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In a recent class at the Mesa Regional Family History Center, I had a
class member ask about one of her ancestors. She indicated that they had
been searching for his parents for a number of years. The first
question I asked was the geographic location of where they were looking?
She answered about a county in an Eastern state. I began a search for
the towns in the county as she continued to give me more information. As
the search progressed, she mentioned more than once that they had
always searched for the individual only by name. As we continued to
discuss the project, I found a comprehensive written history of the
county through WorldCat.org.
Then, I began looking for local newspapers. Time ran out before we got
much further, but she left with an expanded idea of where you might go
to look for an individual.

Likewise, I have used the same technique to suggest that a certain
individual never lived in a location. I think we often overlook the fact
that genealogy is location based. It is too easy for two individuals to
have the same name. I have even found people with my same name in a
Tanner family book. Think about how many people you know with the same
last name or the same first name and you will see the problem. I always
start my search, when possible, looking for a location rather than a
name. Is the place large or small or very small? Is it near a larger
city or out in the country? Why would people move there? Have the same
families lived there for years or is a transient area with few, if any,
older residents? All of these questions and many more can help to
establish a sense of place. In smaller towns, the local newspaper may
have given the latest gossip and related who got married, who visited
and who died, as well as every party and family gathering and who
attended.

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