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Be patient in your search

There are genealogists out there that pride themselves on being able to say, "I have two of my family lines back to the mid-1500s, and I have one of my lines back to the late-1400s!" They are so proud of their hard work and accomplishments. Those people are not true genealogists.

When you are researching your ancestors, you have to look at them as real people and not just names and dates. You research each family group as a whole. Who were the father, mother and children? Where did they live? Did they live there their entire life or did they move around? If they moved around, do you know why? What did the husband do for a living? Did he follow in the footsteps of his own father or did he go off into another direction? How much education did they have? What was their place in society? Did they attend church? What denomination? How were they involved in their community? What were their dispositions? Were they well-respected or thought down upon?

Here is an example of from my own file. Which is more interesting to read? James Elexander Simmons born 22 Feb 1870 and died 28 Dec 1937, or James Elexander Simmons was a poor farmer in rural Lamar County, MS. He had never traveled any further than the next county over. He was a respected deacon at Burnt Bridge Baptist Church. "El," as he was called, had little formal education but it is said that he read his Bible daily and could quote the Scriptures better than anyone. He married a local girl named Corrine Elizabeth Graham whose father was a Civil War Veteran and was highly respected in their community though he too was a poor farmer barely able to feed his family.

James and Corrine had nine children, all but one made it to adulthood. Corrine died in childbirth with their ninth child. James later married a widow thirteen years his junior named Harriet Woodward and had three more children. James' children from his first marriage didn't like Harriet, and as they got older, kept their distance. James died before Harriet and is buried at the Grantham Family Cemetery in an unmarked grave. I have much more information about James and his life, but you get the idea. You get a much clearer picture of who James was.

Your research comes to life when you approach it this way. It is much more interesting for the person reading your research if you have included all of these interesting details and not just the facts and figures. You have done a much more thorough and complete job if you take the time to do this extra research.

Researching this way takes a lot more time and effort, but the results are worth it. True, you will not be able to research your family lines back to the 1500s as quickly, but you will have accomplished much more.

Web posted on Wednesday, February 4, 2004

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