Your Family Tree
TIP: Every item may be filled with clues, details, misinformation, and straight-out lies!
As you research further into your ancestors’ pasts, you will likely find fewer accurate details of individuals. However sometimes, there are likely to be very few documented details of their lives because they didn’t own property, didn’t go to jail or the Poorhouse, and so on.
But you can follow small clues: e.g., the 1911 Dublin Census lists each household on a separate page signed by the head of the household – Ah-ha! there’s a (widowed) paternal grandmother’s signature. On another document :here’s Grampa G.’s signature – known as Jack, he signed his name as Wm.Jno., making it much easier for me to search for him in other documents. Now I can look him up in ship passenger lists, an 1881 British Census and more. Here’s new information: on a ship’s list, I find Grampa G. sailing to Canada in 1911 with his father-in-law, a few years after his younger brother emigrated, also to Canada! More questions to ask, more information to search, more clues to follow.I’m getting more excited by the moment.
Whenever possible, try to get a look at the Original document, which may have details that weren’t transcribed, such as the township, document date, employment details, other people living in the household, plus neighbouring households. An Example: here’s a Joseph Armstrong listed as a nephew on the Gillespie household census: this could be your greatgrandmother’s brother’s son – now you can look for more details in time and place. A census document states that another family line of greatgreatgrandparents arrived in the USA in 1823 – but another document says 1826. Who’s right? People frequently misremember dates unless they have a specific document in their hand. And remember that in the past, people rarely had to fill in documents with all the details that we do so frequently in our lives – so dates were easily misremembered.
Also, it’s important to realize that any document which has 2 or more people involved in it is likely to include very suspect data. For example, a relative tells information about your ancestor to a clerk who mis-heard a date, then years later, the handwriting is transcribedby a third person, who makes a typo, etc. One error after another.
Be open-minded and patient as you research your family trees, and you may found a tantalizing clue or two!