Outsiders: The Forgotten Resource

When you are deep in your genealogical research, it is easy to become so caught up in your own family that you forget other people even exist. However, sources outside your family can provide a lot of insight into your work, making your job as a researcher easier and more productive. Don't overlook people just because they have a different last name!

First, network with other people researching their family histories. To do this, you can register as a member of one of the numerous genealogy organizations or websites or you can simply approach others in the family history section of your local library. Remember to be courteous of others' time, but most people will be happy to have a partner in research. You can help each other find sources, share tips, or just generally discuss the hobby of family tree research.

The second categories of people that will be of great interest to you are friends of the family. Just as your children today have friends visit the house for play dates, your grandparents probably spent time with the other children in their neighborhood, many of whom are probably still living, even if your own parents are dead. Track them down. If they are willing to spend some time with you, they may be able to help you fill in the missing pieces about your older family members and identify people in photographs from that time period. Even if your older relatives are still living, friends of the family are important resources-every person remembers different details, so together you will have much more information. You can even orchestrate a reunion between your relatives and their childhood friends. This way, you're doing something nice to say thank you for their time, but you will also be sure to hear many stories as they reminisce together, some of which could be important for your research.

Lastly, don't forget about the other older adults in your community, namely teachers and ministers. Churches and school often keep very good records, so while the priest who presided over your great-grandmothers' wedding may have long since passed away, his journals were probably passed down to the priests that followed him. The same is true for teachers. If you find the school district that is the descendent of the little schoolhouse your ancestors attended, they may have some documents of use to you. Overall, just open yourself up to people in the community. If nothing else, you'll hear some good stories about the past that you can tell your own children someday.

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