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Genealogy Challenges

Professional genealogists know how to overcome the many challenges involved in finding your ancestors.

If you’re new to genealogy, you may be surprised to find out just how difficult research can be. Professional genealogists are highly skilled at overcoming genealogy challenges like the following:

  • Birth, marriage and death records haven’t always existed.
    Unfortunately, births and deaths in the United States have only been government-recorded on a large scale since the early 1900’s and the recording of marriages has varied significantly over time and location. This makes it necessary to figure out key dates from other sources such as church, census, probate, land or military records.
  • Common names are difficult to decipher between.
    Most family trees contain at least a few last names that are extremely common. A 1900 census database search for the common name John Smith, for example, yields 31,116 John Smiths. Deciphering which is the right one often requires multiple record sources.
  • One name is often spelled many different ways.
    No matter what records you are trying to find, chances are you won’t find your ancestor’s name spelled the way you expect! Take for example the last name Asberry. It would typically be necessary to search for variants such as Asvery, Asbury, Asbarry, Asbaree, Asperry, etc. to find your ancestor in various records.
  • Immigrants often changed names when they arrived in the United States.
    Many ancestors immigrating to the United States changed their name when they arrived to make it more “American” sounding. If your ancestor changed his or her name, it is usually necessary to find the original name in order to trace him or her in the country of origin. This can be quite difficult as there is no consistent source for this information.
  • Multiple marriages can make it hard to determine which ancestor is yours.
    It is quite common for both male and female ancestors to have married multiple times. This often resulted in large families with children having different parents. Accurately determining which mother or father is your ancestor can be challenging.
  • Changing county, state and country boundary lines require historical background knowledge.
    Over time, county, state and country boundary lines have changed. In some cases, for example, an ancestor could have lived in the same location for many years, yet have lived in multiple counties! As the relevant records could exist in one or multiple counties, such cases require an understanding of the area’s historical background.
  • Courthouse fires have destroyed many important family records.
    Courthouses are notorious for burning down throughout history. In many cases, records are no longer available from before the date of the fire. This requires the use of other (often less well known) record sources to obtain information.
  • Record types and availability differ significantly by country.
    Even a professional genealogist does not know how to research families in any country in the world – records and processes vary greatly. Additionally, it is often necessary to know the language of a country in order to perform comprehensive research in its records. If you have ancestors from multiple countries, this can make genealogy a daunting task.

Learn how it works when you hire a professional genealogist!