Quick tip – Compare to the neighbors

To understand your ancestors, you need to study them in their context. One way to do that is to compare your ancestors to their neighbors to get some idea of their place in the community.

Here are some research questions that may help you get to know your ancestors:

  • Did your ancestors own their home? Did most people in the community rent or own?
  • How much did your ancestors pay in taxes? How much did other people in the neighborhood pay?
  • How old were your ancestors when they married? Was that a normal age to get married in that time and place?
  • When your ancestor died, was there a peak in the number of deaths around that time? Could there have been an epidemic?
  • What did your ancestors do for a living? Was that a common occupation in the area?
  • What church did your ancestors attend? Was that the dominant church in the area? If not, how would that have affected them? Were there any regulations that governed where they had their children baptized, where they married, or where they were buried?

If you find that your ancestors did things differently than their neighbors, there may be a story there waiting to be discovered.

people celebrating a wedding

Farmer’s wedding, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, c. 1566-1569


About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink, MLitt, CG®, QG™ is a professional genealogist, writer, and lecturer in the Netherlands. She has a Master of Letters in Family and Local History from the University of Dundee, and holds the Certification of Genealogist and Qualified Genealogist credentials. Yvette served on the Board of Directors of the Association of Professional Genealogists and won excellence awards for her articles in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly and the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly. Yvette has been doing genealogy for over 30 years. She helps people from across the world find their ancestors from the Netherlands and its former colonies, including New Netherland. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.

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