The number one thing you can do you jumpstart your genealogy research

Has your genealogy research stagnated? Do you find yourself aimlessly spinning your wheels online, running the same searches over and over? Have you given up on that brick wall problem?

Stop what your doing. . . right now.

It’s time to perform a different kind of search – a search for those dusty boxes filled with old pictures and memorabilia.

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What I’ve been up to this week

Even though it is never a bad idea to run previously performed searches periodically in case new material has become digitized or brought to light, the truth is that the piece of evidence or motivation for which you may be looking could be hiding in plain sight, maybe in your very own home or that of a close relative.

This week I am “home” (in one sense of the definition. Read more here) visiting family. During my son’s naps and after his bed time, I have been able to sneak in a few precious hours of “old shoebox investigating,” scanning everything from elementary school diplomas to Italian letters written on “Vini Scardina” stationary (which finally prove that members of my great-grandfather’s family were in the wine producing business!!!).

The genealogical value of this simple act has been immeasurable.

I have been lucky enough to go through these old boxes with individuals “in the know” who have been able to name and tell stories about the people featured in the pictures and documents. I take notes and date them, recording those family stories and their origins for future generations. After I learn the faces of those I never met, I begin to recognize them in subsequent pictures, and I find myself wanting to know more about them.

Even more important in terms of solving those genealogical brick walls, this process has given me dozens of clues to investigate.

I have written before about the importance of the FAN club in genealogical research (FAN stands for Friends, Associates and Neighbors or Family, Associates and Neighbors) and how these people can often lead us to solve those brick wall mysteries. Well, I can think of no better way to learn who exactly is a member of your ancestors’ FAN club than to look through those dusty old boxes in Grandma’s attic. You see, sometimes the key to solving our genealogical mysteries comes not from the obvious direct evidence sources (like vital records), but from a careful attention to the little details.

Just this week, I have found two funeral programs which list that names and addresses for the individuals who attended my Great-Great Grandmother’s and my Great Uncle’s funerals. I even know who sent flowers. Through these same funeral programs, I finally learned (thanks to her recognizable handwriting) exactly who wrote down all those names in the family Bible. This is just one example out of the dozens of genealogical clues I uncovered over the past few days.

Now, you may be reading this thinking, “I’ve already done that – I’ve gone through Grandma’s boxes, so this advice doesn’t really help me.”

Even so, it might be time to open up those boxes again. This time, instead of sharing clues to help you in your search, maybe the boxes will inspire your to find family members who have their own dusty shoeboxes in the back of the closet just waiting for the family genealogist to investigate. That person might know something you don’t, and their box might contain its own unique treasures. Given the genealogical value common to these types of collections, I think it is well worth a phone call.

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