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A Strong Foundation for Your Research

Putting the pieces of your genealogical puzzle together.

Happy New Year! In 2019 I'm going to focus my blogs on Strategies for Finding Your Irish Ancestors. To do that, I'm going to start at the beginning, with the foundation for any genealogical research. As the weeks go by, I'll build from the basics of general research to the specifics of Irish research. If you're new to genealogical research or just new to Irish research this will provide the basics. If you've been researching your Irish ancestors for a while and have hit the brick wall (or as one of my reader's put it last year, a speed bump) going back to the basics can sometimes help.

There are a lot of analogies that can be used in genealogy and one that I’ve always liked is that research is like a jigsaw puzzle.  You collect all of these pieces and you need to fit them together to make a picture, in this case, a picture of your ancestor.  You usually start by separating the pieces into piles and sometimes puzzles get mixed up and you need to discard some of the pieces.  Now admit it, sometimes you even try to force a piece where it really doesn’t belong and as you get toward the end, you have to remove it and put it somewhere else.  Like practically anything we do, there are rules and guidelines for genealogy and if you follow them, it will make your research go more smoothly.  

   It’s important to know where you’re going, whether you’re just beginning your genealogical journey, or have been researching for a while.  So here’s another analogy.   Just like the GPS in your car, the Genealogical Proof Standard, or your genealogical GPS is an important basic concept.  If you understand it, it will work for you and help you to be a more effective and efficient researcher.

   The Genealogical Proof Standard was developed by the Board for Certification of Genealogists to help both professionals and family genealogists do sound research.  Accuracy is key because you don’t want to get to a point where you have to prune all those “former ancestors,” from your tree...those are the ones you’ve been researching for years only to find out they’re part of a different family!

   So here’s a great New Year’s Resolution to help you with your research.  Understand and follow the Genealogical Proof Standard.  (By the way, while you’re on the BCG site definitely check out the BCG Learning Center.) The Genealogical Proof Standard consists of five parts:

   A reasonably exhaustive search    Complete and accurate citations to all the sources    Analysis and correlation of the collected information    Resolution of conflicting evidence    A soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion

   A reasonably exhaustive search means that you don’t stop researching when you find the first source.  You don’t even stop when you find a second or third source, especially if there is conflicting information…it’s not the best 2 out of 3!  My grandmother was not a great source of information.  She provided different information on her date and place of birth every time she was asked.   Sometimes it was Ireland, sometimes it was Scotland and the date and year varied as well.  I had to keep looking.  Her naturalization (through her husband) stated that she was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, as did her marriage license. Her Voter Registration Card stated she was born in Ballyshannon, Ireland and that's where I finally found her birth record; born on 12 December 1892.  (Note it is indexed in 1893 since the birth was not registered until January.)

“Civil Registration,” Birth, Ireland, Digital Image,, 1893 Ballyshannon, Group Registration ID 9037008

Had I stopped with the first source, her marriage license, which stated her birthplace as Aberdeen, Scotland, perhaps I would have found a person by the same name…but it would have been the wrong person!

Always search for all of the records that an individual left. The hint as to where in Ireland your ancestor was born may show up in an unexpected place, or even with a collateral family member.


   Happy Hunting!

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