Submitting a Genealogical Problem

Our March 2016 meeting will focus on problem-solving. Here are some guidelines for boiling down the information you have about your research problem before you bring it to the group. They are based on a problem proposal developed by Thomas K. Rice, CG, and J. H. Fonkert, CG, in 2008 for the MGS Research Study Group and were adapted by Lois Abromitis Mackin, Ph.D., in 2015 with the permission of the original authors.

Formulate your question

Most genealogical problems center around establishing the identity of a person, identifying the relationship between several people, or learning more about a person’s life. You might want to

  • Find a person’s parents, siblings, spouse or children
  • Find where a person came from or moved to
  • Find out if someone served in the military or practiced a particular religion or occupation
  • Find when someone was born, when they died, or when they became a citizen.

Clearly identify what you are looking for as specifically as possible. Break big general problems down into smaller ones. Bring a smaller, specific problem to the group.

Define the focus person

Because genealogical problems/questions almost always center around a clearly identified person, please provide as much information about that person as you can. Your description of the focus person should include the following facts if you know them:

  • Name variations–both given and surname
  • Date and place of birth
  • Parents’ names
  • Siblings–names, dates of birth, places of birth
  • Spouse’s name, date of birth, place of birth, parents
  • Marriage date and place
  • Occupation, economic status
  • Places of residence
  • Religion, churches attended
  • Military service, pension, bounty land, discharge and draft dates and places
  • Land ownership
  • Death date and place, informant on death record, cause of death, newspapers reports or obituaries
  • Burial place
  • Probate and will specifics
  • Emigration, immigration, naturalization, citizenship information–embarkation, ship record, first and second papers, alien registration, etc.
  • Criminal and/or civil court records
  • Mention in local or church histories.

You may not have all the information listed. Provide what you have. This list is designed to jog your memory for what you know. It is clues in this information that may lead to the answer you seek.

Explain how you know, and where you looked

For each piece of information you provide, please indicate where you found it, using a simple notation such as death record, federal census, tombstone, family history, marriage license, etc. If a piece of information is supported by several sources, list all of them. If your sources disagree, give all the versions of the information, along with the source of each.

Let the group know what sources you searched even if the search resulted in no findings. This will help us avoid suggesting something you have already tried.

Submit your problem

Please write up your problem, including what you know, where you found it, and where else you looked, and bring copies to the meeting. It may be helpful to provide a pedigree chart and family group sheet.

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