Question of the Week: What are your favorite areas of genealogy research?

+22 votes

We'd like to know: what are your favorite areas of research?

For me, I'd have to say New Mexico, Puerto Rico, New England, the South and several parts of Europe.  I'm also very interested in the DNA aspect of genealogy but haven't had as much time to learn it as I would like.

How about you?

in The Tree House by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (1.5m points)
reshown by Chris Whitten
Finding the connections.  :)
I like finding all my relatives who live in Ontario
Scotland :)
I have been doing my dad's paternal family history since 1976...first with pen, paper, and stamps, now libraries/archives, travel to the eastern seaboard and the UK and online resources. I have had my mtDNA and autosomal DNA and my brother's Big Y and autosomal DNA done by FTDNA. Our 10X GGF Henry Baldwin came to Massachusetts circa 1635 and was an early settler of Woburn, MA. He married Phebe Richardson, whose parents came with Winthrop's Fleet. I have gone back further, but am not pre 1500 certified so cannot really work/add information or profile manage. There is a sense very difficult to put into words when I make connections from several hundred years ago knowing that these ancestors led to me and without even one, I would not be. I love thinking about the history, tribulations, successes during each era, each generation--the migration patterns, reasons for migrating, conflicts, the famous and infamous ancestors. I work very hard to verify with resources. Frustrations are generally around the lack of maiden names for women, clarifying common surnames that are Ancestors (e.g., Adams, Clark, Barber--yes, I know we are all connected, but some are connected more than others when it comes to genealogy), and helping my grandson and young relatives develop an appreciation for history through genealogy. Carol (Baldwin-3428)
So far, Riksarkivet and ancillary access from pay-to-play sites (which put someone else's public records behind a paywall...please burn in your own personal definition of an bad afterlife...or a flaming car crash, whichever is more likely...) are my Favorite Thing. This is because it is so freakin' cool to follow someone's life travels across Sweden's 1850s+ developing railway infrastructure.

I am also horrified by the social milieu that caused independent travelers and their non-travelling relatives to subscribe to an authoritarian regime that required registration of all travel. Yes, I benefit from the records of that authoritarianism. Welcome to Ellis Island, dear ancestors. (OK, my wife's ancestors. Mine were here to meet the boat. [Hat tip to Will Rogers for the quote.])

Question: how much social liberty must we surrender so that our descendants can research our lives and yet retain some privacy in our here-and-now?  I accept the US census time limits. I'm not so sanguine about third parties subverting public records for private profit. ( I know how magnets work...'nuff said...)

33 Answers

+14 votes
Smiths of colonial America, primarily New England and Nova Scotia.  I like to connect current Smith twigs with their colonial ancestors.  I also like to add Sources to support existing data and for the addition of new data.
by Kitty Smith G2G6 Pilot (511k points)
+17 votes
I have to admit that my favorite, (and most challenging) activity is looking for married names for daughters.   Sometimes they just disappear, but other times, you can browse around the father and mother's entry in the Census and find your missing daughter listed as a sister-in-law or niece in a neighboring house.   It's even more challenging if the woman marries more than once.  It's a good example of why just using transcribed Indices for your searches is often inadequate.  Old newspapers with wedding announcements is another great source of information.

Another challenging (and tortuous) activity is browsing the RC Church records in the National Libray of Ireland.   Often, the transcribers who get it wrong just don't know the names that you are looking for.
by Bob Hanrahan G2G6 (7.3k points)
+15 votes
For me personally it is England and my historical connections to events and people. I like to take things way back as far as I can even to medieval times, but that is a challenge, especially with the gap in records from our colonial ancestors after arriving from across the pond.
by James Stratman G2G6 Mach 7 (79.9k points)
+13 votes
Definitely English records for me, and probably the 19th Century, because the Census records have so much information on them. I like to find what they did for a living, where they lived, and oftentimes go on Google Maps to see if the house is still standing. Anything that puts flesh on the bones of our ancestors is exciting to me. For example, I have recently been doing some work on Metropolitan police offers in the 1880s. I don't know if any of you have seen Ripper Street, but it certainly paints an interesting picture. Reality isn't that much different. I have been using the Met police retirement records that are on Ancestry and there are full descriptions of them on the back page, scars and all!

Susie :-)

P.S. I'm posting this from my flight to Dallas from London. On my way to Rootstech 2019. Yay!
by Susie MacLeod G2G6 Pilot (224k points)
+13 votes
The stories you can glean from the documents. For instance, one of my great grandfathers lived next door to the family of my great grandmother who he married within a few years.

The migrations from the east and the midwest US to the west.
by Azure Robinson G2G6 Pilot (124k points)
+15 votes
Probate records! I find more information there than in many wills or deeds. Great stuff!
by Pip Sheppard G2G Astronaut (1.8m points)
Pip was a courthouse clerk in a former life. Calling it. =)
(Chuckling)... yeah. Must be true!
+14 votes
Right now I think I'd have to say my favorite thing is the integration of genetic and traditional genealogy.  Use a paper trail to build a tree, then use genetics to verify the tree and push it further back.  Find a paper trail to verify the new relatives suggested by the DNA.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  

Really, it's about solving puzzles, and finding/learning the appropriate tools and skills needed to solve the puzzles.
by Lisa Hazard G2G6 Pilot (102k points)
+11 votes
All of my research is the American South where there are a lot of burned court houses. I like solving the family puzzles and fitting supposed families where they belong by using all the circumstantial evidence I can find to prove relationships. By looking at family groups, census records, those families moving together to new areas, tax records that sometimes survive the fires, I eventually piece together the families.
by Virginia Fields G2G6 Pilot (334k points)
+9 votes
My favorite form of research is in identifying ways to connect French notables to the global tree.  It's often quite challenging, as the percentage of the population already connected is lower than in some other population groups, but it's very rewarding once a connection is identified.  Fortunately, the task is made somewhat easier by the relatively high quality of French genealogical records available.  Most departments offer centuries of parish registers and civil acts online and free to the public.
by Greg Lavoie G2G6 Pilot (243k points)
+11 votes
My favourite thing is when I run into marriage certificates. They do a great job of helping identify a ton of info when two families cross paths.

I also really like combining genetics with traditional genealogy. It’s always satisfying when your hard work is confirmed via DNA testing.
by Alex Stronach G2G6 Pilot (261k points)
+9 votes
Finding connections, learning about the past and learning about other countries your ancestors called home.
by Chris Ferraiolo G2G6 Pilot (314k points)
Pretty much sums it up doesn't it Chris!
+7 votes
MY favorite part is finding the direct line of my family. Mostly ny 6Great Grandfather Barnabas Dolman. Probably because I want to go back in family and I am stuck there for years. I know of his wife, his children and that is it. It is like he never existed before he was married. No siblings and no parents. Nothing.

I never imagined that there is more to me than the Dolman family. I also had to have grandmothers. That means other family names in the direct line of my family.
by Jerry Dolman G2G6 Pilot (167k points)

I’ve got a few like that, Jerry. Nothing before the marriage. Frustrating!! angry

+12 votes
In Norway, we've got this expression: "Dig where you're standing" and that's what I've been doing now for more than twenty years. I've been transcribing parish registers and probate protocols from my own home area of Lower Telemark, and tried to make sense of them. It's like an archeological site where you can scrape away for decades and still find something new. And when you get to know the families so intimately, you'll also see where the records must be in error, eg. when a pastor has written down an incorrect name in a baptism. I've broken many a brick wall both for myself and for others because of this domain knowledge.

I've got family in other places too, but it's never as fun doing genealogy with them. I'll rather stick to the area that I know.
by Leif Biberg Kristensen G2G6 Mach 7 (72k points)
+8 votes
The Burkes of Lough Hyne, the Centanni's of Alia, Sicilia, the Schauf's of the Old East Side of Buffalo, NY, the Gisselbrechts and Sigwalts of Baldenheim and Muttersholtz in Bas-Rhin.
by Sharon Centanne G2G6 Pilot (149k points)
+8 votes
Colonial Maryland; all four of my grandparents have at least some Maryland ancestors (back to the 1660's on the Eastern Shore on my direct male line, and back to several Ark and Dove passengers and early Catholic colonists on my mother's side).
by C Handy G2G6 Mach 8 (81.8k points)
+7 votes

Anything and everything Croatia! The priests did a remarkable job recording births, marriages and deaths and many of those records are available through FamilySearch. I just wish all of the priests cared about penmanship. ;)

by Bart Triesch G2G6 Pilot (249k points)
+7 votes
Hi, For sure my English ancestors (Brock), as they are elusive, have names that are repeated over and over, do disappearing tricks to all over the British Colonies of the times. Never  just name search with them, have to do major history lessons aswell. Learning so much about my own country, South Africa's history and all the wars they might have been in.

Absolutely fascinating trying to trace them, which most of the time I don't anyway..
by Janette Engelbrecht G2G4 (4.9k points)
+8 votes
For me the most challenging is the most interesting. My Father's line goes back to the Plantagenets and is very well documented. My mother, however, descends from poor but proud, Southern sharecroppers. No land ownership, no tax records, no wills, no probate records and sometimes no census-- they moved quiet often. Finding the slightest bit of information relating to my elusive DAY/BLACKWELL families of MI and MO is cause for jubilation! DNA testing is providing so many answers!

The most exciting 'find' I've ever had was discovering that a 2nd great grandmother (from the side of this very prestigious lineage) lost not one but two husbands during the Civil War-- or the 'Warh of Nawthun Agression' as my elderly Atlanta aunts called it . . . Rosa Rebecca's first husband was lost early on and reported dead, She promptly remarried and he too was lost. She had children by both husbands. After the war ended Rosa Rebecca applied for her second husband's pension, declaring she was indigent (she owned a small hotel at the time) only to receive a letter informing her that her husband was receiving his own pension in another state! I found this record as well as records for his other family. This was particularly interesting to me since my parents were divorced and I was reminded growing up that this was the first divorce ever in our family! What a disgrace. Well . . . No divorce maybe, just several instances of bigamy-- oh, I forgot to mention-- Rosa Rebecca's first husband had also reappeared and remarried!
by La'Nelle Wilmeth G2G2 (2.4k points)
+5 votes
It's a toss up between English and German ancestry. In English ancestry adding my Alvord line to the original Aldford family of Chester.  In Germany finding two of my mother's direct Neuffer line were Professors of Jurisprudence the university of Tuebingen in the late 16th and early 17th Centuries. Love to connect family to locations and history.
by Jacquelyn Alvord G2G1 (1.8k points)
+4 votes
North Carolina.  I can just about open the phone directory and claim most of the names.  Have also done a lot of research on our German line. The N.C. names include Sherrill, Dula, Oxford, Barlow,Harshaw, Laxton, Corpening, Durham, Barnes, Merritt, Carlton, Hulme, Horton, Weaver, Mason, Lowrance, Bailey, Barrett, Estes, Probst (Propst)  to name a few.  Then the Bonham line goes from South Carolina to California,  Switzerland and on..

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