Case Study, Getting Started in Family History

Getting Started in Family History: A Case Study Part 1

I’ve been doing family history since I was in college, so sometimes I forget what it’s like to start from zero.  So this morning, that’s exactly what I did.

When we start family history, we collect up everything we’ve been told and everything we know.  Personally, I use a piece of paper to sketch out the information as I find it.  That’s really Step One.

I’d always heard that 2 of my aunts-by-marriage on my mom’s side are cousins.  I know their maiden names and their husbands’ names (since they’re my mom’s brothers).  And I know they’ve lived in Connecticut for as long as I’ve been alive (about 50 years).

Step Two: This morning I woke up wanting to see how my two aunts are related…that’s my research objective.

Step Three:  Search for low hanging fruit

I did a newspaper search and found a 50th year anniversary for Mr. and Mrs. Albert Earnest of Connecticut.  Mrs. Earnest, Nan, made the best Swedish pancakes.  She lived with my Aunt and Uncle for as long as I can remember.  The news article had her maiden name, Ann Johnson, and her father’s name, Malcolm Johnson.

Step Four:  Take all known information and search the most appropriate record for the information, location and time that fits the known information.

I went to search the 1940 Census to find my Aunt with Nan and her husband on the 1940 Census.

From the 1940 Census, I learn that Nan, Ann Johnson Earnest, was born in about 1903 in Connecticut.  Albert Earnest, her husband,  was born about 1902 in Connecticut.  (The 1940 Census also tells me who gave the Census Taker the information by marking the person with an X inside a circle.)  In the image below, you can see that Margaret Oppell, Anna O Earnest and Violet M Stevens each gave the information for their homes.


In quick review, I jotted down everything I knew and then went to sources from the area they resided and tried to find records for the entire family group.  Once I did, I added to the known information so I could take the next research step in searching4ancestors…


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