During our 40 years of ancestry research these are some of the most common genealogy questions.

If you are the family tree maker for your family history drop us an email with your insight.

Questions and Answers – Food for Thought!


Question: When talking to an elderly family member would the information they provide be considered reliable?

Answer: That’s a very good question. You will have to establish for yourself if the source has a reliable memory regarding other interests as well. If this individual can remember other details in their youth with clarity, if they can identify old photographs with names and places, then you have a source of direct evidence. It is always best to use two or three sources to confirm family relationships. In this case an elderly family member can provide essential links to family groups, and then you can follow up by obtaining resources to confirm the elders first hand knowledge. Sometimes it’s best to have three, four, or more sources that report the same fact to really confirm validity. It becomes very important as you travel back in time.

Question: Didn’t a lot of surnames result from occupations?

Answer: Yes, that’s very true. For example: someone who had repaired roofs with thatch in England may have ended up acquiring a surname like Thatcher. One legend is that homes having thatched roofs, which is thick straw piled high, had no wood underneath. Since straw provided warmth and shelter it was a place for animals to get warm. So many cats and other small creatures like mice and bugs, carved out a place and lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Hence the saying: “It's raining cats and dogs”. It was then time to call Mr. Thatcher!

Question: How would I know if my ancestors just took on an orphan and gave them the family surname? 
Answer: With all the epidemics in Europe, and elsewhere around the globe, this certainly happened frequently. Keep in mind that in all families there have been situations were a person’s parentage has been in question for one reason or another. Every person we identify on our family tree is a decision we base on the documented evidence we have accumulated. The idea is to use the best evidence possible to establish an ancestral relationship. Be critical when you are looking at documentation.


Question: When did birth certificates start being used?
Answer: Back in 1837 the countries of England and Wales started a central records location for all documentations of births, deaths, and marriage. Primarily this was done for tax purposes so they knew how many people they could tax, or will be able to tax in the future. Compulsory registration of births started in the United Kingdom in 1853. It was slow to move around the various British colonies. Prior to this the records of baptisms, marriages, and deaths were recorded in local church records, in family bibles, or personal journals that people kept who knew how to write. That’s why finding publications, journals, or similar historical records are so important. This provides a focus on the general area where additional source information might be found.


Question: What is the Doomsday Book that I keep seeing referenced?

Answer: Here is the short answer. In the year 1086 there was a survey conducted in much of England and Wales to find out the value of land, and livestock, owned by individual landholders. This survey was conducted for tax purposes. Since it had to do with taxes it was considered the “Day of Judgement”, or Domesday, for the landholders. Since whatever was decided was unalterable the landowners were liable for the tax. The survey was actually two independent works that are jointly referred to as the Doomsday Book. It is a great source of documentation, and the beginning of family lore for those who may be able to reach back into British history that far.  

Question: When did the use of surnames begin?

Answer: Although this would seem to be an easy question to answer it is complicated. Generally speaking in Western countries the surname is meant as a family name. The family name meaning started to appear around the year 1375, and is known as the “last name” in Western cultures. In some countries located in Eastern Asia the family name is actually placed before the individuals first or given name. This is an important point to remember as your genealogy extends back in time across Europe.

Question: I appreciate your continued effort to make ebook genealogies available. It's difficult to locate published histories, and then when I do there are many blank pages with no cover at all. I want something nice for my ereader library, which has a proper cover with the ebook formated properly. You do that! Thank you! Because you take the time to do things right, and care about keeping things affordable, I would like to contribute a little something extra for your thoughtful efforts. What is the best way?
Answer: We really appreciate your contribution towards our mission no matter what amount you choose to donate.  It says a lot about your commitment to genealogy, and helping others to find their ancestors. Our research through Genealogy Societies and archives takes a lot of time. The time and funds are well spent. The low cost ebooks we provide are often hard to find, and they have helped many people extend their genealogies back several centuries or more. We are thankful to be of help. Clearly, to buy a hardbound copy of a genealogy would be very costly if you can find it. That's why in todays economy we try to do our part to keep costs low, and we really appreciate the contribution. However, please keep in mind we are not a tax exempt organization. You can use the link below for your donation. Just fill in the blanks with the information, and your donation will be processed securely through PayPal. Again, we really really appreciate your thoughtfulness! 


Question: How can eBook family genealogies help me? 
Answer: Using the “surname target approach”” you may be able to isolate your ancestor at a particular location, and at a specific time over a century ago. After gaining this background information, you may just be able to tie into previous research, which was compiled into a printed family history. These eBooks can save you valuable time and money by providing excellent resource information. That's why each book is read, and summarized, by Hawkeyes Trading Post to give you an idea of the contents. Often valuable documentation is referenced by the authors: such as, Last Will and Testaments, personal published letters, family legend regarding the ancestral homeland, short biographies, and especially the genealogy of in-law or collateral families! Then it becomes easier to locate the original documents, which might be near the town locations mentioned in the old published genealogy. In this way you can establish a known geographical area to begin additional research. At that point you can start using the “locality target approach” to genealogy.

Question: What is the best way to start my family tree?
Answer: Work from the known to the unknown, and from the general to the specific. Use the “surname target approach” first. Start your family tree with yourself then your fathers’ surname and mothers’ maiden surname. Then extend back to their parents surnames. Gather this known information first.


Question: Shouldn’t all the names in the published genealogies over the last century be listed in online sources like FamilyLink.com, GenesReunited.com, OneGreatFamily.com, or Ancestry.com?
Answer: Not really. Certainly a small portion of the genealogies might be there. Someone would quite literally have to extract the names and essential information from the old publications to submit it to those online services. It would be quite an undertaking, and certainly a labor of love for other descendants with the same surname. But, keep in mind that the information contained in the old genealogies may not necessarily be accurate. However, the authors certainly spent countless hours accumulating the best possible evidence from long letters to many relatives and reading histories of many old colonial towns. You should really have at least three sources to confirm the likelihood of valid information.  Many people have grown into adults believing in the integrity of the printed word, trusting in the fact that if it’s published it must be valid. That’s not necessarily so. That’s why Hawkeyes Trading Post takes the time to read the genealogies and summarize some of the important contents like: Last Will and Testaments, Letters from the 1800s, or other items that provide good documentation, other than just the essential dates and names contained in the books themselves.