Dusty Ancestors

You probably have a neglected ancestor. Some ancestors left plentiful records, or adequate evidence of their existence. When researching bountiful ancestors, we sometimes neglect those nearly silent in documents.

My recent distraction is researching an ancestress I neglected. Most work on that family was undertaken years ago. Her husband and son stole the records spotlight then.

I explored a cluster of DNA matches, and my neglected ancestress came to mind. Several matches in the same area of a chromosome have her surname in their trees. Coincidence or connection?

I wrote what I knew about her and added source citations. If you have not written up your research, you are missing a powerful exercise. I was surprised that some facts I once naively accepted came only from a questionable source.

Deborah Tyrrell (a surname with multiple spellings) married Wakeman Penfield.[1] Deborah is a dusty ancestor. That’s not me being clever. It was the situation when I pulled a Penfield family history from my shelf. It sat so long I had to blow dust from the spine. In my defense, it was a tall tome on a short shelf. The book has issues, including skimpy sourcing. For Deborah, some facts did not fully align with sources alluded to. No sources were given for other assertions. I had not tested every fact from this derivative source with original sources before it was shelved. I shook my head at my old self.

I have a lot of research to do on Deborah, who has patiently waited without parents on my pedigree chart. I want to identify Deborah’s parents. Fresh eyes, more experience, expanding access to digitized records, and the power of DNA evidence might help me find a solution to my research problem. I have high hopes for my dusty ancestor.

We all have feast ancestors and famine ancestors, people in plentiful records, or those in few records. The next time you try a new database or consider your next project, instead of working on the favorites, choose a dusty ancestor. Write what you know, cite your sources, and consider source quality. A summary reveals weaknesses and strengths in past work. You will get fresh ideas. Our wiser minds review work we completed many articles, webinars, books, classes, and years ago.

Pick up a neglected ancestor and blow the dust off them.


[1] Penfield-Tyrrell marriage announcement, Republican Farmer (Bridgeport, CT), Wednesday, 25 October 1815, p. 3, c. 4, digital image, GenealogyBank (https://www.genealogybank.com : accessed 6 April 2024). Due to OCR issues, to locate this on GenealogyBank, select the newspaper, choose 1815, and search for Deborah without a surname.

This entry was posted in Family Research, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Dusty Ancestors

  1. Dann Norton says:

    I have been very happy with Familysearch.org/labs which searches documents for names or text. I’ve been picking up the trail on several dusty ancestors—sometimes in surprising places, and sometimes I just missed a record right where it should have been!
    Try it, I think you’ll like it too. Oh, but be creative with spelling—S and L or T and F are often misidentified by the AI.

    • debbiemieszala says:

      I have been using it and finding records in unexpected locations. I used it to find a deed for my dusty ancestor. I had a hard copy in a file but the digital image is easier to read! Thanks for the tip on the letters.

  2. Nancy Casey says:

    I love, love, love this reminder! Thank you. I intend to dust off some ancestors soon. Might be a great time for a review of past research on them as well!

Comments are closed.