Sunday, July 5, 2015

Genealogical Murphy's Laws

Today's experience with an unexpected research opportunity while I wasn't supposed to be researching reminded me that there are a whole series of "rules" that I have observed over the last few years of genealogical research. This is a partial list.

  • Any repository visited without prior contact will be closed, or the desired data set temporarily unavailable.
  • 90% of discoveries will occur in either the first hour and the last hour of a week-long research trip to the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City. The remaining time is interesting but not very productive.
  • The microfilm that I need is in the back of the drawer, in the most inaccessible spot.
  • The record I need on a microfilm roll is at the end of the roll.
  • Almost any record obtained after going to Salt Lake City will be available online within six months of making the trip to the FHL.
  • Any foreign language document that I do find will be located after the only person at the FHL who can read it has left for the day. They won't be back until after I've returned home.
  • Almost any discovery made for my father's family will be something that he later tells me he already knew.
  • If one state has good birth records but lousy death records, and another good death records but no birth records, the person that I am researching will be born in the later and died in the former.
  • The person I am researching will likely have moved into an area right after a census or leave just before a census.
  • If the records are available for surnames in some letter groups but not others, the person I am researching will be amongst the missing, even if it is a single letter
  • If there are only five people in all of recorded history with a particular unusual name, they will all have been born within three years of each other and in the same county. In most cases, one or both of their parents have the same names as well. Also, there is a good chance that none are the person that I am researching.
  • If a record set is for a specific range of dates, the record that I am seeking will be either within six months before the beginning of the range, or within six months after the end of the range.
I may post additional ones as I think of them in the future.