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My first taste of genealogy came when a teacher assigned a "family tree" project for the Christmas holidays. I was very fortunate to discover that my great grandmother knew a lot of information and that my great grandfather had "the bug". He had recorded all his siblings, parents, grandparents, and great grandparents - many with birth and/or death dates.
Years later, my mom came across that project and sent it to me. That was the beginning of an on-going quest that I have had a love/hate relationship with. Of course the love wins out and I always return. ;)
Nothing is better than the feeling you get when you break through a brick wall and find that elusive ancestor! Especially when it is completely by accident when researching someone else!

Best advice I ever received from a professional genealogist:
In the beginning all census recorders had to meet 3 requirements:
1. be Male,2. be able to Read, 3.be able to Write.
When they recorded the information -> they wrote what they HEARD -> which may or may not be accurate since so many early settlers had accents. Also, different countries spell the same word differently.
Remember many people did not actually remember their own birthday or lost track of their own age so discrepancies appear.
Lastly, in the early days - anyone might give information to a census taker. Whomever was home at the time may have answered the questions. It may have been an adult -> but it may have been a child -> or the neighbor who was over caring for the children, so do not get too hung up on minor differences, look for other clues.
Many people, especially those from Germanic countries had the habit of using their middle name as their "everyday" name. One often finds several sons with the same first name who are distinguished by their middle "everyday" name.
Lastly, after their baptism, many people never used their given name. A Caroline might have been nick-named Carrie and her marriage certificate, death certificate, and even tombstone bear the nick-name.

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