A penny, brown and shiny – we often find lying on the street. Some of us will find it not worth our time to pick it up, but others will bend over backwards to gather up the coin, we see worth in the penny! We read an article in the paper and only glance at a paragraph, but the article may mean something different. It is not until we read the entire article that we really can grasp what was meant to be understood in that single paragraph. We see a lot of times, especially in politics where only part of an article is posted, but when we read the original, the person speaking or writing meant something entirely different.
What do the penny and the paragraph have to do with genealogical research? Well, how many times are we looking at a book, reading a census, glancing thru microfilm and find what we need, only to shut everything down at that point. Do we read someone’s post on their website about our family lines and just take what they wrote for truth? Do we go find the “rest of the story”; do we find out their sources and go find that information for ourselves – to make sure nothing was left out, names were not written down in error or an abstract was done leaving out some important data?
Just like those of us who will bend over backwards to pick up the penny, we should take time to do that extra step. While we may feel it is not valuable, it might just be the clue to what you are looking for. For example, many times I have traced a family using the census. I would find them in a census, making note all the family members were accounted for and not follow thru the other census’ they may be listed in. But, when I have taken the time to review all the census’ that existed during my researched family’s lifetime, I may find one with a mother in law living with them, a cousin, a grandparent, someone that will help me with a brick wall. Had I not taken the time to view that census, valuable information is unavailable to me.
Another example is an abstract of a will I read on one of my Smith lines. I found another researcher who posted it on their website and I was delighted and had what I felt was all I needed. But, one day I decided to go find that will myself. The actual will had the names of his parents listed and residence. This was not picked up by the abstract I found submitted online. It gave the will a whole new meaning to me reading it in whole — vs someone else’s abstract. I have also gone back and looked over information someone has posted and found the names were misspelled and that second families were omitted. They felt since it was not their direct line, why gather that information. But, many times I have found information using those second families information. Whenever possible we need to exhaust all resources for our families we are researching. Many of us are limited due to financial obligations, travel, family and work, but we should try to do as much as we can to use all available resources. When we are using others to do lookups for us, we should be very clear what information we desire.
So, as we go through our research, realize there will be times you view some information’s value much like that of a penny, not that valuable. But, it may be more valuable than you think. The value of a penny alone is not worth much, but when added to many pennies, can be unlimited. Some of information we glean may not seem important, but when we combine it with all we have gathered, it can be a very valuable source of information.