What to Do if You Think Your Ancestors Came From Outer Space

by Amy Johnson Crow

Posted on February 20, 2013


Today marks the 51st anniversary of John Glenn's historic orbit around the Earth. NASA has denied encountering any alien beings on his (or any other) mission, yet sometimes in our genealogy, we are convinced that our ancestors must have come from outer space when their origins are unclear. Here are some ways to bring your family tree back to Earth.

1. Study the Siblings

It's easy to focus solely on your direct line. Extending your search to your ancestors' siblings can be a great way to find clues about the family's origins, mother's maiden name, etc. Your great-grandmother's death certificate might not list her mother's maiden name, but maybe the one for your great-grandmother's sister does.

2. Look at the Neighbors

Our ancestors didn't live in a vacuum and rarely did they move without knowing someone in the new area. Who are the people living around them? Could they be family?

3. Learn the History

County histories are great resources for genealogists and are often not used to their full benefit. Move past the biographies and into the general history section. There you will learn about things like migration patterns. Knowing that the area was settled not by people from Pennsylvania, but people from York County, Pennsylvania can help narrow your search when you're looking for the family's origins. Clues can also be gleaned from church histories, business/industry histories, school histories, etc.

4. Gather Everything

It's tempting to skip a record because you think you already know what's in it. However, when you're stuck, you can't assume that a record won't tell you something new. "Why Bother With All of the Censuses?" showed some examples of what you might miss if you skip a record.

Bringing Them Back to Earth

It can be a challenge to find a family's origins or a mother's maiden name. Sometimes there comes a point when you start to think that they must have come from another planet. However, by looking at siblings and neighbors, learning the history, and gathering all that we can, we are more likely to find their origins right here on Earth.

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