Elusive Ancestors: Never Too Poor to Trace

Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL
Apr 14, 2023
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Speaker's Introduction
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3m 20s
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Background on types of "poor" ancestors
14m 03s
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Special Resources for "Poor" Ancestors
30m 30s
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Research Principles
12m 05s
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Announcements / prizes
4m 11s
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Questions / answers
5m 35s

About this webinar

Everyone has ancestors who seem to mysteriously appear and then dissolve into the ether, existing nowhere except a family story, a census, or a Bible entry. When deeds, wills, and other standard records fail to yield more information, “too poor to trace!” is a common conclusion—but a wrong one. Many neglected sources include propertyless men, women, and children. This class explores those sources and defines strategies we can use to develop clues, even from records that do not specifically name our ancestors.

About the speaker

About the speaker

Across a long career, Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS, has been an innovator of research methods and strategies. Published widely by academic and popular presses, she edited a national-level scholarly journal for 16 years, taught
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  1. SC
    Stacy Cole
    12 months ago

    I think this may be one of the best lectures I’ve ever heard on anything. Simply brilliant!

  2. LF
    Laine Farley
    12 months ago

    I have stumbled across some of these sources that helped immensely with my obscure ancestors, but ESM’s organized, comprehensive approach gives me confidence to use this method more rigorously. Thank you!

  3. LH
    Louann Holmes
    12 months ago

    Thank you. I am researching colonial “poor” ancestors with very common names like Cook, Black, Cooper. You have given me new tools.

  4. FJ
    Faith Jaycox
    12 months ago

    Packed wide and deep with suggestions for research. Especially valuable reminder not to assume the cultural values of all ancestors will agree with those of other ancestors, or with ours today. Thank you!

  5. LH
    Lynn Hall
    12 months ago

    This was an excellent presentation! So happy I tuned in 🙂

  6. DS
    Debra Squires
    12 months ago

    Thank you ESM for yet again encouraging me to think left of centre to find those “poor” ancestors who up until now have been elusive and for me to seek out those unindexed and non digitised records that must surrounding that earliest known location. Thank you so much.
    PS And thank you GR for making this available so quickly – life got in the way of watching this live.

  7. WS
    William Simmons
    12 months ago

    Great job. How thorough …great ideas that I never considered.

  8. JH
    Jane Harmon
    12 months ago

    Something is definitely wrong with this equation. I listen to the latest ESM webinar every month, resulting in a lifetime’s worth of work. Elizabeth’s wonderful way of teaching by telling engaging tales to expand her students’ minds and the walls of the boxes we were thinking in is addicting, mesmerizing, and highly influential. See you next month, Elizabeth! Until then, I’ve got work to do!


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