Tracing the migration of an ancestor or family is one of the most important pieces of record keeping while researching genealogy. For the use of genealogy research, knowing where members of the family tree were residing at different periods provides the link to finding more data. As we go further back into history, fewer families owned their homes and many families moved frequently into different states, cities and neighborhoods. Each move to a new location usually meant a change in churches attended, hospitals used, as well as job and occupation changes.
If you’re researching a family with a common name, and more complicated yet – with members of the family having common first names, having the known addresses of these families can be crucial. These problems arise in genealogy research frequently. Sometimes the only definitive proof that a family we’re looking at is the same family as a previous or later family from a city directory or a census or another source is their common address.
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We use this form in the following way: First we document each “known” address of a family unit, organized in order of chronological date. We will perhaps, have 2-3 different census records, and a handful of vital records to begin with. The census records are collected only every ten years so we need more information. Families that have several children sometimes offer clues as to where the family lived at different times. Refer to each child’s age and birth location.
As an example, a four-year-old child in the 1870 Chicago census might be shown to have been born in Michigan. You then will know that you should be looking for records of that family in Michigan in 1866 and surrounding years. If you carefully record the time line of where your ancestor’s family lived, this will serve as a wonderful guide as to where you may be able to find new records of all kinds.