Lessons in the "Tracing Immigrant Origins" series have encouraged you by both the methodologies introduced and the wide range of sources that may identify where your immigrant came from in the old country.
These forty - one lessons have only opened the door to the wealth of sources and strategies available, because more sources are being made available, located, or reconstructed every day. Still a few summary techniques might be in order.
Start with the Easiest Immigrant
Begin with the most recent and easiest immigrants. Don't spend too much time on the really difficult cases. You will learn as you go along. Evaluate the case studies of others who have researched an immigrant from the same country. Such case studies can be located in periodicals covering those countries. There are also periodicals which cover immigration studies in general, the names of which were given in these lessons.
Explore the possibilities for each of your immigrants and pursue the ones about whom you have the most information. Over time, more and more indexes and databases will be available to be searched. More records will be microfilmed, and more doors will open (including a door to that overprotective relative who won't share any records with you, yet!). You will in the meantime have become a better and more experienced researcher. Keep your information organized in a safe and obtainable place. If you must pause for now, because your country doesn't have many sources at this time, next month or next year a whole raft of information may be available.
Step Two: Determine What Is Missing
Do other relatives have some of your pieces? Basically, genealogy research involves asking questions, recording answers, and listing sources. Talk or correspond with everyone you can think of who would have information. While it's true that success comes from applying good research techniques, the foundation of our success depends upon evaluating what we already know and recording as a goal that which is missing.
Go from Known Information to Unknown Information - If you had not looked at your pieces first, you wouldn't have known which ones were missing.
You cannot determine what is missing if you have not separated fact from tradition, hypothesis from reality. If someone on the Internet, in a published genealogy, or in the Ancestral File has extended your family line three generations, don't just accept that information as fact and start going backward from the end of the purported "new" third generation. First, verify the relationships between your known ancestors and the newly - discovered ancestors providing any additional information which you have proven is true. Then you can move into the "unknown" once again. Have you ever had a dialog like this with yourself?
"What do I really know about this person?"
"I was told he was born in Mexico."
"But how did I come to know that information?"
"Oh, I remember, I found that on a U.S. census record."
"Since just knowing the country is not enough, how will you come to determine the name of the town or parish?"
"I don't know! Wait! I already know his wedding date. Since he was married in the Catholic church and they required the place of christening or baptism to approve the wedding, and the marriage record might have the parish."
"Gee, I'm getting the hang of this! So what will my goal be?"
"My goal is to find the birth place of this person."
"But I really want to find out who this person's parents are, too."
"That is another piece of the puzzle. There are now two goals for this person."
Don't Skip Generations or Sources - You may miss just the piece of information you need.
Within Reason, Get Them All - If you ignore potential pieces, you'll just have to go back to them again in the future.
Just a word of caution! You need to record all of the individuals listed on any document involving your ancestors. You do this because, even though your third great - grandfather did not state on his marriage record the name of his parents, his sister, who lived in the same county, might have stated the name of her parents - just the information you were looking for! Hispanic surnames can be recorded several ways:
- Both males and females in a family take the father's surname.
- Members of the family add the mother's surname.
- Members of the family add the grandmother's surname.
- The father's surname can be preceded by the mother's surname.
- The mother's surname can be preceded by the father's surname.
You want to record every clue you can find. Also letters c, z, and s can be pronounced the same so this is the same surname: Garcia, Garzia, Garsia. Others letters that are interchangeable include b and v, x, j and h; i, ll and y. Use basic resources to understand naming conventions. (See, for example, Mexican and Spanish Family Research by J. Conrad.)