A great way to build your research skills is to research other families besides your own. Families that are really different from your own. Sometimes families that we think are different from ours really are not all that different–the names and places and dates are not the same, but many details about them are the same.

I have two sons-in-law and I’ve done some research on their families. Yes they are different families from mine, but in one case the background is extremely similar to mine: rural, farmers, small landowners, middle class. I have a few more 19th century immigrants than he does, but there’s a lot about our backgrounds that are the same. His family’s been interesting to research, but I would not say that I’ve had to broaden my research skills to work on them.

My other son-in-law’s background (what I know about it) is different–at least partially. He has Irish immigrants to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, in the mid-19th century. While I have Irish immigrants at about the same time period, mine are rural farmers…his are not rural and they were not farmers. The majority of his family is not rural and were significantly more mobile than my people were. I’ve had to learn some new approaches and techniques.

The same is true for a portion of my children’s ancestry. Their mother has family from Chicago–including a few late 19th century Italian immigrants. That’s been an entirely different set of problems.

It’s good to help others and I always learn something when I do. But I learn the most when the family I’m helping someone with has significant differences from my own.

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2 Responses

  1. I learned a lot when I took on my niece’s family. Her mother was from Mississippi and all of my previous research was based in New England. Her family were farmers and mine were fishermen. And then there was my husband’s Jewish ancestry.

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