How to Easily Find Elusive Genealogical Records

Why are there so many elusive genealogical records?

When conducting ancestry research, you’ll often hit a brick wall where the records you need are nowhere to be found. Often, the cause is undigitized records.

Surprisingly—given the plethora of online genealogy resources—many global records haven’t been digitized yet, even in the US. Today will we talk about how to find elusive genealogical records. These undigitized records must be ordered directly from civic offices and churches or found on microfilm in a genealogy library.

For example, for some time periods in New Jersey, marriage records don’t show up within Ancestry—they must be ordered from the appropriate New Jersey county to be accessed. 

Historical records that are hard to find

In some parts of the world, other elusive records have been damaged by floods or lost during wars. In some parts of the world, births, marriages or even deaths weren’t required to be registered with a government entity until after 1900. 

Genealogical records that are hard to find

Another reason you may encounter elusive genealogical records in your search for your ancestors is because of inconsistent spellings on vital records.

For example, a seemingly uncomplicated name like Holbrook has been recorded with a variety of spellings, including Halbrook, Holbrooke, Hallbrook or even Holbreck. The mystery deepens when you realize that any of these spellings can still be the same person!

Always check for spelling mistakes

Sometimes, human errors creep in when genealogical records are transcribed and digitized. One good example of human error is in the spelling of the name “Lethbridge.”

When originally recorded by hand in old-fashioned cursive, a loopy capital L can look just like a capital S. So, the L in ‘Lethbridge’ is sometimes misread by a modern records indexer as an S. This innocent mistake turns Lethbridge into Sethbridge. 

Spelling mistakes happen in other ways as well. Foreign names of arriving immigrants were often spelled phonetically by customs agents. For example, the French surname Rocheleau was transformed into an Americanized version—Rushlow. 

With all these variables in genealogical record-keeping, you can see how some records become elusive to modern genealogists!

How to find elusive genealogical records: Tips

Here are some tips to help you find those elusive records: 

  • Use a “wildcard” in your Ancestry records searches in place of letters. For example, use a question mark {?} in place of one letter. How does this help? For example, when you’re searching for a name like Jenson, which could also be spelled Jensen, use a question mark for the last vowel {as in Jens?n} and more records may show up with options that have eluded you before.

Use asterisk for search query

  • An asterisk {*} is another search hack to try. Use the asterisk to substitute for an entire string of letters, if three or more letters additional letters are included. For example, if you search for a last name that could potentially be written as Jenson, Jensen, Jensdotter or Jensdatter, try entering the surname in the search field as Jens*. This should bring up some additional records that elude you when you only search for “Jensen.”

The professional genealogical researchers at Origins are familiar with specific areas of the world and are well-versed in other successful methods to help you track down elusive genealogical records. We can help!

Origins Genealogy can also assist with finding birth parents, doing family history research, or analyzing the results of a DNA test. Call (801) 500-0900 to get started with the world’s top professional genetic genealogy company!

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