Monday, May 14, 2007

Research Tips: Never Stop Learning

by Mary Lou Bevers

As the IGS At Large District Director, I sincerely hope that your interest in Indiana records will produce a pleasant research experience on your journey to build your family pedigree.

Indiana courthouses, libraries, and archives hold a vast amount of information essential to genealogy. It is the responsibility of the researcher, however, to take time to learn about ALL types of records and the important information that each might contain.

If you have not already done so, you might want to read the articles on the Research section of the IGS website ( We can all learn something everyday. I know that I do, and I have been researching for 40 years! There are basics that are essential to learn before attempting to do any research. These basics will enable you to understand the research process and fully utilize records available to you.

Many wonderful primary records are available on the Internet, but most probate, deeds, and court case files will NEVER be online. The family trees, message boards and forums can provide clues to investigate, but you should never believe what they say until you find evidence to support the content. One misidentification can cause you to waste years researching the wrong people.

Finding others who are doing actual research on your families can be a very rewarding experience, but just accepting undocumented information as fact can be disastrous to your project. If you are relying on information without evidence, then now is the time for you to go to the records of your parents, grandparents, and on back, and gather their vital records, census from 1930 and before, plus other records such as probate, deeds and court case files that prove parent-to-child relationships. It is very easy to make misidentifications.

Always keep in mind that even official records often contain errors. That is why information should be gathered from multiple sources and then evaluated. If your genealogy is important to you, then you will want it to be accurate.

If you have done your work well thus far, you've realized that no other person can do your research as effectively as you. Recognizing the names of your ancestor's extended family and associates can lead you to needed information. If you are unable to travel to the Indiana counties where your interests lie, then contact people on the IGS Researchers List ( who are listed for those counties, or listed for nearby counties, to see if they can help you. Their experience level and rates will vary, so be sure to inquire. Also, the Indiana County Genealogists ( or local librarians ( may be able to direct you to appropriate sources.

In case you missed it, an article I wrote about courthouse research that appeared in the September 2006 issue of Indiana Genealogist might be helpful. Check at your local library for a copy of the issue.

I hope many of you will be coming to Indiana in August for the FGS Conference in Fort Wayne where you can learn more about our Indiana records and also good research techniques that apply anywhere you are researching. Please introduce yourself if you see me.

Happy Hunting!

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