Idaho's Genealogy Tips Series:

Discovering the Choices Made. And Why.

Contributed by November 10, 2017

Searching for some great genealogy tips that might help those with your Idaho roots, I found this old Who Do You Think You Are? Episode No. 4 from the year of 2012. It presented the great country music legend Reba McEntire who was determined to figure out the “whys” in her own personal family history, such as, why her great-grandfather wasn’t in the census; or Why her 7th great-grandfather sent his own young son as an indentured servant to another land. In Reba’s journey to search for the truth, to understand what really happened in historical events and the personal motivations behind those unanswered questions. I have provided this YouTube video to view.

But to discover the best possible answers to questions, we must create or plot out a basic timeline of our ancestor’s journey based on what we know of them and what we already found in records. Then we can figure out the “whys” in our research by searching for some historical event or perspective that may had occurred during our ancestor’s timeline, such as those two questions Reba had about her great-grandfathers. The following steps are how we can do the same thing that Reba was taught in this episode, to find answers in our own family history.

Step 1: Start With The Facts.

Create a simple timeline, use a pen and piece of paper, or create a word document. Add basic information you already know of your ancestor, and add his or her immediate family. Jot down names, dates, places, and key events in your ancestor’s timeline in chronological order. Then add details from records, such as census, family stories and any other kinds of record found at home.

Step 2: Add History and Supporting Records.

Give your timeline context by adding historical events. Including big ones that may have affected your ancestors---for example, the Stock Market Crash of 1929, U.S. Civil War, or the California Gold Rush) and smaller ones specific to your family (such as moving to Chicago, attending college in Texas, etc.). Use these events to help you find additional records like draft cards, newspaper articles, yearbooks, obituaries, or city directories.

A recent family historian’s research ended when she found that her ancestor disappeared from any further historical records. At some point he came to Pocatello, Idaho and the record was the World War I Draft Registration Card. He stated he was unemployed. But what happened to him. It wasn’t found in the 1920 census. This is where I helped by locating into my favorite website, Google Books, to search his name in Idaho. Well, I found a historical book from some congressional records, stating that the man was listed among the thousands of other men at the time who deserted service after two months. Perhaps this explain that he didn’t wanted to be in 1920 as he perhaps changed his name or moved out of the State of Idaho, which created more questions for this family historian.

Step 3. Analyze.

Look at your timeline. Does everything add up? Gaps and inconsistencies can show where and when to look for records. For example, a widow with a six-year-old child in 1910 is an invitation to look for the husband’s death certificate between 1904 and 1910.

What next?

Download our guide: Creating Timelines That Produce Answers.

Cited Source:

"Three Easy Steps: Discovering the Choices They Made. And Why.", (accessed: March 4, 2012).

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Last Updated: 11/10/2017

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