When I was little, one of my favorite things to do outside was to dig holes. Deep holes! Holes that might eventually lead to China, even! In my backyard, my friend Ben and I would compete to see whose hole was deeper. During elementary school, I would dig in the playground sand until I hit that beautiful Virginia clay I could make things out of. And when I went to the beach, I would dig until I hit water.
As determined as I was as a child, am I as determined with the holes in my genealogy research? Have I left any research question shallow and forgotten? Where might I return to take my research just a bit deeper?
Well, guess what, y'all? I found a hole in my research recently and it was a great learning opportunity for me. I was *so* sure that a marriage record for a particular couple simply didn't exist. Or, if it did, it was in a different state.
But then I found that marriage record! How could it be so? I had written *two* research reports about this couple, and still hadn't found that elusive record. What changed?
When we are working on a research question, our goal should be to search in all the available places to find the evidence we need to answer that question. We need to nurture a critical eye, we need to be thorough, and we need to know WHERE to look.
In my search for a particular marriage record, I had a few pieces of information that could help me:
- The man was single in 1920 and a widower in 1930.
- The woman died in 1926 in Richmond, Virginia.
- The man lived in Powhatan County, Virginia, in 1920 and in Chesterfield County, Virginia, in 1930.
- The woman was born - according to her husband as the informant on her death certificate - in North Carolina.
- I had both people's whole names - but the surnames are unfortunately very common.
- Powhatan or Chesterfield County, Virginia - where the man lived before and after.
- Richmond City, Virginia - where the woman died.
- North Carolina or even South Carolina (where the woman's parents were possibly from).
- In person - Powhatan County marriage register book
- Online - Ancestry databases
- Chesterfield marriages 1853-1935 on Reel 12
- Richmond City marriages for the 1920s are in three reels at Library of Virginia
- Reel 71, 1916-1920
- Reel 72, 1920-1925
- Reel 73, 1925-1934
- Dig deeper. Think you already looked there? Well, you should have a research log that tells you if you looked there already. If not, start keeping a research log of where and when you looked for a record.
- Discover what's out there. You can't know what you don't know. If you don't know the available databases, available microfilm, or digitized records...you can't know where to search or browse for records.
- Sometimes records DO exist. Sometimes they don't. But the fact that you haven't found them *yet* doesn't mean they're not waiting to be found.
- Don't ASSUME. Just don't do it, y'all! I assumed in this case and it cost me time and frustration.