17 August 2006

Lessons in Research from the Wall Street Journal

Today's issue of the WSJ has an article entitled, "Going Online to Mine the Growing Wealth of Genealogy Data." The search by Lan Nguyen, the Journal's Cranky Consumer, for her husband's ancestors offers the opportunity to discuss some basic tenets of genealogical research.

1) People born in New York did not have to travel through Ellis Island to get there. The columnist reports looking for her husband's grandfather, James Jewel, born in New York in 1910, on EllisIsland.org. I would recommend Steve Morse's Ellis Island portal for better results, still it's not where I'd start my search for a native New Yorker.

2) Danish people are not well represented in Jewish genealogical databases. The author says she searched for her husband's grandmother on Jewishgen.org. A great site, but not necessarily the best for looking up the ancestry of a Danish woman who married into a Jewish family in 1934.

3) Women are not born with the last names of their future husbands. The writer evidently did not know that records for events that took place before a woman's marriage will be under the woman's maiden name. All her searches for the grandmother were for "Evelyn Jewel."

4) Researching your family tree takes longer than 5 hours and can even take weeks. The columnist allotted five hours to do the research on her husband's ancestry. After running into so many problems, she contacted the help desk at Ancestry.com for some pointers and was able to find her husband's grandfather in a matter of weeks.

I admit, my own genealogical research has not been much quicker, even allowing for the time I have evidently wasted reading up on the process.

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