with sources
available in your home or the homes of your parents and relatives. There are
times when sources in the home are the only ones that provide certain pieces
of information. Pictures, clippings, cards, family Bibles, certificates, and
other such items may provide significant clues to family origins. Locating
these items may save countless hours of searching in official records.
Seasoned genealogists should also determine if there are any extended family
members who might have similar memorabilia. Third, fourth, or even more
distant cousins may have family keepsakes or mementos crucial to your
2) Tigger thought his family tree was all in one
Genealogists with a little experience under their belt realize that the
search takes place one ancestor or family at a time. There's not one CD, Web
site, or published book that contains our entire ancestry. Even if there was
such a beast, we should document the statements it makes.
3) Tigger didn't analyze what he found.
When his friends came to Tigger's house dressed up as Tiggers, Tigger was
understandably ready to accept them as part of his family. A quick analysis
would have revealed that at least one of the "family members" was shaped
like Winnie the Pooh. Tigger had hit a brick wall and was ready to accept
the first close "match" that came along. No matter how tired, desperate, or
frustrated we get, we must continue to analyze the new information that
comes our way. Hastily accepting the first close match that comes along may
result in wasted time and money. Information that seems to be too good to be
true may be just that. Remember if it's shaped like a Pooh bear and walks
like a Poor bear, chances are it is a Pooh bear.
4) Tigger jumped to a few conclusions.
Tigger assumed that almost anything "old" in his house was a clue to his
past. We all make assumptions as a part of our research. Sometimes we have
to shed the assumptions and realize they are incorrect, just like Tigger
finally realized that the old piece of clothing might not hold a clue to his
5) Tigger talked to others.
It didn't help Tigger much, but talking to other genealogists about your
family history research problems may help you solve them. Someone else may
have worked on a similar problem or in the same geographic area and may be
able to give sound advice. If nothing else, just explaining the problem to
someone else may help you solve it. Your local society is an excellent place
for this discussion.
6) Tigger learns something about himself while
searching for his family.
For many genealogists, learning about our family teaches us something about
ourselves in the process. We may learn the origin of certain customs or
traditions. In the worst-case scenario, we may find out how bad choices had
a long-lasting impact on our ancestor's lives and that of their families.
7) Tigger realized that friends can be just as
important as family.
This was a recurring theme throughout the movie and one that any genealogist
would do well to remember. Tigger relied on his friends when he could not
find his family and perhaps our ancestors did the same thing. Maybe your
ancestor moved from Indiana to Nebraska because a former neighbor had
settled there. He might have had no relatives there at all, just a former
neighbor. Maybe your immigrant Irish ancestor came to Chicago because a
friend from his village had established himself there and told his friend
he'd help him get settled. Analyzing friends and neighbors can solve some
problems. This procedure does not always work and a full and complete
analysis of the ancestor should be undertaken before extending the search to
neighbors and acquaintances.
What are some ways to learn of your ancestor's
neighbors and acquaintances?
a) Post-1850 census records provide the birthplace of everyone listed. If
your Kentucky born ancestor is living in Missouri in 1850 near several other
families from Kentucky, perhaps they came from the same county. Document
your ancestor first, but if his records are silent about his Kentucky
origins, try locating him by locating the Kentucky origins of his neighbors.
You may find him in the same county where you find them.
b) County histories might list where the early settlers of
an area were from. If your family settled an area early, this may be a clue
to your family's origins.
c) Witnesses on your ancestor's wills, deeds and other
records may provide the names of associates of your ancestor. Not all
associates were friends of your ancestor.
d) Some old county plat books have a list of "subscribers"
that includes their county or country of birth. Look at the individuals
living in your ancestor's township and adjacent ones for people from the
e) Military pension records of your ancestor may provide the
names of comrades and fellow servicemen which may be helpful in learning
more about the earlier years of your ancestor's life.
The Tigger Movie shows again the popularity of the
search for one's past, albeit on a juvenile level. Tigger's frustration
while searching for his ancestors in the Hundred-Acre Wood is one most
genealogists can sympathize with.
Copyright 2000, 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 visit his Web site at:
Used by the author on his website with