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Finding your way back – putting together the initial lineage


Today’s topic is how to put together that initial lineage.  This could be a general lineage as in “starting with your parents” and just heading back to see what you can find, who is who and where/when did they get to where you are now.

It could also be that your grandmother often said that you are descended from some notable person or someone who was at an important event.  You have a starting point and an ending point and a lot of white space in between.

It is perfectly acceptable to find a lineage posted online to use as a guidepost.  Just don’t accept it as the truth until you find verifying information,  what is known as a source document.  An official record from the government, church, will, handwritten bible are some examples.

Since everything in genealogy starts with little ol’ you, it is where you start the documentation process.  This of course means your birth certificate.  Next, you get the documents from your parents.  Their birth certificates or other birth documents and their marriage certificate.

Each one of these documents has identifying information, not only of the people but of the locations they lived and got married.  People often get married far from where they were born.

Then you try and find the information for your grandparents.  Here is where you start to have some options.  Privacy laws in the United States keep many personal records private until 70 or more years after the date of the record.  The US Census is protected in this manner.  But starting with your grandparents, you should be able to find them in the US Census records.

I personally use which is available as a free electronic resource through the public library.  Using the available search engine, you can select the year of the census, the location, search for alternate spellings of the name and more.

The sites also allow you to download the census image onto your computer or store it in a portfolio if it is a paid service.  By finding your grandparents records, you also find out their age.  You can then search for them in even earlier census records, lining up the ages with the years difference in records.  You will find the family members, where they were born, occupations and other interesting items.

You should be able to find your way back to 1850, which was the first really usable census. Previous versions just listed the head of household and number of persons living there.

Here is where you must turn detective.  From this point back, you have to search for everything you can find.  The most helpful documents from the past years 1700’s and early 1800’s are church records, deeds and last wills and testaments.  Each of these documents has information on relationships and are solid proof of lineage.

Another good technique is to search for an unusual name, usually the woman’s last name.  It is far easier to search for Maria Shindeldecker than it is to sort out all the Jonathan Miller’s.

But don’t overlook other sources.  You will find family information in county minutes, orphan listings and other administrative records.  I have gone through book after book on the shelf at genealogy rooms.  As an example, I had difficulty finding a record to prove a mother daughter relationship in a lineage.  The answer was found in a document called a necrology that some dedicated research compiled.

It was reported to the county coroner that the mother had died of sickness and her daughter supplied the information.  Both women were named in the record.  Given the exact match of the names and the locality, it was proof of the relationship.

So leave no stone unturned, It may take you years to resolve a lineage, but the EUREKA! moment is the big reward. Best of luck.

Rob Andrews
I’m a mutt with a pedigree