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Family stories are fun. They are a good way to start. Stories about your relatives can give you important clues to locating them. Use caution, since a family story may have been embellished over time. For example, one woman’s story said that her distant relative was a daughter of Queen Elizabeth. Which Queen Elizabeth? The one who had no children or the current Queen? Use the stories to help you find the facts. As you gather information about your family, evaluate what you have to determine the next step. As you become more accustomed to researching in your locality, and to the evaluation process, it will become easier to see at a glance the piece on your chart that needs more attention.
Examine the Information.
For your chosen individual, ask yourself about:
- Personal Names. Names should be as complete as possible. For example, grandpa’s full name. Is “J. T.” a nickname or the birth name?Is a name spelled correctly to your knowledge?
- Complete Dates. A complete date is a day, a month and a year, such as7 September 1898. Each person needs a complete date of birth, marriage, and death.
- Inconsistent Dates. As you study the data about a person, see if the dates make sense.
- Is the marriage date before a person’s birth date?
- Do the birth dates make the couple too young to marry?
- Is the year of death before a person’s year of marriage?
- Is a child’s birth date after the death of the father or mother?
- Does the mother birth date make her too young when her children are born?
- Is the date of burial before the date of death?
- Place Name Spellings. Is a place spelled correctly? You may not know just by looking. Gazetteers and place name dictionaries can help you determine the actual spelling. List the name of the place as it was at the time of the event, even though today it has a different spelling. Add a note in your records to explain the difference, if necessary.
For genealogical purposes, a complete English place name has three localities, and sometimes four. The smallest locality comes first, followed by the next largest jurisdiction. For example:
- St. Nicholas,Liverpool,Lancashire,England
Evaluation is a key to keeping on the right course. The time you spend in evaluating what you have found could be equal to the time you do the research.
- Evaluate the Evidence
- Jones, Thomas W. Inferential Genealogy. (120 minute video online) FamilySearch Research Courses, 2011.