Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tunnel Vision Searching For Ancestors

One thing that is easy to do when researching your ancestors is to get tunnel vision!  You get so focused on your direct lineage that you can’t see the forest for the trees. You have to start learning to be a detective and look at all the clues that are out there.

Okay, so you hit a brick wall. Do you have the names of siblings? Have you searched for their records?  You can often find their spouses and their children and where everyone is buried. Check the cemetery well because chances are you are going to find other relatives buried there, in fact you may even find the graves of the direct lineage you have been searching for!

By checking census reports for siblings, you can often find where family members have moved in together, perhaps hard times forced them to share a household or a sibling is now carrying for an elderly parent or parents.

Back in the olden days, many women died during or shortly after childbirth from complications. There were also epidemics of small pox, etc that wiped out many members of a family all at one time. Surviving children were often sent to live with relatives either for safety’s sake to get them away from such illnesses or because a surviving parent, usually a father in cases where the wife died at childbirth, is not capable of taking care of a house full of children.  It was not unusual for there to be seven, eight, ten or even a dozen children.  The older children might stay with the father, because they could help around the house. The girls could do cooking, cleaning, mending and caring for the younger siblings or the boys could help in the fields bringing in crops,  The younger children, were often sent to live with relatives, brothers and sisters of the parents mostly. But it was not unheard of for even grandparents to step in and take the children to raise.

If you come across a census report, where you have relatives who all of a sudden have additional children living with them, where the ages just seem to send up a “red flag” that they are not close enough in age to the other children, or adults who are now parents of a young child and the wife is no longer of childbearing age, this should automatically make you ask “where did that child come from?  Who do they really belong to?”

Another thing you need to be aware of is that the spelling of names changed over time and I don’t just mean last names but first names as well. Remember that your ancestors all originally came from foreign countries and their names would have been spelled as they were “in the old country.”

Because communities were close knit and sometimes because of religion, families often intermarried. A perfect example of that is within my own family lineage. I have Decker, DeBow, Ryerson’s that have intermarried from one generation to the next!

The other day I was working on trying to locate Tina DeBow, who is at least one of the wives of Peter Decker. Some have suggested that Tina DeBow could actually be Christina DeVoe!  Peter also may have been married to Stintje (Stintie) De Mott.  I have located other generations where there have been marriages with the DeBow or Debow name, so I am inclined to believe that the DeBow is correct. But, there is a chance that somewhere, somehow her name was transcribed incorrectly.  Tina sends up a “red flag” to me as actually being her given name since that is not a name that was typical back in the 1700’s. So of course I have several courses of action to take here. I can look for Christina DeBow or Debow as well as Christina or Tina DeVoe or Devoe. Since there is a strong possibility that Peter married more than once, I also need to check for Stintje(Stintie) DeMott or Demott. Do you notice I am checking for various spellings? In checking cemetery listings, I have found the DeBow name spelled both ways.

I hope some of these hints will help you with your brick walls!  I’d love to hear from you.
This book is excellent, with lots of places listed to look on line for information.

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