July 14, 2023
Plugging a name into a database is a quick way to search for records. If you’re lucky enough to have an ancestor with a unique name, it might result in a plethora of records about that ancestor. Unfortunately, though, most of our ancestors’ names turn out to be surprisingly common. That means that you’ll get tons of hits on your database search. Most of them will have no relevance to your ancestor; they’ll merely share his name.
Spending hours scrolling through miscellaneous people with the same name is a tedious way to find records. Narrowing your search to at least an approximate time and place will help you find records that apply to your ancestor.
Recently, I received a research request from someone who had learned that her ancestor died in Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1883. The information came from a local Cheyenne newspaper. It stated that the man’s body had been shipped, at his sons’ request, to Sterling Cemetery for burial. The requester reported that she could find no other records about her ancestor’s death. She needed help.
A quick Google research showed only one cemetery by that name. It was in Sterling, Logan County, Colorado. I’ve never done any research in Logan County, so I immediately went to the Family Search Wiki for help. This free website is part of the Family Search system and is a good starting point when researching in a new area. It can be found at https://www.familysearch.org/en/wiki/Main_Page . Just enter the name of the county and state you are looking for plus the word genealogy.
This will lead to an informative page describing all the various available records from that county including digitized ones. Helpfully, it includes sources that are not available on the Family Search website as well as those that are.
In the case of Logan County, I learned that Logan was not a county in 1883, when the requester’s ancestor died. It was part of Weld County until 1887. This meant that any records from 1883 would be found in Weld County, not Logan. I explained this to the requester. She began to search for her family in Weld County and was able to locate him in the 1885 Colorado State census as well as on the BLM General Land Office website.
Knowing where to look is important when doing genealogy. Using the Family Search Wiki is a good way to learn what records are available for a certain area and can help you to focus your research. It ought to
be a go-to source for genealogists.