Casefile Clues

01 May 2007

How is your pre-1850 methodology?

In informal conversations with other genealogists and with my experience with helping other researchers, there are two points in time where American genealogists experience research pangs:

  • their first (or second or third) foray into pre-1850 research.
  • their first (or second or third) foray into pre-American Revolution research (especially outside of New England).

The everyname census in American research 1850 and after makes sorting out families somewhat easier, although there are always exceptions. Good, sound methodology is always required for research, but in many cases, crossing the 1850 line presents additional challenges particularly in those areas that were not keeping good vital records. In other cases, crossing the American Revolutionary time-frame presents a challenge as well.

There are several ways to help yourself cross the 1850 barrier. One is to read articles in journals like the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, The American Genealogist, the Virginia Genealogical Society Quarterly, etc. Another is to attend workshops and conferences related to your topic. Reading well-written research guides is another. Mailing lists can be helpful as well, but sometimes finding a good one can be difficult.

For a variety of reasons, I've been working on pre-1850 families in Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky and was reminded that this period is a challenge for many. It is especially frustrating working on those families who were "extremely migratory" and not too well-off.