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As I mentioned in response to "Too Many Groups," most of my greatest progress in research has come as a result of focusing on location more than surnames in general. This approach has helped me make connections that I really am sure I couldn't have made otherwise. It has also enriched my appreciation for different communities in the United States and Canada, and what makes them unique. I've learned more about their geographies, histories, cultures, etc. It has made genealogy more meaningful to me, and made certain areas of the continent more meaningful as well.

The only group I've started so far has been for a specific, unique geographic region. I felt a desire for that area to have a group because of the way it differs from the rest of the state it is in, and how many of my own extended "family" members I have found there, in the handful of counties contained.

County groups work best for some research, state groups for others. Maybe even city/township groups work. At the nation level, it can be less effective unless one has specific information or recent immigrants in the family, or both.

I have a particular fondness for multi-county regions, myself. It has worked really well for me. I'm sure one of the reasons why is that several branches of my family got here long enough ago that there were fewer, larger counties. As the populations grew over decades, they had to be split up for proper governmental representation/administration. Thus the families that lived in the original district were now separated by new county lines. Sometimes, they'd move between pieces of property in 2 or 3 different counties, and back. I've seen it happen with families in South Carolina, Louisiana, Kentucky, Illinois, New York, Michigan, and Ontario in particular, in my ancestors.

So - think regionally!

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Comment by Paul Drake on July 31, 2009 at 1:18pm
Good for you, Jeannie. Less than 5% of the research materials available to you is on the net. Further, stumbling blindly around the net and wasting time with folks who likely know less than you do, or playing with pay-for-genealogy websites, is akin to shooting at the woods from the back door hoping to bag a squirrel for breakfast; slim chance, indeed. However by venturing into the woods where squirrels more likely will be found, your chances of coming home with something to eat are much greater than trying from the back door.

Similarly, going by phone, net or in person to the records of the city, county or State "where" an ancestor once lived and digging in the records at those places, the likelihood is much greater that you will come home, having had a more satisfactory hunt. I suggest to all my students that during their first interviews with relatives they ask and note the places "wheres" and when - or approximately when - any ancestor lived, review any writings or mementos those relatives might have, and then run - do not walk - to the websites that deal specifically with the records of those "wheres",

Think of your own life experiences; the vast majority of records about you were created and recorded in the county courthouse of the counties where you lived, a few were generated by that States government, and still fewer in the Natl. archives.. Many of those records remain in those same courthouses; many more than you will find on the net. So, go where where the squirrels are and don't merely shoot at the woods, All should have firmly in their minds that genealogy, like politics, is LOCAL and is about "where."

Cordially........................... Paul

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