Genealogists what are your goals?

I have to share a semi relevant hijack that’s not worth it’s own pit thread but I think others will “know where I’m coming from”-

What pisses me off is when I’m doing research and some distant cousin has tried to FORCE a connection where there isn’t one.

For example, I have ancestors on both sides with the surname Lee and one with the surname Henry. You wouldn’t believe the lengths that some people from this group will go to in order to connect to Robert E.'s family and Patrick Henry respectively. On especially you can’t afford to take at face value any of these connections in a family tree- if there’s no documentation you’ve got to trace it yourself, otherwise you’ll have an ancestor who’s descended from, say, an uncle of Robert E. Lee who seems to have fathered a child when he was 8 (or another ancestor who was 108 and whose wife was 12, or some such), or a son born to Patrick Henry’s parents 4 months after Patrick Henry’s sister yet omitted from the family Bible or other sources (in other words- square pegs in round holes). I’m not even sure why they do this- even if you’re a direct descendant of Lee (there aren’t many) or of Henry (there are tons- he had 15 kids or so- kept one of his wives locked in her room due to her mental illness, incidentally) big whoop- that hardly reflects on you- but at the same time you’re messing up the real line that can actually be more interesting. (For example, in one of the Lee lines I found their real ancestor and what’s interesting is the house he was born in in Shropshire is still standing [though much modified in the past 400 years obviously] which makes for a great graphic and connection.)

So a caveat on never believe connections made by others until you see the proof. (And one line of Lees that I’ve found really is connected to the Virginia/Robert E. Lee ancestry was completely different from the way it was listed and was in fact so distant and so disconnected from any famous distant relatives they’d begun spelling their name Lea [though resumed Lee after the Civil War]). It’s irritating how many people seem to go into genealogy determined to find a famous ancestor (or to place one if there’s not one there).

Sampiro, I’m so there with you! In my mother’s family, there’s always one kid named “Lee” because we are descended from Light-Horse Harry Lee! Um, not so much. I have no idea who originally came up with that idea; my mother swears it’s the truth, while her brother swears it’s false. I’ve certainly not found anything to support that statement.

The other thing that amuses me is how everyone’s ancestors were valiant patriots in the American Revolution, generals, etc. I have to confess that I was utterly delighted to find that I have one ancestor who was an avowed Tory, and after it was clear that Britain would be defeated in the Revolutionary War, he abandoned his family and fled to Canada.

That’s quite nice looking. Did you do with with the help of your genealogy program or with a web developing one? BTW the genealogy link at the bottom of your page doesn’t work.

Thanks for letting me know about the broken link - I will fix it post-haste! I’m a web designer now, so I just whipped it up in a text editor, my preferred tool for html coding.

My next project is to do the same page, but for another branch of the family. This is ADDICTING. You can spend hours upon hours searching through census records, and before you know it, the whole day is gone!

Heck, here’s the link to all my online genealogy stuff - who knows, maybe a long-lost cousin is on the SDMB and will find themselves!

Yes, he does. I can not take all the credit. I had a distant cousin that did genealogy research as part of his doctoral thesis at Cambridge back in the 1940’s. When I was about 13, I ended up with the family tree that he traced back to 1595. I have been updating & looking for additional information at various points since then.

There is a cool free site for looking at census records here. I have managed to get lost in that site for some time since I found it.

There are no reliable European genealogical records spanning the Dark Ages. There’s a few king lists from Ireland, Scotland, and Wales that may have some accurate material going into the Dark Ages, but most of them have so much mythological stuff (like Odin or Achilles being included as ancestors) that it’s impossible to tell what’s real and what’s not. There’s no well-sourced ‘gateway’ from medieval Europe back to the Romans, for example (and anyone who tells you there is doesn’t know what they’re talking about). Possible gateways are a popular subject for medieval genealogists on groups such as soc.genealogy.medieval, but all of them have some weak link or unattested line (for instance, So-and-So is not neccesarily the great-grandson of Such-and-Such just because he lives on Such-and-Such’s lands a hundred years after Such-and-Such’s death. It’s possible So-and-So is his great-grandson, but not proven).

I believe the Chinese can get back a bit father than that, well, that is if your family records weren’t destroyed by the Communists.

I’d like to trace all the branches of my family back in an unbroken line to my earliest direct ancestors in the New World. I’d be interested to know even further back than that, but at this point wouldn’t be willing to put the effort into dealing with overseas records.

For several branches of my family I’ve been successful in this. Some immigrated in the 19th century, so getting back to them wasn’t very difficult. For others I had to go all the way back to the early 17th century, but managed to do so.

However, my great-grandmother, a woman born less than a century ago, has proven to be a total dead end. I know her full maiden name, place of birth, and birthday, but can’t find any documentation at all about her parents. I don’t even have first names for either of my great-great-grandparents on that branch. Very frustrating. My father and grandmother on that side are both dead so I can’t ask them for help, and I haven’t seen any of my extended family on that side since I was in high school. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to find out anything else unless I can first track down some great-uncles or distant cousins and ask them what they remember about her.

My original goal was to trace all the way back to my original immigrant ancestors as much as possible. With some it was easy (a Swedish great-grandfather); with others it was much harder (two branches of the family stretch all the way back to the early 1600s before I hit immigrants). Right now it’s to try and see how completely I can get the tree filled out for 12 generations.

My grandmothers got me interested in genealogy because they had information and pictures and letters and such, which of course led to more questions they couldn’t answer. That got me doing my own detective work and has netted me a ton of fascinating information over the last twenty years. The biggest genealogical fish I landed myself was finding the proof that my father’s family was directly related to one of the biggest American silk manufacturers of the 19th century (my great-great-grandfather’s brother). That one got a couple of jaws to drop.

I still have other unanswered questions but they are slowly being chipped away at. I took a big chunk out of the mysterious Swedish ancestor on my mother’s side (including the fact that we only have our family name because he was a soldier and his commanding officers gave it to him) but now I’ve found a mystery Swedish ancestor on my paternal side. I also have two surprise Irish ancestors who came to the States in 1849 - which (to tie it in with the historical aspect discussed above) makes it pretty clear they were getting away from the potato famine.

In short - this shit is fun.

I guess I should finally answer the OP’s question instead of just commenting. My goal in all this madness is to provide a family history record for my present family and descendents. Whenever somebody wants to know where they came from, the information will be readily available, and my name will be all over it, thus insuring that I’m remembered (yeah, it’s selfish). I’m presently working on a family photo history to complement the other volumes I’ve done.

I have been working on my family history for a little over a year. My current goal, similar to what has been said by others, is to get all of my direct ancestors figured out going back to their original arrival in America.

I have found Google Books ( to be absolutely invaluable in my searches. There are an enormous number of genealogical books that have been imaged and are completely indexed and download-able. has been great for finding all the census images. I am at about 85 - 90% for finding all of the censuses for all of my direct ancestors from 1850-1930. Before 1850, since only the head of household is listed, it gets significantly more difficult, especially if a common name is involved. My local library also offers online access to Heritage Quest, which is another great repository of scanned genealogical books.

I am now concentrating on working my way back past 1850 for those folks whom I have not already connected to a previously researched line.

I have found tracking at least the siblings and their spouses of my direct ancestors very helpful. In particular, if you can get a reliable set of birth places for the children of an ancestor, you can determine where that family was. I was able to track an ancestor from Canada, down through Pennsylvania, and over to Wisconsin by doing this. I would never have found him in the census records without using this to find out where they went to.

I have done very little genealogy work, but my “goal” (the word itself is ambitious) is to find anybody at all who is related to me. My nearest relations are five cousins, who among them have five children. My uncle (mother’s brother) died this summer, and at his funeral I met a few distant relatives. One of them has been doing some research and said he’d send it to me, but hasn’t yet.

My maiden name is so unusual that at the time of my wedding, I was the only living person in the United States to have it (according to the Social Security office). Since then, I have turned up one person in Czechoslovakia and one in Fiji (?!). For some reason I am afraid to contact them. I don’t know if they would want to hear from me.

I can definitely encourage you to contact them. My father’s mother has an unusual last name, and just by using google I was able to find a reference to someone who shared the same last name. It turned out to indeed be a (thankfully english speaking) cousin and we had a number of email exchanges. He and his family might visit the US next year and stay with us for a night. Well worth the off chance that they might not want to talk.

Do you know where she married your great-grandfather? Try finding a marriage record, there should be one if they married during the 20th century. Then look for families in that area with her last name. Once you find a couple of families, look up the last census (for instance, if great-grandma got married in 1915, look at the 1910 census) and see if she’s listed among their children.

This is almost identical to my search for my great-great-great-grandmother, Lydia GOLDING. Family researchers had tried for years to find her natal family, with no luck. For some reason, everyone was looking in the wrong county in GA – why, I have no idea. Well, of course they couldn’t find her. She and her husband Pleasant Earl KEENER were living in Floyd co. GA in the 1850 census, and sure enough, when I checked Rev. Rambo’s marriage listing for that county in 1849, who should I find but ‘Pleasant Keener and Lydia Golding’. There’s only one family of Goldings in Floyd county in 1850, living a few houses down from Pleasant and Lydia, and while it’s not 100% certain, it’s a good bet that’s her family.

As for me, I know every single ancestor back to my sixteen great-great-grandparents. So I have my seize quartiers! But in the last generation there’s a couple of gaps, and the generation after that there’s more, etc. Once I get back to my 4th-great-grandparents, I only know the names of 36 of them, out of a total maximum of 64. Now because of age drag, I get interesting results like the following from my great-great-great-grandparents:

Paternal 3rd-great-grandfather: Alexander McFATTER, b. c. 1770, d. 1843
Maternal 3rd-great-grandmother: Elizabeth KEENER, b. 1850, d. 1927.

Alexander and Elizabeth are ancestors in the same generation for me (both being my great-great-great-grandparents) but Elizabeth was born several years after Alexander died! Obviously they were not married to each other (Alexander is my ancestor on my father’s side, Elizabeth my ancestress on my mother’s side) but isn’t that amusing? Elizabeth’s grandfather was twenty years younger than Alexander.

My furthest ancestor who lived to see the 20th century was my 4th-great-grandmother, the aforementioned Lydia GOLDING (the mother of Elizabeth, btw), who died in 1904. She lived long enough to see her great-grandaughter, Myrtle, who was my great-grandmother. It’s humbling to think that my mother has living memory of her grandmother Myrtle, who in turn had living memory of her great-grandmother Lydia, a woman who was born in 1833.

One ancestress, Elizabeth PORTER, made it almost to the 20th century – she was born about 1804, and died in 1898. Isn’t that a pisser? If she’d made it just a couple more years, I would have a 5th-great-grandmother who survived to the 20th century! Ah well, she made it 95 years so I can’t be too grumpy about it. She’s not my longest-lived ancestor, though; that honor goes to yet another Elizabeth, my 3rd-great-grandmother Elizabeth FURR, who was born in 1824 and died in 1920 (ninety-six years if you’re bad at math). Think about all that woman saw. When she was a month old, Lord Byron had just died. She was married woman raising children during the Civil War. She lived to see automobiles, World War I, movies, and even Prohibition. That boggles my mind.

Hey, can you share a couple of tips on this? I went to the link last night and futzed around a bit. I found my ggg-granddad (father of the man in the daugerreotype) mentioned in a book of descendants of a family his daughter married into, but that was on a name search. If I have a reasonable idea of birthplace and date, how would I go digging up books that might contain that info?

I’ve actually had a lot more luck with this than with my patrilineal line. My grandfather was adopted in the early 20th Century, which means I kind of hit a brick wall tracing either his birth family or adopted family (as, without a birth name, it’s kind of hard to find a birth record, and adoptions were only formalised in the UK in the 1920s).

I’m not interested particularly in distant cousins, but I have researched (and am researching) the lineage of any direct ancestor, male or female (afterall, I don’t think male or female genes have a particular hierachy in what made me).


The saddest words in the world of genealogy are: “Oh, a lot of records were destroyed in the great (flood, fire, volcano eruption, earthquake) of (pick a year).” There is seldom a work-around for those events, and they have happened with alarming frequency in our history.

I have come across that. Some of the records I am interested in were lost in the big air-raids on Coventry in 1940. I have a copy of my G.G. Grandparent’s wedding which took place in Coventry Cathedral in about 1870. The particular page from the church register showing their details, and which contains the record of two weddings, is fire damaged. The top half is burnt away, but the bottom half (which has my relation’s entry) is more or less intact.

But other records (for instance the register showing when my G.Grandmother was admitted to the workhouse because she was an unmarried mother) is missing, presumed lost in the blitz.

Don’t I know it. The year 1890 still brings a twinge of disappointment every time I think of it.

I have had the most luck just looking for names, as you did. Occasionally, for a more common name, I will throw the birth year or birth location into the query and that will usually find what I am looking for, if it is there. One absolutely awesome feature that I discovered quite by accident is that, on some books, if you click the little icon that looks like an arrow pointing to a dotted rectangle at the top of the display, you can then drag a box around a section of the page and copy an image of it, or even better, get OCR text from it, complete with an auto-generated citation. Very slick stuff!

I have also found a few things on Internet Archive (, but the collection is not as large, at least as far as genealogical works is concerned.

I started this as a labor of love after my grandfather died. In his final years, he spent a lot of time researching his roots. After he died, I took up his work, and have been able to trace his mother’s lineage back to England in the 1500s.

I hit my wall on the paternal side about 3 months ago, at the same place my grandfather did. My great-great-great grandfather, Josiah P Curby. Born 1827 in Pennsylvania; died 1915 in Ohio. He’s listed on every census I can find after 1850.

Trying to trace him has been a real lesson in patience - his death certificate mis-spells his name as Corby. But sure enough, it’s him - I went to his grave to verify it. The 1850 census lists his last name as Kirby, which is a common alternate spelling. And from there it just… ends. I can’t find his parents’ names, siblings, anything.

Any ideas people have would be greatly appreciated.