Can you find my ancestor? | The Nosey Genealogist's: Help Me With My Family Tree
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Can you find my ancestor?

by Nick Thorne, The Nosey Genealogist on March 6th, 2016

Family History Researcher Academy

“Can you find my ancestor?” this old friend asked, pointing at the computer.


I took a look at the record set that they were using and broadened the date search out another +/- 5 years for them.


With a triumphant smile I replied: “Well I can if I look for them in the right year!”

“But they weren’t supposed to have been born then!” they indignantly said.

My friend was at the end of their tether. They has been looking for their ancestor for ages and they couldn’t understand why they couldn’t find them.

Looking in the wrong year is a quite common mistake to make and can really throw you off the track. Perhaps you are acting on some family tale, or a written note that is the ‘received wisdom’ in the family? Sometimes people seem so sure about a date in their past that they can be really adamant about it. Always treat a date as a clue to something until you have found the primary source that backs it up.

I saw a date, written down by a close relative of mine, that said that my great-great grandfather was born in a particular year. A check for the date of his birth required me to do a search for five years either side until I eventually found his correct date in the indexes, rather like in my friend’s example above.

The provider of the information had simply got their memories mixed up. The lesson is always try to confirm the information given to you by others by also checking the primary sources, before putting them into your family tree. If at first you don’t have luck try looking either side by 2 years, then 5, then 10 – increasing your date range out if need be.

If you want to discover your elusive English/Welsh ancestors then learn more about how to research and where to find the records and resources.

Join the many satisfied subscribers to the Family History Researcher Academy now!


Hit a brick wall with your English/Welsh ancestors?

Learn how to discover where to find the many records and resources that will help you to find your forebears.

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  1. James Mac permalink

    Records are misleading. The most common mistake of all relates to censuses: even if the age given is accurate, if the record says (for example) that the child is three on 2 April 1901, the child could be born any time between 3 April 1897 and 2 April 1898. The older the person, and the older the census, the more unreliable the age is likely to be.

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