Finding records is exciting. Finally finding a connection to a person is very exciting. But I feel that there is nothing more exciting than hearing stories about the people you are researching. More than a number or a cold hard fact, it’s a sure fire way of knowing that they lived.
Of course these stories are best when they come from a source as close to the person as possible and there is nothing closer than relatives. Any tidbit of information (whether it turns out to be highly accurate or slightly inaccurate) is greedily obtained and fires up the imagination, giving me a chance to muse on what their lives might have been.
I want to know all the stories. Whether they be simple ones about how they lived or incredibly dramatic ones about the hardships they faced. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible. I’ll never really know every single story about a person’s life. In the midst of time, stories are lost, forgotten or jumbled up. If there are no relatives to turn to, I must turn to something else.
Records. Order a birth certificate. Order a marriage certificate. Order a death certificate. These will all tell you something about the person. Where they came from, who their parents were, where they married, who they married or why they died. Check the electoral rolls. You might be lucky to find an address listed next to their name and you might be luckier still to find the house still intact. Visit the house. Visit the area they lived in. Check the rolls to see what their occupation was. If it was something strange, research the occupation to find out what it was they actually did. Search the newspapers. Scour through the articles. Look for anything (be it a small ad or an actual article) that might give clues as to what they were doing at that particular time.
Most importantly, never give up. Search until your eyes are about to fall out of your head. Stop if you’re frustrated but always come back. You will find something. Take those somethings, take those tiny clues, take those family stories and weave them all together until the puzzle of the person starts taking shape and the life of the person starts to become clearer each and every time you add something new.