In doing family history research, there are a variety of ways to go about it. they all start the same way. You ask yourself some questions. I’m going to demonstrate that with my sixth great grandfather, François Aubry.
The first question to ask is, what do I know about François? Well, I know that he was born 31 October 1677 in Pointe Aux Trembles, Montreal, Quebec, in what was then known as New France. He was the son of Thecle Cornelius Aubry and Jeanne Chartier. I also know his wife’s name, Marie Jeanne Boutellier, and those of his children, Marie Jeanne, Angelique, Marie Anne, Cecile, Therese, Charles François, Jean Baptist, and Charles. I also know that he died and was buried 29 January 1751/52.
The next question to ask is how do I know all that? As I look over the information that I have for him, I realize that I have made an error. I have relied on the research of others when I should have looked for the actual records. That’s a place to start.
All research has a point where you must stop and take stock of what you know and how you know it. That’s why it is important to maintain a research journal and document your facts as much as possible. That’s why I sometimes pause and look at the person I am trying to learn more about and create a time line of his or her life. Part of that is looking at the sources as well as the time line. You need to look at four things, the facts, the sources, the time, and the location. The problem that I am facing here with François is that I have no sources listed beyond a generic gedcom or genealogy database. This means that everything I ‘know’ about him is suspect. I will have to redo the research. That means that François is a good candidate for a research trip on his own. Of course, I also look at where he was at what point in his life, that I have. It is just a starting place. I need to verify everything I have written down for him. I will need to look at records from the 1600s for Montreal, Quebec. That’s not as hard as it would seem. Some of those records are online, others are not. I could plan a trip to Montreal to visit the archives and maybe I will do that in the future, but for now, I will content myself with searching the online records.
My genealogy database is Legacy 8.0, which has the ability to create time lines with a click of the mouse. It’s laid out in columns, age, date event, and place. From this time line, I know that his live ranged from 31 October 1677 to 20 January 1751/52. He lived until the ripe old age of seventy-four. He outlived three of his children. His wife apparently outlived him, but that’s a different blog. He was ten when his father died. He was in his twenties when his mother died.
So where do I start with this? He appears to have lived his entire life in Montreal, Quebec. So I should be able to find his records there. I have the place and the time. I also have multiple paths to reach his records. I could go through the marriage records to find his marriage to Marie Boutellier. That’s something I need to find in any case. I can also narrow down that marriage date by looking for the birth records of his children. That’s something I can do. These records have all been indexed and are available online. So I will have to find those indexes, find my subjects in them and the trace back to the record itself to verify what I know.
Genealogy is not instant. It takes time and careful evaluation before you can say for certain that you have the right person. Even then, there could be an element of doubt in the process. Clearly I have a lot of work to do on François, but I have access to the records. I will find out more about him and his life. That’s the fun of it.