Do you have any challenges in your research, such as people of the same name, pre-1850 research, or burned counties? If so, you need to check out the classic book by Marsha Hoffman Rising, The Family Tree Problem Solver, 3rd edition.1 (This is an affiliate link – if you click the link and make a purchase, we receive a commission but it doesn’t change the price of the book).
The introduction gives the background of the book.
Marsha Hoffman Rising gave her first lecture on problem solving in 1984. Over the next several decades, she continued to be challenged and fascinated by the fun, frustrations, and rewards of genealogy. In her time as a researcher, she discovered many techniques, tools, and methods for solving genealogy problems. In 2005, she compiled them into The Family Tree Problem Solver, a collection of her strategies that has helped thousands of genealogy researchers. (by Andrew Koch, editor, p. 7)
The chapter headings alone give a glimpse into what this book could hold for you.
- Analyzing Research Problems and Planning Strategies
- Avoiding Ten Common Genealogy Mistakes
- Finding Births, Marriages, and Deaths Before Civil Registration
- Locating Missing Ancestors in the Census
- Researching Friends, Associates, and Extended Family members
- Problem-Solving with Court Records
- Replacing Burned Courthouse Records
- Utilizing Land Records
- Sorting Individuals with the Same Name
- Finding Pre-1850 Ancestors
- Analyzing Evidence
- Accepting Online Famly Tree Hints
- Applying DNA test Results to Your Research
The last two chapters are additions to the 3rd edition published in 2019. Sunny Morton wrote about family tree hints, and Diahan Southard added a chapter on DNA, bringing the book more up-to-date than the original 2005 or 2011 edition.
The book includes images, callouts for research tips, quizzes to test your knowledge, and many examples. If you’ve struggled with using more difficult records, such as court or land records, those chapters define terms and explain techniques for finding and using them to your best advantage. Ms. Rising also directs the readers to additional books and articles for further studies, such as Locating Your Roots: Discover Your Ancestors Using Land Records by Pat Hatcher.2
For a taste of Ms. Rising’s practical ideas, see her article “13 Tips for Researching Pioneer Ancestors.” I especially like #3 – “Expect your ancestor to be normal.” How often do we think our ancestors are the outlier, and that’s why we can find them in the records? That may be true, but more likely, they were simply ordinary people doing what was expected at any time of their life.
Learn more about Marsha Hoffman Rising on the webpage dedicated to her work. Ms. Rising researched the first 1,000 pioneers who purchased land in southwestern Missouri from the Springfield Land Office. She found the geographical origins of 853 of these pioneers, and her webpage includes a list of these families. Imagine my excitement and surprise when I found my John Briscoe and Susannah Clanton included in the list! Now I need to check out their entries in her work, Opening the Ozarks: First Families of Southwest Missouri. The four volumes are available to purchase, but the Family History Library has all four volumes on its shelves, so I’ll review the entries there. WorldCat has many additional libraries listed, and one may be near you.
Although the examples in The Family Tree Problem Solver focus on southwest Missouri families, you’ll find principles to aid your research, regardless of locality.
Best of luck in all your genealogical endeavors!