Brick wall or stumbling block – Getting on with genealogy

Photo by Marie Lasater -- Traci Bohannon is a woman who knows her history, and can help you find yours.
By Marie Lasater

Staff Writer


Noted local genealogist Traci Bohannon addressed the Texas County Genealogical Society at its monthly meeting held at St. Mark’s Church in Houston Aug. 10.

There was an excellent turnout as the Texas and Wright County historian shared her tips for getting the real story when conducting genealogic research. The popular Bohannon is the administrator of two Facebook pages, namely Hills of Home, dealing with Texas and Wright Counties, and Tree Shaker Genealogical Research that shares research and history from the Missouri Ozarks.

A versatile and poised speaker, Bohannon focused her speech on brick walls and stumbling blocks, and how to get through them. In a talk interspersed with tips like “the Wright County Historical Society is open every Friday, and they have a vault with the old land deed abstracts from the 1800’s,” to the difficulties of finding records from the time before Missouri became a state, Bohannon shared her personal tips for substantive and accurate research. There is a great deal of faulty family tree info on the internet, and if the searcher doesn’t validate their own links, mistakes will likely be copied, over and over.

When doing research, it is wise to look in adjoining counties as names and boundaries can change. For example, Wright County did not exist in 1840, it was then Pulaski County. A handy tool is mpapofus.org online. Type in a state and year to find historical county boundaries.

There were no pictures before 1839, so if a picture is shown to depict an individual on the 1830 census record, be aware that the document is not supported historically. Keeping that in mind, Ancestry.com can be a great assist if you make sure that documents obtained match history. And yes, marriages as young as age 14 were not uncommon in the 1800’s.

When you think you have hit a brick wall in your genealogical research, Bohannon suggests investigating neighbors (found in old census records), and keeping in mind that no one travels to the frontier alone. Settlers were usually accompanied by relatives and those they were closest to. Naming patterns can also lend clues. Children born on the new frontier were often given the names of those they left behind to keep the family name alive. DNA testing can also help trace ancestors. Chronicling America is a free site with free digitalized newspapers from 1789 to 1963.

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