Researching the first name.
The following pattern is common in Irish and English families:
1st son named for father’s, father.
1st daughter named for father’s mother.
2nd son named for father.
2nd daughter named for mother.
3rd son named for mother’s father.
3rd daughter named for mother’s mother.
4th son named for father’s brothe.
4th daughter named for father’s sister.
Does the census indicate illiteracy? A lot of boarders? A lot of foreign born citizens? A trade or craft occupation? A disability? An unexplained member of the household? Everything on the census is important. Take notes and be mindful of the importance of clues like these.
Women in the pioneer days.
Childbirth and care of the family if the mother died.
When a wife was in the family way she took her young children and went back home before her due date. If she died in childbirth, the children stayed with her family until the husband took another wife. Or, a female family member would come stay with them, and, if the mother died in childbirth, she might marry the widower or remain to care for the family, until he took another wife. On the other hand, a bachelor was much expected to marry his brother’s widow. Family agreement to a marriage was a compelling condition of engagement.
Don’t discount banishment as a possible reason for migration. Examples in my family: The Maxons were banned from Boston along with Ann Hutchinson for religious non-conformity. The Hursts were loyalists and had to escape to Canada, all of their land and possessions confiscated, and resettled in Indiana after the Revolution. The Cables fled St. Louis to New Orleans during the Civil War. They left everything in haste, all was confiscated and sold by the government.
Organizations and Associations.
Veterans, social, religious and fraternal organization, craft guilds, which controlled knowledge of the craft and ”trade secrets”, labor unions, professional associations, licensed or regulated occupations, institutions, asylums, universities, prisons, etc., all kept records and many have historians today.
Secret societies played a big role in the history of our country and its institutions. Members swear a very serious oath and incur solemn and severe obligations. They had each other’s back, whether on the battlefield, the voting booth ot the courtroom. At one point in our nation’s history, six Supreme Court justices were Masons.
Again, another personal example. During my research of a family line there was a sudden acquisition of wealth and rapid migration to a distant northern territory has me looking for an explanation. A clue: This branch founded a college affiliated with a racist secret society. A suspicion: Atrocious criminal behavior sanctioned and rewarded by society.
I look for a reason when and individual or family has a paper trail that ends before 1930 or can’t be found in the Social Security Death Index after 1935. Where did they go? Look to the history at the time. Where was the greatest opportunity? What were the migration routes? Follow the waterways and wagon trails before the civil war and the railroads after it. Look at vessel passenger lists; perhaps they moved back to the old country for an inheritance or they had a homesick war bride. Homesteaders had to occupy the land and improve it for a minimum of five years before it was theirs. Often they sold it then and moved on. Temporary employment, ie., the Gold Rush, the excavation of the Panama Canal, the building of the Hoover Dam, or construction of the Alaska Pipeline, to name a few. Some had mobile professions, like railroad, oil and construction workers, or traveling salesmen. Some might have had two families, like a steamboat pilot with families in both New Orleans and St. Louis.
Military unit histories, personal memoirs and diaries are other examples. Also, where were military prisoners taken. I found a printed eulogy called ‘A Memior of George Morras [probably Morris or Morse] written and given inside Andersonville. He was prophet. He was captured along with my ancestor. As they entered the gates of the prison, George, pointed out the spot where he, my ancestor, and two others would die. That freaked me out, because George prophesied on the train to the prison that there would be an accident killing two men. And it came to be.
No death data. There may be no record due to a mass casualty situation and unrecoverable or unidentifiable remains or overwhelming demand upon community resources. Examples: steamboat explosion, epidemic, natural disaster, act of war, mass grave, etc.
General Rules of Research.
Look for what is not obvious. Re-read information several times. Research historical events surrounding the time of your ancestors lives. Give weight to information about associated families. Try to put yourself in their place. Write down everything you know.
Note: This information came from John Stein in response to another members story. John is in declining health due to the advance of Alzheimer’s. The last paragraph was written by me after I spoke with John on the phone.