Why Turn the Page on a Genealogy Document?

I am not exaggerating when I say, some of the best nuggets of information can be found when you turn the page on a genealogy document once you have found the person you are looking for. Let me give you some examples.

Passport Applications: Time and time again a search for a person has brought up a hit for a passport application.  When I click the link to see the document, I receive some nice goodies such as the birth date, legal name, residence, place of birth, and in the case of immigrants, possibly their arrival information. BUT!  If I stop there on just that one page, I might miss out on some even better stuff.  If you go to the next image shown after the primary one, you might just be given another page with a photograph!  Photographs of earlier times are priceless and for many people, this is the only photo I might find for them.

Military Records:  Often, the first page of a record is simply a name card and holds little information.  If I turn the page, I might then get an envelope or a page that looks like it is the end of the information.  This is a good case of turn-the-page more than once!  Today, I found a Revolutionary War Pension record for my 6th great grandfather Peter Van Orden.  The one page document showed a summary of what is owed to him for his service.  Good stuff, right?  I turned the page and found a blank page.  Maybe the one page was it.  But I decided to keep turning.  Then I hit pay dirt.

What I got was about a dozen pages of a description, in my GGs own words, of his involvement in the war.  And it was extremely detailed.  It named dates, places, and each and every person he served under.  He seemed to enlist for a month at a time, under different commands, as needed.  But was even better, for me, was the description of his family (his mother and four fatherless children) when he returned from one stint–how their home had been stripped by the enemy causing them to move to a new town.  The final page was the best of them all.  It gave a summary of each and every place he lived during his 2 1/2 years in the army and militia.  And finally, his signature!  If I had taken the first page at face value, I would have missed a dozen pages of goodies!

Census Records: Census records tend to be one my favorite genealogy records because it tells information not only about the family itself, but about the neighborhood.  I always a turn a few pages forward and backward once I find who I am looking for in a census.  Sometimes, I might even look at all of the census pages for that town if it isn’t overly large.  Why?  People tend to marry into families in their communities.  By looking at the other pages, I might find names I am already familiar with through marriages.  Also, older children often stay close to home when they strike out on their own and may have their own entries in the same town.

Another reason I like to look at other census pages–depending on the year–is it can give you an idea of the “flavor” of a town. What were the common occupations?  How much were people making or how much were their homes worth?  Was there a predominate citizen who had more wealth than others? Does it appear that most of the people were born in the same place–such as immigrants from another country?   This kind of information can help build on to the story of your ancestor.

Baptism Records: Depending on the time period and location, often baptisms were done in batches. In other words, all the newborns from the same town or the same family group were baptized at the same time.  There are many reasons for this such as the fact the priest traveled from town to town or because the families had to travel to the church. If you turn the pages forward and backward once you find the baptism record you are looking for, you may very well find other family members such as cousins to that person.  And some baptism records have a great deal of good family information.  For church registers, I often look at the same place across several years to look for any unknown siblings.  This is time intensive, but worth the work when one does show up.

Taking a document at face value can cause you to miss out on some of the best information.  On which documents have you turned the page and discovered gold?


Look for my Family Tree at WikiTree   

Photo of census page reused from WikiMedia Commons

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