With step 1 now under way, you may have started step 2 without realizing it. Let the treasure hunt begin! The goal with this stage of your research is to search for any clue that might help provide a missing piece of information for your pedigree chart or could otherwise help provide additional detail or verification for something you have already recorded.
Take extra precautions with old or fragile documents. If it is possible to make a copy without damaging the original, you should do so to avoid unnecessary handling of the original. You may find it helpful to have separate folders as you collect information – one each for your paternal and maternal lines. As you collect a greater volume of original source material, you may require additional folders or binders to keep your material organized. Use whatever system you are comfortable with, as long as you can safeguard the originals and quickly retrieve them for future inspection. Also, be sure you get permission to access any “treasures” that are not in your personal possession.
Among the items you may find containing clues are:
· Certificates for a vital event (Birth, Marriage, Death)
· Certificates for religious ceremonies
· Old postcards and letters (including the postmarked envelope)
· Handwritten entries in a family bible
· Journals or diaries
· Old photographs (including any handwritten comments on reverse)
· Newspaper clippings (especially obituaries)
· Inscriptions from a headstone
· Memorial cards from funeral
· Military papers
· Government documents or correspondence
· Wills and/or probate documents
· School yearbooks
· Diplomas and/or certificates of achievement
· Awards, medals, trophies
· Deeds and/or land records
· Naturalization (Citizenship) documents
· Interesting family ‘artifacts’ (Heirlooms or antiques may contain inscriptions)
As you locate each item, carefully inspect it for any clues regarding names, dates, locations, and relationships that may be contained within. When viewing handwritten notes, letters, and postcards, try to determine who was writing the document and to whom they were writing. Often a letter may read “Dear Mom” or the back of a family photo may include the note “Mom, Dad, and Uncle Joe”. On items like photographs, even the location of a photographers studio can be a valuable clue, so challenge your skills of observation.
Items such as obituaries can be rich with genealogical source material. Even a brief obituary can provide names, relationships, dates, and locations for a variety of ancestors. Pay particular attention to female siblings that may be listed under their married name.