A Research Strategy for the Scots-Irish–that works every time

Extract onto family group worksheets, everyone with your surname of interest.  Get them all out of the records at the county level, where they can be compared for fit and match.  You can do this manually on paper charts or digitally on charts included in your genealogy software.  Major rule:  ONE–one family per chart, one source per chart.

  1. Search the marriages first.  Watch for names of men who marry the daughters.  Start  tentative family units, by extracting each marriage on a family group worksheet–each marriage on its own family unit.  Sort by census year so each married couple can be located in the next census after the marriage and followed each census year.
  2. Search census records next.  Extract all the entries for your family surname from the  census records–census decade by census decade.  Extract all the men who marry the daughters–so you add to and build the family units as you go.
  3. Interim Analysis–identify the re-marriages, especially for the women. Which families appear to move away?  Which ones stay in that locality?  Look for “Gretna Green” marriages—where the couple runs away to be married or chooses a different place for their marriage.  Spot middle names which are surnames.  The Scots-Irish preserve the mother’s maiden name or evidence of her family background in the naming patterns of the kids.  Identify unusual given names–Permelia, America, Cornsilk, and so on.  Watch for given names that are repeated in each family unit or each generation.  Watch for male given names assigned to females. Identify other families who marry into your family units.  Intermarriages provide evidence of kinship networks within Scots-Irish names.
  4. Set aside family units which clearly don’t fit for later consideration.
  5. Plan follow-up searches–to be completed first–before other searches.  If you spot re-marriages, check the marriage records and the tax rolls for the new surname.  In the probate records–if the head of house is elderly, look for a will, inventory, or estate settlement.  If the head of house is a farmer, look at the deeds–what lands did he own or farm?  Where are the lands located?  How did he acquire his lands?  If there are young males in the household, search the tax rolls.  If there are males age 16-18 years old in 1820–check the militia lists.

This strategy works every time.  It will separate out for you more than one family or person by exactly the same name.  Multiple people combined into the same person or family is the most common problem in genealogy–in the past and today.  Break your losing streak! Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle   http://arleneeakle.com

PS  Most research strategies require some adjustments where one record category or another is missing for the time period of your search.  Example:  Virginia and Kentucky census records for 1790 and 1800 are supplied from tax rolls, so they may be incomplete.  Tennessee census records are incomplete for all of Tennessee until 1830!  Begin with the marriages, and then search tax rolls, deed indexes, and militia rolls.  North Carolina and South Carolina have good census records, incomplete  marriage records.  Begin with the census records, then search the marriages available including contracts, settlements, and bonds.

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