Gather Ancestor Identifiers

Written By: Jayne McGarvey.

Covered In This Lesson:

  • What Are “Ancestor Identifiers”?

  • Where Do You Search for Ancestor Identifiers?

  • The Ancestor Identifier Worksheet.


Before you start the search for additional information on an individual ancestor or couple you need to take the time to collate and re-examine all documentation and oral family history that you currently have on hand.

I realise that this might sound very obvious. However, as you become a more experienced researcher you will learn to notice clues present within existing documentation and oral evidence that you may have missed when you viewed it as a novice. 

For example, you may realise that the information you received about an uncle that did not make sense earlier – actually refers to two individuals who share the same name.


What Are “Ancestor Identifiers”.

You are looking to uncover “Ancestor Identifiers” for a particular individual or couple. These include:

  • A specific date of birth, marriage or death.
  • A calculated date range of birth, marriage or death.
  • Names of your ancestor’s parents.
  • Name of a spouse.
  • An address.
  • Names and birth order of siblings.
  • Names and birth order of children.
  • Occupation.
  • Religious affiliation.

You will find these identifiers – and more – included in the Ancestor Identifier Worksheet at the end of this page.


Where Do You Search for Ancestor Identifiers?

Start searching around your own home (and the homes of willing family members) for:

  • Family documents.
  • Old photographs.
  • Correspondence (letters, Christmas cards, post cards etc).
  • Diaries / address books.
  • Newspaper clippings.
  • Family bibles.

Take time to talk with members of your family – email your distant cousins about their memories of particular individuals.  Ask for stories they remember being told as children – stories are often a good starting point as they contain the facts of actual dates and places.  You are looking for stories that concentrate on who was involved, events that occurred as well as hints on where to look further for facts. Be aware of the following as you listen to these stories and ask follow-on questions:

  • Make a note of any known nicknames.
  • Try to establish where your ancestor lived, died and was buried (or make a best guess).
  • Search for stories that may provide clues about a trade or profession.
  • Try and find out if your ancestor was involved with a church or political group.
  • Watch out for place names that may have changed over time.
  • Try and establish if events happened before or after major historical events.

How much you are able to gather at this point depends greatly on the timeframe in which your ancestor lived and whether any documents and/or oral history have been passed down through the generations in your family.

Even if you do not have very much information at this stage of your research try not to worry.  The later stages and lessons of the Research Road Map will show you what types of information you need to focus on finding and why.


In Conclusion – and Over to You.

Once you have gathered this information you will be in a much stronger position to decide whether a record uncovered as you proceed with your research actually pertains to YOUR ancestor or another person who shares your ancestor’s name.

Be sure to use the “Ancestor Identifier Worksheet” below many times as you gather a wide range of identifiers for your target ancestor. You can then reference the information from the worksheet as you work through the Research Roadmap – adding/correcting information and sharing its contents as you look for help in the Ask the Genealogist section of the forum.


What To Do Next:

  • Click Here to Download your own “Ancestor Identifier Worksheet“. It will give you ideas on the range of useful information you could gather about your Irish ancestor or couple.
  • Go To the Ask The Genealogist Section in the Green Room forum to ask any questions on this lesson. See the link below.

In the next lesson – “Construct A Timeline” – you will start a timeline for the Irish ancestor (or couple) that you are researching, include existing information and facts you have already and add to it as you discover more.


Click Here To Ask Our Genealogist a Question Related to This Module.



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