11 June 2017

Let a Few Quick Wins Reinvigorate Your Genealogy Research

I admit it. What I'm about to share with you is common knowledge.

But common knowledge is often forgotten knowledge.

Many of us sneak in some quick family tree research time here and there, whenever we can. We're not focused on it as if it were our full-time job. (I joke, of course. Who's concentrating on their jobs?)

Our research habits may have gotten a little sloppy. Maybe we need to get back to basics.

Notice there's no last name in this search.
Notice there's no last name in this search.
With that in mind, today I decided to track down some census records I simply couldn't find in the past. I used a few tried-and-true techniques and started racking up the wins. (See How To Squeeze Everything Out of the Census.)

Now I'm psyched for more! How many missing census forms can I find in one sitting? And do I really have to go to work tomorrow?

Here's what I did. You can do the same.

My maiden name is not easy for anyone to pronounce or spell, so I never expect the transcription to say "Iamarino".

No problem. Here are three techniques that helped me successfully locate a census for two Iamarino families:

  1. Do a wild card search. I tried *amarino and ?amarino to locate nearly correct spellings.
  2. Search for a family member instead. When my search for the head of household didn't work, I tried searching for his son Bernard—not as common a name as Peter.
  3. Remove the last name completely. This did the trick! I had a family of four named Peter, Marie, Joseph and Bernard. That combination, with no last name, brought up the long-missing 1940 census record. "Iamarino" had been transcribed as "Lamarine".
I found them! Cousin Bernie was the key.
I found them! Cousin Bernie was the key.

I recommend looking at your family tree and starting close to yourself. Fan out until you identify a family that's missing some census years. Then go to your favorite census search engine, whether it's ancestry.com, familysearch.org, or anywhere else.

Try various combinations of the three techniques above to see if you can find that missing census form.

If you find one, you won't be able to stop. If you fail a couple of times, pick a different branch and try again.

Happy hunting!

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