Monday, January 28, 2008

Waste Not - Want Not

After visiting with a number of researchers in web chats this week, my thoughts have again turned to finding family history data in the records and documents already in my possession.

You'd think that after combing through them, cataloging them and even quoting from them in sources that you'd have extracted 'all' of the data from your records. Well, it just isn't so.

Whenever I don't have time to visit research libraries or do some hard co
re sleuthing on the Internet, I pull out one of my 3-ring binders or hanging files and start to glean information from the records in them. Sometimes, I can see that I didn't have enough other pieces of the puzzle for the snippets of data in these records to make sense when I looked at them earlier. However, sad as it is, the majority of the time, I've simply been brain dead in earlier reviews.

We pour through our records writing or transcribing the data in to our databases and just like a visit to the Internet, something catches our eye and off we go, down the path following that set of bread crumbs. We may finish transcribing the data, but our mind is still in Wonderland and it doesn't register the nuggets that we've just tossed in the text bin.

Our minds just work that way and regardless of how diligently we try to absorb every clue in our records, we don't and we won't. Thus, repeated visits to our record vaults are required. Space your visits out a little so that you've forgotten the topic that you last followed and be ready for the next discovery and subsequent diversion.

My latest gold mine has been located on the backs of old photos. My mother and others wrote notes, names and clues in pencil on them and although I despair that they sometimes used ink, I rejoice in the information they jotted down. The notes have opened up whole new areas of discovery, from locations, nicknames and dates to the realization that the photo was taken at the same time as one of the stories I've heard or found.

Studying a photo, I realized that if that is Aunt Fran then the man standing next to her is her husband. The only name you'd heard him called was Ole' but the note on the photo said his name was Sven Olefsson. Because they married 'somewhere back east' after the 1900 census and Fran died before the 1910 census ten years later, I haven't been able to find any record of Ole' over the years. When I did a search for Sven Olefsson, I struck pay dirt almost immediately. Now I can gather the 'low hanging fruit' that has always been in my possession but unrecognized.

Take some time this week to glean information from the hidden "gold mines" in your own records.