Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wk#4GenealogyDoOver : Getting From Here to There With My Research

Red River Gorge Rock Wall by By Jarek Tuszynski via Wikimedia Commons

Participating in the Genealogy Do-Over had made me so much more aware of my research strategies.  I've written previously about I've started being more methodical in tracking my research.  Now, as I continue to plow through digitized church records from Norway, I'm seeing that I'm following a path as I look for information about my ancestors.

My 2GreatGrandmother Marit Oldsdatter, according to the family history booklet I have, was born 26 Jan 1810 and died 23 Dec 1890.  Here are the steps I've followed to learn the names of her parents, siblings, and grandparents, steps I'm now using as I research other ancestors.  

  1. Using records on the Digital Archives of Norway, l found the parish record of Marit's birth.  The great thing about these records is that they (usually) provide the birth date, baptism date, names of parents, farm residence of father and mother, and names of witnesses to the baptism, usually other family members.
  2. After finding Marit's birth / baptism record, I knew her parents were Ole Jacobsen and Ronnoug Bjornersdatter.  Next I searched in's Norwegian records for any children born to these two parents.  This provided me with the names and birth dates of Marit's siblings, Jacob, Bjorner, Mary, Hans, Anna, and another Marit/Mari.
  3. Time to go back to the Digital Archives of Norway to find the digitized record for the birth / baptism of each of the siblings.  There is no substitute for being able to study the original record.  Having been a volunteer transcriber, I know that any transcription stands the chance of having an error recorded.  Seeing the actual record myself provides a second set of eyes on the document.
  4. Once I knew the birth order of the children, I started looking for the marriage record for Marit's parents.  Again, the original marriage record provides a lot of additional information.  Depending upon the year, the Norwegian marriage records can contain the marriage date, names and ages of the bride and groom, their farm residences, names of their fathers, names of bondsmen (who just might be other relatives), and possibly information about a previous marriage of either party.  Stuff that is definitely worth looking for.  Admittedly, finding the marriage record requires some speculation on my part.  My standard search plan is to look in the parish marriage records for 0-5 years prior to the birth of the couples' eldest child.  In the case of Marit, the oldest child, born in 1810, I found the record for her parents' marriage in the 1809 parish marriage records.
  5. After the marriage information of Marit's parents was located and recorded, I then started to look for the family in a census record.   Records for the 1801, 1865, and 1875 censuses are searchable through the Digital Archives of Norway.  If I've fortunate enough to find the family listed in one of these census records, I also can see, just as with US census records, who is living in the household, their ages, marital status, and occupation as well as basic information concerning their residence or farm.  In my search of the 1801 census I found Marit's father Ole Jacobsen, age 19, living with his parents and siblings on the family farm.  Marit's mother, Ronnoug Bjornersdatter, age 16, was living on a nearby farm working as a servant girl.
  6. Finding the family in a census record also provides an approximate birth date for any family members listed.  I loop back to Step 3 and search in a three year period for previously missing Birth / Baptism records.  This means searching the parish records for 1786-1788 for a Birth / Baptism record of a child listed as being age 14 in the 1801 census.  And this works just about every time.
  7. Death / Burial records are the last part of my current search strategy.  Finding them turns out to be much more of a "needle in a haystack" approach.  I start by searching the death records following the latest information I have for an individual, i.e. date of marriage, birth of last child, census record.  This "new" information becomes my starting point.  The first few times I tried this, I kept wondering WHY am I looking at so many records and how will I know it is the right record.  Bless those Lutheran clerics who recorded the farm residence so often along with the first name and surname of an ancestor.  If I can decipher the cleric's handwriting, I can then use Google Translate to determine the cause of death.  Once I found the death / burial record, I was also provided with the age at the time of death, enabling me to loop back to look for their birth / baptism record.    And so my plan continues.
As I watched pictures of the recent scaling of Yosemite National Park's Dawn Wall, I marveled at how much planning went into each inch of elevation gained by the two climbers.  I saw times when they had to drop back and try another route.  

The steps above are my planned route for researching my Norwegian ancestors.  Sometimes I get to where I want to be in a short time.  Other times I have to drop back and try something else, expand the years I search, head over to or check out any shaky leaves on Ancestry to see if there are hints I can follow up on or try to verify.  It is all part of getting from here to there.  It is also worth the effort.

Now, time to apply these steps to learning more about my three other 2GreatGrandparents from Norway.

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