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29 May 2017 @ 11:09 am
Why Genealogy is stupid sometimes  
I'm doing another run on my family tree and spent yesterday trying to track down the husband of one of my dad's great-aunt's. My dad's side of the family is really hard to track because A) he knows nothing about family history, B) we have no one to ask on that side that might know, and C) they all had, like, five names and all of them chose to go by a random one that wasn't their first and D) no one before about 1930 knows when they were fucking born and decided it arbitrarily on each official document. Luckily, at least one branch lived in Quebec, where the records are awesome, provided you got married in the church and were baptized.

Anyway, all we knew about Great-Aunt's husband was his last name, via knowing one of their sons. So, I'm searching through all the censuses, trying to find where Gwen is living with him, variations on her name, etc., and getting nowhere. Out of curiosity, I switch to searching by the husband. As in, literally, all I have to search by is "Last Name, married This Last Name at some point". No birthdate, marriage date, location of birth, profession, nothing.

Their marriage record came up as the first listing.

So, Ancestry decided that Her Last Name married to His Last Name didn't match, but His Last Name Married to Her Last Name did. Now knowing his first name, I have discovered: the names of the other two sons, his parents' names, where he was born, what he did for a living, when he died, and found a random picture of my great-aunt posing with her future sister-in-law.

Mom and I watch Finding Your Roots on PBS, and she always complains about how the host goes on about what he did to finding the information, in what she feels to be an obnoxious fashion, but let me tell you, with how much work it sometimes is, I would be going 'guess what I freakin' did to find this!', too.

This entry was crossposted on Dreamwidth (http://awanderingbard.dreamwidth.org/294457.html). Replies are welcome in any location.
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
aelfgyfu_mead: brilliantaelfgyfu_mead on May 31st, 2017 01:46 am (UTC)
Yes, it's a huge amount of work—that's why I haven't done any! My mom has done a little, and a cousin on her side did a whole small book on part of the family, and I need to learn all this while I can. But of course I always feel like I have infinite time, so I don't.

Bizarre that the order of the names would matter to the search. I'm glad your perseverance paid off!
The Writer They Call Tayawanderingbard on May 31st, 2017 02:21 am (UTC)
That's one of the reasons I want to do the research so that someone at least knows as much of the story as possible. But it's a giant rabbit hole to fall down once you get going. I've chased down people I'm not even blood related to in hopes of finding some connection or fact about someone I am related to.

Bizarre that the order of the names would matter to the search.

One thing I'm discovering is that sometimes it's easier to find things by searching with less info than more. When you search by an ancestor on Ancestry, it automatically searches by every fact you know about that ancestor, and the more you know about them, the more narrow the search becomes. So and So, born on this date, to these parents, with these siblings, who married this person in this place and had these children. Sometimes if you get stuck, it's best to clear all that out and go back to 'this person's name and one other fact about them'. Especially since I am totally serious in saying no one knew when they were born. I was following someone today and she lists a different birth year on each official record I found. Not to mention that there was no compulsion to use their full names. Now, even if I was called, say, Catherine, but no one in my whole life has called me anything abut 'Kate', I would still be Catherine on a document. Back then, you could be Catherine or Kate or Kitty or Cathy or maybe your middle name. Maybe a different one on each, depending on how you felt. I have one ancestor who started life as Almina but became Elmina at some point and ended her life as Rena.
aelfgyfu_meadaelfgyfu_mead on May 31st, 2017 01:38 pm (UTC)
I would expect Catherine/Kate/Kitty/Kathy, but not Almina/Elmina/Rena. Very interesting!
The Writer They Call Tayawanderingbard on May 31st, 2017 03:08 pm (UTC)
Some of it is definitely due to the fact that either the person giving the information was illiterate, or was giving it to a person who didn't bother to check if the spelling was correct. Almina/Elmina/Rena's family wouldn't have been able to read or write, I don't think, so I can see how someone talking to her to get information might have heard 'El' instead of 'Al'. I don't know where the Rena comes in, except by that point they were Quebecois living in Massachusetts and maybe the person doing the census didn't understand the accent. The branch of that family that went to the States used an entirely different spelling of the last name, too. The hardest part of tracking my paternal grandfather's side of the family is they weren't literate and had a last name without standard spelling, so everyone recording their names took a guess at it.