Sometimes, finding new information on an ancestor may seem like quite a challenge. Situations that appear to be dead ends and brick walls don’t need to stay that way. Instead of trying to push further and further back on a family line, progress may come by learning more about the family and extended family. By learning a few techniques I’ve developed over the years, you might just be able to help others, or yourself, get around those dreaded dead ends and brick wall barricades!
A few weeks ago a friend showed me his McClure family in FamilySearch Family Tree. He is stuck on his paternal line with a man who was born about 1809 in Tennessee and died in Illinois in 1874. Although McClure was not an extremely common name in the area, there were enough around to make the research a little difficult. He had already attached each US census of 1850, 1860, and 1870 as sources in Family Tree. Finding a person in each census taken during his or her lifetime often reveals information that might be missed without this attention to detail. My friend was off to a good start but not sure how to discover more.
Looking at the census details from 1850 and the information added to the Thomas McClure Family Tree, we noticed some discrepancies. Two daughters listed in Family Tree were born two and four years before the parents married. Seeing one child born a little early isn’t unusual, but to have two children born before the parents’ marriage raises some questions. The 1850 census also showed two girls living with the family who had a different surname. It looked like the marriage in 1844 listed on FamilySearch Family Tree may have been the second one for both Thomas and his wife. That was a big clue.
Check Marriage and Death Records
A general search of all collections on FamilySearch for a marriage of Thomas McClure in Kentucky revealed a few possibilities. To be sure which marriage really fits this family, we then checked the death certificates for each of Thomas McClure’s children for the mother’s name and maiden surname. Death records before 1900 are less likely to include the mother’s name. Some states or countries included different information in different time periods. The death or burial information is still worth obtaining regardless of the time period. This approach can be especially helpful if tombstone and other graveyard records are also available for searches.