When you find an immigrant ancestor, it is tempting to immediately start looking in the country of origin. But doing so too soon can cause you to misidentify your ancestor. Here is a checklist to make sure you’re ready to start the research:
- Do you know who the immigrant ancestor was?
I’ve had many people ask me for proposals just based on the rumor that their family was Dutch. You need more than that; you need to have actually gone back far enough to know who the immigrant ancestor was.
- Have you proven your line back to the immigrant ancestor?
Research in a different country requires an investment in time and money (ordering records, travel, hiring on-site researchers). So make sure you actually descend from the immigrant ancestor before leaping across the pond.
- Is the information on your immigrant ancestor reliable?
Don’t start research in the place of origin before you have verified the information back to your immigrant ancestor in original, reliable records. An undocumented online tree may well be wrong.
- Do you know enough about your immigrant ancestor to distinguish them from people with similar names?
A name that may be unusual in the new country, may be quite common in the old country. You need to know more than a name to be able to assess that any person you find in records in the place of origin is indeed your immigrant ancestor.
Other characteristics that can help identify a person besides the name are their date and place of birth, marriage, and immigration; the names of parents, siblings, children, and other family members; the names of associates; and their occupation. Finding out this information requires in-depth research in sources from the place where your ancestor settled. Just finding a name and a country of origin is not enough.
If you can answer yes to all these questions: congratulations, you are ready to start research in the place of origin!
This is excellent advice for family historians worldwide. Thanks Yvette!