There is a meditative rhythm to genealogy research. First is a family story, hopefully with names and dates, a birth certificate found stuffed in an envelope, or a grandfather’s name in a census. Second is reading the record to discover the information it reveals, third is keeping track of what is found and fourth is locating records using the new information. And so the process goes; research, analysis, data entry,research, analysis, data entry. There are momentary distractions that lead away from the goal. Gently, focus returns; research and analysis begins again. It goes smoothly until the crash, a brick wall! The next generation is silent. Then research goes everywhere and nowhere. Look everywhere the experts advise. The cadence returns as family and neighbours are searched. Eventually, the end is reached. There is nowhere left to search, for now.
You found a record and gathered all the facts from it. That analysis leads to another record, more analysis and entering the information into your database…and so on. For example let’s look at the Atkins family. Kathleen Atkins is my biological great-grandmother. Her marriage record in Toronto, Ontario, Canada lists the names of her parents, her age and birth place. Kathleen was born in, approximately, 1894 to William Elbourne Atkins and Francis Alice Green in Buckingham, Buckinghamshire.
Pictures of Kathleen Atkins (married name is Harrison). Left to right – on her wedding day – on the wedding day of Henrietta Harrison – at her home near Cochrane, Ontario.
I search the General Register Office (GRO) for Kathleen Atkins with a mother last name Green but nothing comes up. What to do next? Well, if Kathleen was born in 1894 she must be on the 1901 census. Sure enough, there is one William E Atkins with a wife Fanny in Buckinghamshire in 1901 and they have a daughter Kate age 7 which puts her birth in 1894. She is born in Chesham Bois according to the census but this mus be the family!
Here is the basic information from the William Atkins household of 19011901 England Census; William Atkins Household; Class: RG13; Piece: 1334; Folio: 6; Page: 4; Ancestry.com. 1901 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005. Original data: Census Returns of England and Wales, 1901. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives, 1901.
William E Atkins 39
Fanny Atkins 31
Elizabeth B Atkins 12
Edith E Atkins 10
Rosa Atkins 8
Kate Atkins 7
Horace Atkins 5
Alice M Atkins 3
Edward J Atkins
A search in the GRO index reveals one Kate Atkins with mother’s surname Green. A copy of the birth registration ordered from the GRO shows this is the correct Kate Atkins. Kate, not Kathleen, is born the 23 February 1894 in Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire. Her parents are William Elbourne Atkins and Fanny, not Francis, Green
Birth Registration of Kate AtkinsEngland Birth Registration; Subdistrict Chesham; Registration District Amersham; Buckingham; Certified copy of Birth; Volume 3a, Page 665; General Registrars Office, Kew, England
Birth: 23 February 1894
Place: Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire, England
Father: William Elbourne Atkins; occupation: worker in woodenware
Mother: Fanny Atkins, formerly Green
Informant was Fanny Atkins, her mother
The information, along with the source information, is then entered into a preferred database. It may be Ancestry, FamilySearch, a cloud based tree, or desktop software. Entering the information ensures the research is organized and accessible.
Continuing the rhythm of research would mean finding the marriage of William Elbourne Atkins and Fanny Green using FreeBMD and the GRO indexes. Using the information from the marriage records census records would be viewed, looking for William and Fanny as parents and as children living with their parents.
Thus goes the rhythm of genealogy research, usually looking at vital statistics and census records at first, sometimes veering off to other sources to find stories. Then comes the brick wall. There is nowhere left to search. Except for that new family that just turned up on your tree.