When you begin any new project, you need to understand the geography of the area you are researching. It is possible that it’s an entirely new location, an unfamiliar county or state, and understanding where you are researching can have a profound effect on who you are researching.
My first step is usually to Google the county. I look at it on a map, I look at its entry in Wikipedia and I’ll look at the FamilySearch Wiki to see what’s been written about it. I will do a quick scan of the Ancestry.com card catalog and the Family History Library catalog to see in general what holdings and databases they have available. I will also see if there are any local genealogical societies, historical societies, libraries, archives, courthouses, and so forth. In essence, I create my own locality guide.
Sanders Scroggins and Sarah Dimick lived in Hardin and Gallatin Counties which are in the southern tip of Illinois along the Ohio river. Hardin County was created out of Gallatin County, so some of the records I might need may be in one or the other of those counties. When you are researching a new area, be sure to learn about county formation and boundary changes. Locate a county history to learn more. These are readily available through Google Books, FamilySearch Books, Internet Archive, Hathi Trust or sometimes through local library, university or historical society websites.
The History of Hardin County, Illinois was very helpful in understanding the migration to and from this county on the Ohio River. The area was largely settled by people moving from Tennessee and Kentucky, mostly Irish. Some English and French settlers arrived early on before moving farther west. The book also contains some information on the first pioneers, agriculture, Ohio River transportation, and much more.
Familiarizing yourself with the geography of a new area can help you understand where records might be located and how the people may have traveled. This is an essential first step when undertaking any research in an unfamiliar area.
I know it has been quite some time since my last post. I don’t know if you noticed. It’s been almost 2 months! Well, I took a little break from the blog because some other projects landed on my desk. One of which is the topic of this next series of posts. I was compelled to volunteer for something, that had to be done within a month. I told myself, in order to get my portfolio done, I need to lay off the volunteering. But I did it anyway and I learned a few things along the way and I am able to use it as a sharing/teaching opportunity.
Maybe you are like me, one of those people who finds herself volunteering for things when she didn’t mean to. I have been taking part in a study group that focuses on mid-western research. The first year there were lectures on the various record types to be found in the area. The second year (this year) we’ve been hearing case studies from study group members, one per month on one of the states. It turned out that no one had volunteered to present a case for Illinois. The coordinator was threatening to either cancel or give everyone a homework assignment instead. I watched myself as I raised my hand and volunteered to present on Illinois. I don’t really have any research in Illinois! I had just a few collateral ancestors who I knew at least passed through Illinois but I had not done any research to speak of in the state up until last month.
The next series of posts will demonstrate all of the research points I didn’t know but figured out in about 2 weeks from the comfort of home. This series will show just how much can be done from home using Internet sources and Google searches. It will also demonstrate that not EVERYTHING is on the Internet. There are many records I need to order and more I still need to find. Having very little knowledge of Illinois research when I began the project, I was able to put together an hour-long presentation that shared a good rough biographical sketch of two families that intersected in Southern Illinois, the Scroggins and Dimicks of Hardin and Gallatin Counties.