Sometimes I just enjoy the search. I like to take a person, plug them into my
process and see what spits out. As a
former Project Manager (PMP), I am all about the process. I thought I’d share a bit of my process here.
Recently, I was talking with my sister
in-law. Well, I think of her as my sister-in-law,
although in reality she is the “wife of my brother-in-law.” (She is my wifes’s
brother’s wife). Anyway, we had a delightful
lunch with her and her husband the other day. As is often the case when I’m involved in conversation, talk moved to
genealogy and family history. As we
chatted, it became clear that she was extremely proud of her parents and their
stories. She knew that one side had been
in Maine for many generations. On her paternal
side she had some Greats that “came from away,” one from Ireland and
another from New York. As we
chatted, I know that I wanted to know much more about her family, and
subsequently more about who her people are and what made the kind of person
that she is. As we chatted she gave her permission to do some research on her
From discussions long ago, I had a couple tidbits
of information. I knew her parents names and where they lived (Auburn, Androscoggin County, Maine). With that information, I started with my basic “getting to know you” process.
My process begins with
. I have a paid
subscription and I highly recommend having one. If you can’t afford a
subscription, the “library edition” is available at most libraries and at all Family History Centers. I use
to “pick the low hanging fruit.” I quickly found her father, her
mother, where they were married and then both of them through the 1930 and 1940
censuses. I found her father’s parents names in the 1930 census but could not,
for the life of me, find them in the 1920 census. I found the grandparents in
the 1910 census, but still nothing in
1920. I continued my Ancestry.Com
searches and found many city directories that showed where they lived ever
two or three years from after World War II until into the 1950s.
My next important search location in my process is Find-a-Grave. I used to go there second but now Ancestry.Com
searches provides links to Find-a-Grave, so used that feature and easily found
the Find-a-Grave memorials for her parents. Looking at markers, I saw
immediately that her father had been a World War II veteran. Good to know — I’ll look into that more late.
The markers also provided solid evidence for both their birth and
death dates. All the censuses and other
records I found were consistent with that date. Thanks to Find-a-Grave, I also learned
of a brother that was born before my sister-in-law and died that same year as an infant.
I then switched to Family Search – an awesome free
resource. If I didn’t have an
account, Family Search would be my first place to look. Any records that have images through Ancestry
and not Family search I would save to my “Source Box.” Later at a library or family history center
I’d use that source box records to save image files to my thumb drive.
Anyway, some kinds of searches work really well on Family
Search. I searched for her father’s first
name only, and added parents first names only, leaving the surname blank. I also added the state, Maine; bang there it
was. Severely misspelled surname but the right family, parents the right age,
siblings the right ages, location in the right town and state. Only the surname was off. Not much else on Family Search that I found in
a number of quick searches. A deeper
dive will most likely yield more information.
A search of Google News found their marriage
announcement. In it several other bits
of information were provided. Where her father and mother graduated from High
School. Where her mother went to college, what their occupations were. Even info about other relatives that attended
the wedding. Those are really good bits
of info to know and I input everything into my records. Sometimes just knowing that a person was
alive, still unmarried, and living at a specific city can lead to marriage and
Then on to my newspaper resources. My search in Genealogy Bank
found a French language article about her father from 1939. Thanks to Google Translate, the
Two dogs Eskimo, owned by xxxx xxxxxxx, of Fletcher Street,
Kennebunk, harnessed to a sled, made the trip entire Biddeford and Kennebunk in
I’ll bet a native French speaker can tell me if “firent le trajet entre” means round
trip or one way – Google’s translation is unclear but it is a good first cut on translating
almost any language into almost any other language. That the article was in French was interesting as well. It made me
wonder if he was bilingual. I know his wife spoke both English and French.
I didn’t find anything on
Elephind.com regarding the family
Because of my findings on Find-a-Grave, I went back to Ancestry
and searched for military records for my sister-in-law’s father. Sure enough,
several documents were there. I learned he enlisted in early 1941 long before Pearl Harbor. I also found
the document where his widow applied for a veteran’s marker. That was cool because there was a color copy
on-line and the form was clearly in her mother’s hand.
|Bates College students burying a stuffed bobcat to
Commemorate the demise of the Bates humor
magazine: The Bobcat
Photo Courtesy: Bates College
I wondered if the Maine State Archives had a copy of the
wedding certificate on line. No such luck,
but it did confirm the date and provided instructions on how to order one from
the state. (I think I’ll ask my sister-in-law to do that.) The wedding announcement mentioned that my sister-in-law’s mother had
attended Bates College. Hummm. I
wondered if a yearbook might be available on line. Yup.
Archive.Org had a copy on line. I REALLY love Archive.Org. They are high on my list of places to search
for people and documents. Of course
“mom” was there, a graduation photo and it showed her involvement and interests
in school life. She had earned an
apprenticeship in French, she was a member of the French Club, and the Glee
Club, and much more.
In just a few hours I found 18 sources of information about
my sister-in-law’s father and just a many regarding her mother (there is
substantial overlap). Actually, I found the information in an hour or two, documenting it took several times longer than finding the information.
I could do a lot more to get to know my sister-in-law’s
parents. But this is a good first beginning to get to know my sister-in-law’s people.
My process includes doing general searches using:
Ancestry.Com(Find the person in
every census they were alive for.)
Family Search and
Genealogy in Time
(which is really Google but more focused)
Then I search newspapers.
Finally I do focused Searches based upon previous findings
which generally include
Archive.Org and various
That is kind of the start of my process. I think that it provides enough information to know a bit about a person. Enough to begin to ask more questions and focus my further research.
Note: Due to privacy
issues, I have intentionally left out names and personally identifying
information in this article/blog. As matter of policy, I do not publicly write about the
specifics of individuals or couples who have been dead less than 25 years.