The Dusty Genealogist
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Finding New Information From Old Research

Genealogists are like fine wine; they mature with time. They become more familiar with family names, places, and familiar associations. Whether you are a genealogist who is meticulous with your research or one who throws it all in a box to keep it contained, there is much to be found by reviewing the information you already have.

Your subconscious mind keeps all of the information you enter. That information rolls around, gets sorted out, and the mind makes some kind of sense out of it. Little tidbits of research long past want to fall into place.

If you are on a project that is finally paying off, stick with it. If you are not quite sure what to do next, I suggest that you go back through the research that you have already had and review it. Start with re-reading your ancestors’ obituaries. With more experienced eyes, you will be amazed at the information you will read, and the meaning it will have.

Genealogists are amazed at what they find. I have met many who claim that they have read the same print of the same obituary many times and the most recent reading provided detailed information that was highly meaningful. The document offered new insight to a person listed as a pall bearer. There were locations that became more meaningful. A new name popped up out of the print that suddenly became important. These new leads can send you into a new direction that is just what you needed.

I was visiting some family gravesites recently to check that all was in order after the winter and to add some spring flowers. A friend was busy taking new photos of the gravestones. All genealogists have been encouraged to go to the cemetery office to obtain actual paperwork of who is officially listed as buried within the plot of land. Not every gravesite has a stone memorial for several reasons.

Looking at the gravesite for people buried on the plot and comparing them to the gravestones is important. Not all people buried within the cemetery plot have to be family, but they are generally not strangers to the family either. The person buried on the plot that you have not researched before because you have found no specific connection to your family may have new meaning after you have been doing genealogy for awhile.

That person may provide new insight to something meaningful to the family. People do not show up in family plots by accident. This may be the time to research who this person was and why they were buried there with your family. An attachment to descendants’ names may reflect how important that person was to the family.

I have a great uncle who is named Leigh Richmond Howell. He is clearly my great grandfather’s brother. They were all born in Buffalo, NY. He traveled to Wisconsin to make his fortune. None of the remainder of the familiar descendants reflects the first or middle names nor do any descendants make reference to those first or middle names.

The conclusion I have tentatively reached is that when this baby boy was born, there was one or two men who were influential and meaningful to the family that caused this baby boy Howell to be named after them. Now, Leigh Richmond Howell is not in my direct family line as he is a great uncle. But my family has a habit of using names that reflect some portion of the past familiar connection brought forward. I have not found any with Leigh Richmond Howell.

While I was checking out one of the cemetery plots, my friend taking pictures of gravestones was asking about other gravestones near my family plot, mainly because I have told her that often people have plots near someone that the family knows.

Basic marketing has not changed in the funeral world. Someone dies in the family. The family is upset at the passing of a loved one. The funeral people know that the person needs have their remains placed somewhere. Often there is a desire by the family to have the grave marked in remembrance of the deceased, so a marker is affixed. The living family members are reminded of their own demise in the future. The burial person suggests that the family may consider buying space in the cemetery for their future needs. The stressed family discusses it with their friends. Now, the friends of the family are thinking about their own demise and considering final preparations. Before you know it, the cemetery has sold a plot containing several burial sites to the family of the recently deceased and some of the friends of the family. It is just how marketing affects real life.

My friend was calling off names on the surrounding gravestones. I was explaining what I know about those buried there, what relationship these individuals have with the family, and some details I know about them. She was wandering around the nearby cemetery plots and called out a name on the marker. I realized that I had not paid attention to whether that person was on my original plot list or not.

I didn’t really know the woman buried there, but her name was a familiar family name, and I remembered that I had seen her husband’s name somewhere in my past research. She took a picture of the marker. Normally I would not wander through the research for this person, but she bore the maiden name of my aunt’s middle name. So when my grandmother and grandfather were naming their own children, they thought enough of the name “Howden” to give my mother’s sister that middle name. That name has now become important because it reflects my first person genealogy.

First person genealogy starts with you, the first person. You keep the genealogy of your personal immediate family. This is important because you are here in the moment of the action as it were. You know when someone was born and where. You know the particulars of the name and why it was chosen. You know the nick names of the people. You know, as first person recorders of family history, what is going on. Moving in the circle of first person genealogy, you identify your parents, and the particulars of them.

At this point in their first person genealogy, most people move up a family line of a grandfather or grandmother and track them back. But it is important to do as much as possible to identify your grandparent’s brothers and sisters as part of the first person genealogy circle, especially the women because they are often lost to research because they have been married and changed their names. Please make an effort to identify all of the brothers and sisters that you know are within your first person genealogy. It doesn’t have to be extensive research, simply identifying their names and some particulars that you know about them would be sufficient for a later family genealogist to make a connection to your family puzzle.

Bio: I am a Certified Genealogist and a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. I believe that the hobby of genealogy is fun, exciting, and very satisfying. Through researching genealogy, you may add skills, meet new friends, and gain new respect for those who have gone before you. You may reach me via email at ‘’ with questions or comments. I thoroughly enjoy the hobby and hope that you will too. Please label your photos, especially the photos of ‘friends’ so that you don’t drive your descendants’ crazy trying to decide who these photos of ‘friends’ are related to.


By Marjory Regan

A brief bio of Marjory Regan: I am a member of the Williams Mills Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) and a “Certified Genealogist’ Thank you for your questions, comments, problems and successes. Email me at I think genealogy is a fascinating hobby; I hope you will, too. Get Started. Do something small every day, it all add up. Label the photos! First & Last names and approximate date of the photo. Do it for an hour while watching TV.