In the last blog we talked about the details that emerge at the end of someone's life. No, not the deep dark secrets that they kept (though THAT does make for some interesting research) but the nice details that give you a good idea of WHO that relative was. Just consider discovering that a great uncle was left handed like you and that he too was excellent at crosswords! This is the life blood of any search for family tree information, but there are a lot of ways that you can come across such data apart from hearing from your relatives.
In Part 6 we mentioned the use of obituaries and cemeteries for information and now we need to expand on this idea. How? I have already mentioned that cemeteries tend to keep lists of surnames, and that is one way to do a sweeping search for information. For example, I asked about my mother's maiden name at one site, but I also inquired about a few other surnames that I felt MIGHT show up on the list. This paid off for me tremendously. Thus, I strongly suggest that all of your history and family tree work include a comprehensive list of surnames and places of origin for them.
Another great way to get facts about ancestry for a family tree is through the records of the U.S. Census Bureau. All of the way back in the 1700s they were counting heads, taking names, and making notes about people. Today, you can see the names of your great grandparents scribbled out on a ledger and also see the names and ages of their children too! You can often find out such things as their "trade", and where they came from.
I found this to be a jackpot for my history and family tree work because I had no idea that my family had come from Poland!
The one "glitch" here is that you must have a good idea of where they came from. For instance, you cannot just seek them out by surname unless you are using a subscription based search engine. You CAN, however, search the Social Security Death Index for free. This lets anyone access a very hefty bit of information about the person in question, and it also lets them order copies of things like original applications for the Social Security number. In this way, I was able to get documents that showed my grandparents and great grandparents handwriting! Now I know where I get my ghastly penmanship!
Obituaries, cemeteries, and official documents....that leaves us with one last suggestion for times when you are looking at the "end" of someone's life in order to learn a bit about them for your family tree pedigree. We'll leave that for the next blog...