How to Guess Where to Start

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Learn to guess names, places, dates, the best event in a person’s life to research first, and how to guess sources for that event.

Well-done genealogies are documented with the best sources skillfully analyzed. No guesswork can be allowed in the final product. But in order to find the best sources a kind of elimination-by-trial-and-error activity (guessing) is sometimes used. The best researchers become skillful at assessing information, evaluating clues, and selecting sources and repositories they will try first. This set of articles teaches how to tentatively conjecture (guess) at probable names, dates, or places, and how to choose logically among potential sources in the face of uncertainty. Always remember that any form of guesswork in genealogy is only temporary and eventually MUST be replaced by careful analysis of the well-documented sources you find as a result.

Five fundamental guessing skills will help you get started on genealogy research. Each involves being able to guess some additional information based on what is already shown on a family group record.

So, the best way to start is to prepare a family group record showing everything you know about the family. Then using the partly-completed family group record be able to:

  1. Guess a spelling variation for every name on that family group.
  2. Guess a place for every event on that family group.
  3. Guess a date for every event on that family group.
  4. Guess the easiest (and hardest) person and event to research on that family group.
  5. Guess the best record types to use for finding information about any person’s event on that family group.

The links above explain how to guess these key pieces of information when they are unknown or uncertain.

Related Content[edit | edit source]

Guessing the Easiest to Research Person and Event

How to Begin a Search for Your Ancestor

Start Family History by Writing What Is Known

Rookie Mistakes

Related Internet Sites[edit | edit source]