Pick Your Poison
My mother used to tell me to pick my poison when I had to choose between two things I didn't care for. No, we're not talking politics!
The search filters at both Ancestry and Family Search can hide records from you -- picking correctly is critical so your results are not poisoned. As we search, we grow our knowledge about an ancestor, but each record has only a tiny bit of the knowledge that we may have acquired. If we filter our search with everything we know, key records may be hidden. We're searching for the records, not the whole person.
Today we'll look at a search about Mary Maddox Neff's father done on Ancestry. I was astounded by how using very logical filters resulted in poor results.
Mary's father, Lazarus Maddox, was a single man of about 25 at the time of the War of 1812. He would have been a member of the Ohio Militia and I knew from a list that he had served in the war. What more could I learn from Ancestry?
Following past concepts, I started with his name, but not too exact, as it was spelled in various ways. The search was limited to the United States and, from the first result list, I clicked into the Military category.
From this focused category, I then refined the search. I selected people living in Ohio who served in the military starting 5 years before and ending 5 years after 1812. That would certainly cover the period of the War of 1812.
No matches! What do you mean no matches?!
Taking away the year filter and keeping the Ohio filter gives a result.
Are you as puzzled as I am? Why doesn't the Roster of Ohio soldiers in the War of 1812 meet the limits of both the year (1812) and the state (Ohio)? Clicking into the record, we see it's an image with a list of soldier names.
When the book was indexed by Ancestry, the dates of service were not included in the index even though they are included in the image. Because Ancestry didn't capture the dates, I can't search on them!
Returning to search filters, what else can I find? Removing the Ohio filter and adding the date filter, we get a different result.
Clicking into one of the records, I am now able to see what was indexed by Ancestry. Interestingly, the date of service was not indexed, but apparently the date of the entire record set was included. The Ohio company name was indexed, but there is no correlation that Lazarus lived in Ohio, which was the filter that I set.
Editing the search, I can set Ohio as a Keyword -- a word to be searched that might appear anywhere within the index. Requiring an Exact match on a Keyword is dangerous. I don't do that often, but within this record set, I wanted to see only the two Ohio records.
Now I see only the two records in which I am interested.
Frustrating? Definitely! Two entirely different record sets had information, but the filtering was not compatible with both.
Imagine facing this sort of a problem with a common name such as John Smith! What strategy can you use?
Start by picking the record set you want to search. Click into any record in the record set. Don't worry whether or not it is for your family member. Look through the text items -- not the image -- and see what information is indexed. Pick your search filters based only on what is indexed.
This strategy works on both Ancestry and Family Search. Searching on the indexed information within a single record set will reveal more and hide less.
A note for Maddox researchers: Captain Robert Bradshaw's company (first record set) was part of the Ohio 2nd Regiment. Both Colonel Robert Safford and Colonel James Renick were commanders in the 2nd Regiment.