Be careful when connecting into an online databases. I’ve blogged about this before, and I will continue to do so. Irish and Scots-Irish names can be very common. You cannot assume you found your ancestor because the name appears in a database!
For example, if your ancestors settled in Ontario, then don’t necessary pick someone with the same name arriving at the port of New York City. Does the migration pattern fit? What was the typical migration pattern into Ontario? Often the follow up questions are never asked.
The same could be said if your ancestors settled in Vermont, but you find the same name in the online Alabama censuses. Is this your ancestor? Does the migration pattern from Vermont to Alabama fit? Typically the answer is overwhelmingly NO. Again, a secondary set of research questions is needed.
If your ancestors were from Ulster, then don’t look for them in a database which indexes County Cork church records. Why? We are talking about opposite ends of the island. This is not a natural migration pattern from Ulster to Cork.
As a professional genealogist, I see these issues all the time, and the advent of technology has only made the problem worse. Good and reputable databases such as Ancestry.com: www.ancestry.com and Findmypast.ie: www.findmypast.ie among many others, do try and educate researchers as to what a particular database is about. However, perhaps where all fall a tad short is using research strategies as part of their educating process.
Yet, we all realize the compilers of website database cannot predict the needs of the individual researcher. Nor can they predict what questions are going to be asked based upon those needs. This is why you will need to arm yourself with a good how-to research book. It’s worth the investment and can save you lots of heart ache down the road.
We are so fortunate to have online databases. However, you must still utilize your deductive reasoning and logic to read between the lines of these databases. Always, understand the record, its uses and its limitations. Don’t assume anything.
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