I started this topic last week and will complete my current thoughts next week.
I’ll start with a secret about genealogy researchers who charge by the hour. We absolutely love being given a family tree with no siblings, just the direct ancestral line. Care to know why? Because we will then charge you to add all of the siblings so we can do a proper and thorough investigation. You simply cannot truly locate all possible records without looking at the siblings and extended family. You may find an aunt or uncle who has no children bequeath things to the children of your missing ancestor. Information about your ancestor may be hidden inside a land record belonging to a member of the extended family. Maternal grandfathers will bequeath directly to their grandchildren when their married daughter has died before them. I understand your strong desire to take the line straight back but you simply cannot ignore the rest of the family without risking overlooking other potential records and information.
Another common mistake is not thoroughly researching people with duplicate or similar names. For example, you are researching a John Livingston whose wife’s name was Mary and he worked as a butcher in Chicago, Illinois in the 1880s. Should be easy, right? You find in the records a John Livingston, butcher, wife is Mary and he lives on Michigan Avenue at 22nd Avenue. But there is another one married to a Maria on 20th Avenue. Also, another John working at a meat-market whose wife is not listed on 23rd Avenue; a Johan married to Martha on 25th Avenue who is a grocer, and finally, a John Livingston, butcher, married to a Mary on Michigan Avenue. How do you know you have the correct one? Without further research, you simply do not know and can inadvertently begin chasing the wrong line.
This is especially true when researching military records. For example, I have previously discussed my ongoing research to determine which Banner Thomas was released from the Confederate Army to take up his elected position as a tax collector. Was he the older one who we know had been a tax collector before the war or the younger one who we know was a tax collector in a neighboring county after the war? Another example would be the three Joseph H. or J. H. Thomases who filed World War I draft cards from Appling County, Georgia. Which one is my grandfather? None, he filed from Brunswick, Glynn County, Georgia where he was working with some of his brothers at the shipyard. How am I sure? Besides the date of birth, when mine filed he indicated he was not medically qualified due to being deaf in one ear and having a club foot, he also noted that he was short in stature. Since I personally knew my grandfather, this one had to be his. Once again, be sure you have confirmed you have the correct one. But be careful not to overreact based on age. Boys as young as 10 years old did run away and hang with the Army during war-time and later end up enlisting and older men did join or get drafted during wars. Plus, you cannot take that one indication of age as accurate. Did they lie to get in? Are they old and really unsure of what year they were born? We put a lot more emphasis on our birthdays in 2021 than they did in the 1700 and 1800s.
Next week I will give some final thoughts on avoidable mistakes.