I just discovered a new ancestor. What do I do next?

I just saw this question posted on a Facebook group. The poster wanted to know how to be as efficient as possible in their research when they added a new person to their tree.

At first glance, this question is a bit overwhelming.

But we can by breaking it down a little…

1) What are you trying to do?

Write this down to guide what you do next. We call this the research question. Make sure your answer is manageable. Finding out everything about someone’s past is impossible. Finding their birth date is a lot easier.

2) How can you do it?

What records can help you answer a question? The census, for example, can help approximate a birth year. Write this down to remind you where  to look.

3) What do those records say?

Do different records give different dates? How reliable are they? Remember, a child fling out a death certificate may not know their parent’s date of birth but the parent’s mother would – she was there.

4) When you decide what is accurate, write down why and which sources you looked at. Someone will eventually read your tree. They might have looked at different sources and come to a different conclusion. You want them to know why you made the choices you did.

5)Last, decide what to next. Have you looked at every source that might answer your question? Did the sources help you think of a new question? Write this down as the starting point for future research.

And then it’s time to start the process over… because you’ll discover new ancestors.

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