Genealogy is Ancestors, not Sources. Sources are just the means to the pedigree you seek. When you build your research plan around your ancestors and their relationships, you ensure you follow the right pedigree line!
First, determine what you know: Use Personal Records (Documents of Personal Identity), Family Records (Documents of Family Identity: father, mother, and all the kids), Compiled Records (Documents of Extended Family Identity: grandparents, aunts, uncles, and their family units). This step used to be called The Survey because you examined what had already been collected, and in some cases printed, about your family and those ancestors already traced. These searches focus your attention on where your pedigree becomes slim and where you can begin, without unnecessarily duplicating the work of the past.
Chart your family data as you go–let proven family relationships guide your research.
Map your family movements as you research–plot your family lore on the ground.
Create an Ancestor Profile–a chronology summarizing what you know about these first ancestors. You will add to this profile as you continue through the records–providing a running list of facts always at your fingertips. Share this profile with everyone–librarians, archivists, friends and family on your social media networks, correspondents by email and postal mail. Print copies and scatter them like confetti. The more you share, the more your will learn.
The second step is to Identify the Gaps in your Genealogy–missing names both surnames and given names, dates, places, relationships, and migrations. These are your beginning points on each lineage. You can begin with what you know. You can search first where you know your ancestors resided. And you can place your ancestors in the context of whole family units that are tied together by real facts.
Third, search each place your ancestors resided starting with the date you know they lived there. Build a complete structure as you go through the records for that place.
At all levels of jurisdiction. Examine each person with the same “m.o.” as your ancestor–the same surname, same given name, or combinations of names you find in your own families; same place of birth or death and same residence; same river, same ship, same occupation, same church, same military unit, same whatever–shared by your ancestor.
Like looking for shapes and colors and designs or forms on the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, you can watch for similar aspects of life shared by your ancestors and the people surrounding your family members. Those who share the same “m.o.” exactly are all potential relatives to be added into your lineage.
If you only look at the ancestors you already know, you will miss the majority of relatives who live nearby! Few people live and move alone–“they take their father, their mother, their sister, and their brother–oh, you never see your ancestor alone.”
Repeat the research cycle. With each new ancestor that you add to your pedigree and in each new place you discover your ancestors resided, you repeat the process.
The Jurisdictional Approach (R) is more that just searching one jurisdiction after another. You study your ancestors and use what you know about them to direct your searches.
You place your own family in their jurisdictions and their time period: Their religions, their occupations, their accomplishments, their military service.–in short, the life they lived.
Chart the relationships they have with others and create a mini-census, a list of names and residences directly connected to your own family. Include spouses, witnesses, bondsmen, neighbors. Who did they know?
What did they do? Where did they travel? Who traveled with them? Map these moves, residences, and origins. The research you do in the records and sources created by jurisdictions exercising control over your ancestor’s life, liberty of movement, and property holdings–the sources of power and wealth– will disclose the facts you need to build a proven and complete lineage.
Chart, Map, Record, Copy as you go through the records. Add the new information to your Ancestor Profiles. And share the up-dated versions as widely as you can. Avoid waiting until you collect all you want or need.
This approach guides you in a focused way to facts about your own family you don’t yet have. And ensures against inaccurate, incomplete, and often nonexistent pedigrees! Your favorite New York genealogist, Arlene Eakle http://arleneeakle.com
PS And if you need my help solving a really tough research problem–and New York research is about as tough as it gets–you can provide copies of your charts and maps and copies of documents and Ancestor Profiles so I can benefit from the research you have already completed. I won’t have to duplicate your searches because your mini-census list is missing.