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10 Things to Do When You Are Stumped

1. Re-Examine Your Findings

Sometimes the answer to a question is waiting in records you have already discovered. Take time to analyze your findings and give everything another look. Specifically look for any conclusions you might have made that cannot be verified from the records you have found. Avoid making any assumptions and ensure that each name, event, and place can be verified before continuing your research.

2. Locate the Original Record

In some cases you might be looking at a transcription or abstract made from an original record. While every effort is made to ensure transcriptions are accurate, it is essential to examine a copy of the original record. In some cases you might only have an abstract or abbreviated version of the record and the original record might yield additional information for your research.

3. Search Collateral Lines

Focusing your search on an ancestor’s siblings often yields additional records that benefit your research. For example, a brother or sister might provide the names of their parents in a record while your own direct ancestor did not. Tracing collateral lines can also identify distant cousins who might have useful information.

4. Create a Timeline

Chart out a chronological timeline of a family helps to organize a family identify missing information. Include significant dates for each family member, such as vital events, military migrations, census enumerations, and other details. You can also add historical events to see how your ancestor’s might have been impacted by what was happening in the world around them, and what other records might be available to search.

5. Find a Genealogical Society

Thousands of genealogical societies exist throughout the United States and the world. Societies offer a wealth of resources for those researching family history and might even have local volunteers who can assist you in your research. Visit the Federation of Genealogical Society’s online directory to locate a society in your area.

6. Ask For Help

Multiple resources exist for asking other genealogists for ideas and advice when you are stumped. You can easily post a query about any family on the findmypast Message Board , a blog , or a social networking site such as Facebook or Twitter . Include information (names, dates, and places) that would be useful in assisting someone answer your question.

7. Expand Your Knowledge

The answers you are seeking could easily be available in records you have yet to discover. Learn more about family history at findmypast or through other resources, such as the National Genealogical Society’s online courses or the FamilySearch Wiki . You can also subscribe to family history magazines including FamilyTreeMagazine , American Ancestors , Family Chronicle , and others.

8. Visit a Genealogical Library

A few key libraries for family history research exist in the United States, each with a dedicated staff of professionals and volunteers who can assist you with your research. The world’s largest genealogical library, The Family History Library located in Salt Lake City, Utah has a worldwide collection of over 2.4 million rolls of microfilm and thousands of books. Other prominent libraries for genealogical research include the Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Library in Washington, DC, the Midwest Genealogy Center in Independence, Missouri, the Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research in Houston, Texas, and the New England Historic Genealogical Society’s Library in Boston, Massachusetts.

9. Attend a Class, Webinar, or Conference

Several opportunities to learn more about researching your family history are available online and in-person. Potential events include individual classes on a specific record or strategy, an online webinar, or a day-long seminar on a variety of genealogical topics. There are also multiple week-long conferences and in-depth institutes across the United States relating to genealogical research that you can attend, including the National Genealogical Society’s Annual Conference , the Federation of Genealogical Societies Annual Conference , RootsTech , and the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy .

10. Don’t be Discouraged

Some families are much easier to find than others. Family history is a lifelong pursuit for many as there are always another set of parents or siblings to discover as your family tree continues to branch out. As more records become available online and are discovered across the world it is possible that the answers to your toughest research problems can still be solved.