- Misspelling of name
- Using a nickname or middle name
- The records might be in the next county/state over
- If a woman, it might be under her maiden name, married name or even another marriage surname (if she remarried)
- The individual may be living with a family member
- The individual could be incarcerated, in a hospital or mental facility
- The records could have been destroyed in a fire or other event
- Individual could be living with a step parent and using their surname
- Their race is listed incorrectly
- You are following the wrong family line
- They have moved
- They are off to war
- They just do not want to be found
- Records were misfiled
- The record is there, but the index you are checking could be blurred or unreadable; therefore, it does not show the record exists
- The person at the archives, library, or court house does not look for the record or does not know where it is kept
- It is transcribed incorrectly
- It is in a box down in the basement of a court house, not yet discovered to the current generation
As you do research for yourself or a client, make sure you take proper steps to avoid the above issues. Our descendants will be researching us, and we want their efforts to be rewarded by our good works, not thwarted by our mistakes.
If you fine yourself looking for a document or ancestor, do not give up. If you can not find it on Ancestry.com, try another website such as FamilySearch or HeritageQuest. Sometimes that can make all the difference. I have looked for my husband's ancestor Salvatore Lombardo, only to finally find him listed as Lombard Salvatorey; which also meant his entire family's surname was listed on this census as Salvatorey. I also have found white families listed as either mulatto or black, so I rarely use ethnicity while doing a search.
As you research and look for documents or individuals, do not give up if you hit brick walls. Try to think "outside the box" and figure out why this might be happening. Another way to figure this out is to have a friend help you; sometimes those second pair of eyes can make the difference.