Here’s two things you can do to dig a little deeper:
- if you don’t know the date then search by location instead
- search females to include their maiden names
First, there’s no point searching on an approximate date because Find A Grave doesn’t recognize them. If you’re manually entering data into their search form you already know that. If you’re searching using a search string in Legacy, for instance, you might not.
Searching Without Dates
Let’s say I start here. Not much to go on.
I have his parents’ names and their state location, that’s it. No spouse.
I use my Legacy search string to get over to Find A Grave in one click. Find A Grave will automatically turn Abt 1914 into a search for 1914, which is not what I want but it’s a place to start. Or I could create another search string for name only.
Two people showed up for 1914. This is not the time to get excited (or deflated) about people born in 1914. Remember the date is Abt 1914, probably taken from a census record and you know how far off they can be. Instead, I click in the sidebar on Refine Last Search.
Sometimes it will say there’s nothing in their database. This is not true. It just means there’s nothing for the date that I initially gave it to search. If you’ve given it an approximate date, ignore this.
After clicking on Refine Last Search I get the search form and click on Search for the name. Nothing else is entered.
Now I get 301 results; way too many to look at considering I have almost nothing to go on for narrowing it down.
So I click on Refine Last Search again and put in a state. I know the chances are good it’s North Carolina. Not for sure but there’s a fairly high probability based on the parents’ location and the fact that hardly anyone on that side of the family has left the state in the last 300 years.
That narrows 301 search results down to 25; manageable. Now I can go through looking for birth dates close to 1914.
I didn’t actually find Joseph here but it’s worked in many other cases.
By clicking through to anyone with a date in the general vicinity, I might find more information. Sometimes the memorial will also link to the parents or children or have information about who they are and maybe even a link to a known spouse. So working around it indirectly it’s possible to say whether this is the right person or not.
Search Females by Including Maiden Names
If I’m searching a female it’s the same process except I tick the box to include her maiden name. I didn’t search females at all until I realized how well this works.
First, it has to be a female for whom at least a husband’s surname is known. I click the search string to go to Find A Grave, and then go directly to Refine Last Search so I can tick the box to include her maiden name.
Find A Grave will put all known maiden name in italics in the search results.
This is done in alphabetical order including women for whom there is no maiden name. So you still have to scroll through all the letters until you find the husband’s surname. Which, frankly, is much easier on the eyes than scrolling through looking at dates. If there’s too many you can go back to Refine Last Search and narrow down to a state.