Thursday, May 14, 2015

How do I write up my Surname Saturday posts?

As of this week I've written more than 165 Surname Saturday posts.  I've made it a habit to re-examine my research on all the immigrant ancestors in my family tree, starting at the top of my 15 generation chart with my paternal ancestors and working my way down.  I recently finished my paternal lines and have started on my mother’s side of the family.  It has proven to be an excellent way to freshen up old research done 30 years ago, correct lineages, and to make cousin connections.

How do I structure my posts?

I try to be consistent with my posts.

1.  I include a photo if I have one of a tombstone or historic place associated with the surname, or a map or town seal of the town where the immigrant ancestor lived.

2. Next I do a sketch of the family for two or three generations if the surname didn't daughter out earlier.  I try to do a very modified version of a Register style family sketch (everything is modified to make it short and brief to fit on the blog page). 

3.  I try to list a short bibliography all the best resources for the surname, including any compiled genealogies, recent articles or family associations, but I don’t include the usual vital records, court records, town records that you should have looked at already.  I just include the unusual ones you might not have known about.   

4. Then I write out my lineage from the immigrant ancestor, usually for nine or ten generations until my grandparents (they have all passed away).   Occasionally I have double, or triple (or more – in the case of BURNHAM I had 8 lineages from one immigrant) lineages to list out. 

How do I research each surname post?

1.  Almost all of my surnames have already been researched.  However, some were researched 30 or 35 years ago, so it is a good time to re-examine new articles and books. 

2.  First I check the book New Englanders in the 1600s by Martin Hollick. This book lists the most recently published articles and books between 1980 and 2010 on any New Englander.   About 50% of the time I will find an article I haven’t read.

3.  I check online to see what has been published since 2010, especially in the NEHGS Register, The American Genealogist, and other online sources. I also have a library of journals I subscribe to and have saved for the past 12 or 15 years.  If I have time, I can check at the NEHGS library, the American Canadian Genealogy Society library or my local library for other journals.   Usually there is nothing, but if I find something it is wonderful!

4.  I check to see if my ancestor has a new sketch I haven’t previously read in The Great Migration series (for those who arrived before 1635). 

5.  Did I already check the Genealogical Dictionary of New England, Torrey’s New England Marriages Prior to 1700,  Pope’s Pioneers of Massachusetts and Pioneers of Maine and New Hampshire, or any Mayflower Silver Books (not just for Mayflower families, but for families closely related)?

6.  I look at online card catalogs to see if I have already read any compiled genealogies on this surname, checking the NEHGS library, Family Search, Google Books, my local library, and other libraries.

7.  I make sure I've checked the local history books for the towns where my ancestors lived, too.  A surprising number of town histories in New England have genealogy sections in the back of the book, or in Volume II.    You can find a lot of older town history books on Google books, but new town histories are being published all the time, so double check this.  It’s good to read the local history anyways, even if your ancestor is not mentioned by name.

8.  Sometimes I double check with the local historical society to see if anyone there is also researching this family name.  I've had a lot of good phone conversations on local experts, and most of them turn out to be cousin connections!  (This how I hear about family reunions, too)

9.  As I write up the sketch, I find out what primary sources might be missing even though I don’t include sources for everything in my blog posts.  (If it is an unusual source other than vital records, court records, town clerk records I will list it in my bibliography)  Going over and over research you thought you had wrapped up years ago is a good idea.  The more you physically write out sketches, the more you find missing.  This isn't always apparent if you are just entering information into a family tree database on your computer.

10.  Don’t worry if after all this double and triple checking you find that a lineage was wrong.  This has happened to me more than just a couple times.  I've had to prune off a surname or three or five since starting my Surname Saturday posts.  But in most cases I've replaced them with new, correct surnames!  Win – Win!

Don’t forget to have fun, too!

Click here for the link to all my "Surname Saturday" posts (by keyword surname) 

The URL for this post is 
Copyright © 2015, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. Love all your tips, thanks for sharing. Could you lodged a link to the Great Migration Series? I'm only finding art.

    1. The Great Migration series is two series of books by Anderson published by the New England Historic Genealogical Society. They cover the Puritan migration to New England. the first series is three books "The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England 1620 - 1633", and the second series is seven books "The Great Migration: Immigrants to New England 1634 - 1635". The project is continuing with more immigrants 1636 and on. These stories are only available at the NEHGS website to members. Or you can buy the books at stores, online or at the NEHGS online bookstore. My blog is about New England genealogy, so if you have colonial New England roots, too, these are invaluable resources.

  2. I don't think I've ever written a "surname Saturday post. perhaps I'll start. Thanks for the information, Heather!

  3. I know so little about research in the New England area and it was interesting to read how you do your Surname Saturday posts.

  4. This is a very helpful post, Heather. I do most of these things when I write a post (Surname Saturday) or otherwise. I also find quite a few other stories as I go through the sources.

    1. Yes, Pam, people kept asking me how I did these posts. Most of the research is old, but I like to go through the new articles and books and find new stories to add, or new corrections to be made. I think most of us with colonial New England roots use the same sources.

  5. I'm saving the link to this post for future reference. I love doing Surname Saturday posts, but get so caught up in the additional research that it takes me many Saturdays before I am satisfied with what I've found to be able to blog about it.