- Post for Family History Friday category
52 Ancestors, Week 16: Negatives

The writing prompt for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is Negatives, which can mean so many things in genealogy. For me, it brings to mind negative results and negative evidence, and any other relevant negatives.

We always heard that my great-grandmother Mildred Burrell’s first husband, Joseph William St. Onge, was a rum-runner during prohibition. Considering that was in violation of Federal laws, I thought if he was a known criminal, he would have an FBI file. However, when I wrote to the FBI to inquire, I received a response that there was no file under his name. Sometimes, an avenue of research doesn’t yield anything, and it’s important to keep track of those negative responses or results. This doesn’t necessarily disprove that he was a criminal, but perhaps it was on a state level, instead. Or perhaps he was never caught.

Another instance where negatives can be useful in genealogy is in searches. If you take the time to scroll through an entire set of images on Family Search, only to come up empty-handed, remember to record the name of the collection, the call number or microfilm number, the date you searched it, what you were trying to find, and the fact that you didn’t find anything. However, if you find possible connections, note that, as well.

Keeping track of searches that don’t give you any information or collections in which you don’t find what your seeking will keep you from revisiting them and wasting time. However, if a collection is sometimes updated or added to, you will be glad you kept track of the date you originally researched it, in case anything changes.

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