Monday, February 11, 2013

More Questions About the GPS

Public Service Announcement:  I edited an answer to one of yesterday’s questions after receiving a comment from Michael Hait, CG.  You can read Michael’s comment, my response, and the added information to the original answer HERE.  It is the first question.  I consider Michael to be an expert on the GPS so his comments and opinions matter to me.  I linked to several of his writings in the original GPS series.

Davis and J. R. both ask:
”How do you know when you have searched everything there is to search?”

The trick is knowing what all is available for that location and that time period.  You need to do preliminary research to see what records are actually out there at the National Archives, at the State Archives, at the Family History Library and at the local courthouse.  You also need to think about things like newspapers, journals, and unpublished manuscripts.  Genealogical societies may have narratives and surname files. USGenWeb has a lot document transcriptions though you will need to get a copy of the original record yourself.  Out of copyright books are available on the internet.  II find a lot of local histories and biographies that way.  This is only a partial list and in the original post I gave some additional ideas.  You can’t do an exhaustive search until you know what all is out there TO search.

A related question from Ginny:
”Do you look at the trees at as part of your exhaustive search?”

I sure do.  I look at and FamilySearch and I do a Google search to find all of the trees that are on private websites .  I am only looking for clues and for people I think might have information I need.  I never use internet trees as a source for anything.  I also check to see if there is a compiled genealogy [book, manuscript] at the Family History Library.  Someone else may have already done research on the line you are following.  If you are lucky enough to find someone that actually cited their sources properly then it will be easy peasy for you to get the record for yourself.

Here is an example of how this can help you.  I was investigating an 18th century Robeson County, North Carolina family.  I didn’t have any information that this family had been anywhere else but Robeson County [formally Bladen]. I couldn’t find a will or probate file for the patriarch in Robeson County.  I checked the surrounding counties and didn’t find anything there either.  Some of these counties suffered considerable records losses so my negative searches were far from conclusive.  I  did a Google search and found a private website with a family tree.  Someone else had found a probate packet for the patriarch in Wake County.  I hadn’t checked there because it is a fair distance away. The patriarch had a married daughter who moved to Wake County that I hadn’t identified.  The patriarch went to live with her toward the end of his life and he died there.  The author of the website was a direct descendant of this daughter and had researched that branch quite well. 

Gerri asks:
”I know that a certain person is my 4th great grandfather but I can’t prove it.  How do I write this up?

There must be reasons WHY you “know” that he fits into your pedigree.  Follow the 5 steps of the GPS and you will be able to write up why you believe this to be true in a credible way.  Just “knowing” it isn’t good enough.  I like to think of it like presenting a case to a jury.  The jury comes in with no previous knowledge of the case.  It is your job to present the case to them.  You must present the case in a logical manner and your evidence must be credible.  You must draw sound conclusions in your closing arguments and the the jury decides if you have proven your case.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. Great series on GPS and great new tips! I also write to those names come up on's member connect and those whose names are on posted searches to see if they have any other information than their postings. I've not only found helpful information but I've connected with people with whom I've continued a fun collaboration.

    Joanne Shackford Parkes

  2. Thank you for your kind comments, Joanne :)

    Just a few weeks ago someone on Ancestry provided me with info that didn't have. I couldn't find a marriage license for a certain man and that was because I didn't know that he lived for a time in another state. I was then able to request the marriage record.