Monday, January 13, 2014

Rabbit Trails

You know the story. You've got your research plan open, your research log ready, and your good intentions; you're ready to begin the internet hunt for the parents of your ancestor. You begin searching one database and then another. You find some information that leads you to a possible relative. You search another database for new information on that relative, hoping to find a link to your ancestor, and maybe you find another clue to a child. Pretty soon, you are doing research for a completely different ancestral line and you are no closer to the answer to your original question.
Sound familiar? This year, I've decided to stop chasing rabbit trails and become more focused and begin to consistently use research plans. Rather than collecting data on the descendents of the nieces, nephews, and in-laws of my ancestors, I've decided to limit research to my direct-line ancestors and their immediate family. I like to include siblings and their spouses, if only for additional clues to dates and locations. If I actually start using a research plan, it may help me to keep that focus. At the least, it will force me to pre-plan what records to search, where I might find them, and write down the results of my research. Janine Adams of Organize Your Family History had a great idea to focus researching one ancestral line each quarter of the year. I like that. It would keep me from switching ancestral lines in mid-quest if I knew I would be getting to that line later in the year.
While getting derailed is not helpful, researching collateral lines is. A few months ago, I was looking for the parents of Elizabeth (Losee) Outhouse, the mother of my great-great-grandmother, Emily (Outhouse) Lamb. I couldn't determine which Samuel Losee might be Elizabeth's father; however, a search of probate records led me to the file for who turned out to be her brother, Daniel, and gave me a gold mine of information. In the file was a transcription of a deposition by his niece, Sarah Outhouse, daughter of Elizabeth (Losee) Outhouse. In Daniel's senior years, he lived with his widowed brother-in-law, James Outhouse, and his niece, Sarah. Sarah nursed Daniel for several years until his death and had to file a lawsuit afterward in order to collect payment for her nursing services. The deposition makes interesting reading. Daniel's probate records also contained a detailed list of his heirs, including naming his sister, Elizabeth and her husband, James Outhouse, and all of their children, including who they married. From this one file, I was able to confirm not only the names of all of Daniel's siblings, I was also able to find the married names of all of his sisters, as well as the names of whom they married, whether or not they were deceased, where the families were living and the names of their children.
While I didn't answer my original research question of who were Elizabeth Losee's parents, I did flesh out a family group and gather information that will help me answer that. So I guess some rabbit trails may be worth following. I think I will limit them to the siblings of my direct ancestors for now; otherwise, I may get lost in a maze of endless rabbit trails and never reach my goal.


  1. Hi Hiztorybuff, I'm enjoying your blog. I agree, I love following 'rabbit trails'; it really is part of the fun! Nevertheless, recently I've started to keep a research log, to help focus on 'my goal'. I too extend my research to include my ancestor's siblings, their spouses and children. When documentation is 'hit and miss' this knowledge can really help.

    1. I agree! When there is little documentation, sometimes that indirect evidence from our collateral lines may give us just the information we need. Let me know how keeping your research log goes, too. I'm looking for a layout I like and will stick with it. Happy hunting!