Are You Mapping Out Your Research Problems?

Do you ever come across a research problem that makes your head spin? That’s what happened with one of our viewers, and we’ll take you on the journey to puzzle it out.

When a friend started climbing her family tree, she ran into problems with Winfield Underwood. She reviewed all of the previous research others had accumulated on FamilySearch, FindAGrave, and Ancestry.com and couldn’t make heads or tails out of the conclusions. Winfield had multiple sets of parents, and she couldn’t determine which set was the correct pair.

How could she determine who was the right parents when she didn’t feel experienced enough in genealogy to make those determinations?

I was asked to take a look at the tangled tree to see if I could puzzle it out. This case study is the foundation for a multi-part series of videos on our YouTube Channel under the heading Research Over My Shoulder.

In order to make sense of the situation while reviewing Winfield’s tree, I used a clue web. Some folks call these genealogy mind maps. I’ve shared a how-to video on why I like the term clue web better and then how to create a clue web using Google Slides

Genealogy Clue Web

The Clue Web starts with what I know

The pieces of my clue web:

  • What do we know about Winfield Underwood?
    • His name is G Winfield Underwood
    • His spouse is Rhoda Kelly
    • Has a few children
    • He died in Grayson County, Texas
    • He was born in Kentucky
  • What don’t we know about Winfield?
    • What does the initial G stand for?
    • Who are his parents?

All of these details and questions are added to a clue web to keep the case visually organized.

Clue Web Tutorial for Genealogy
Add more spots with questions and clues.

Then I start adding pieces of the mystery to the clue web, including:

Clue #1: Parents Linked As Family

Hyrum Winfield and Eliza Jane Martin are connected to G Winfield Underwood as parents. However, there are no documents supporting this couple as Winfield’s parents.

Clue #2: Attached Birth Index Source

A birth record for Winfield is attached as a source. That record names Hyrum Winfield and Gaddie as parents. The question is this: Is Gaddie a given name or a surname?

Without seeing the original birth record, rather than an index, we can not make a conclusion. We only have a hunch or a theory.

Clue #3: Attached Death Record

A death record for Winfield is attached as a source. That record names Hyrum Winfield and Eliza Jane Gatty as parents.

Winfield’s son was the informant. Did he make a mistake about the spelling of Eliza Gatty’s last name or was that the correct version? Did Eliza Jane have a second husband with the name Martin? Or, was he mistaken entirely?


Keep adding the clues and the links to the genealogy questions.

Don’t Jump to Conclusions

It would be easy to say that the last name of Eliza Jane Martin should really be Gatty or Gaddie and we need to just pick the correct spelling. However, we have not completed the first principle of solid genealogical research:

Conduct a Reasonably Exhaustive Search

In future videos and associated posts, I’ll share principles and discoveries as we puzzle out who were Winfield’s parents. I hope you’ll join me on the journey.

Learn how to visually arrange the clues in your genealogy research to reveal discoveries. #genealogy #research #methodology
Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

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