On staying focused


I have to admit, I’ve made lots of mistakes as a novice genealogist. When I first started, I didn’t take great notes, I didn’t always cite my sources, and I didn’t log my research attempts to prevent retracing the same ground.

What’s worse, I tried to research too many people at once. While it’s exciting to discover new connections and find more records, my rush to “collect” people on my family tree led me to use less-than-stellar research practices. I have now learned that there is serious value in slowing down, scrutinizing the records, and performing deep-dive research into one family.

For example, my current research subject is my great-grandfather on my Dohse side of the family. Otto Dohse, a first-generation American citizen, worked as a truck farmer in the suburbs of Chicago in the late 1800s and early 1900s. I have absolutely loved digging up details about him, his family, and the truck farming industry. I know how his farming career ended—more on that later—but I am greatly enjoying learning about how he farmed and lived.

I’ve gleaned lots of information about Otto from census records, but now my hunt includes historical maps and books and resources to learn more about his land and Chicago-area truck farming in general. I am extremely grateful to people in the Genealogy! Just ask! Facebook group for their advice in tracking down land records. Edna Ferber’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book So Big was also a fun read—while it is fictional, it is all about a truck farming family in Chicago. It really brought to life the extremely hard work required to farm and bring produce to market at that time. I’m also looking forward to picking up this book from the library soon. Although my family wasn’t Dutch, it appears from Google Books that this book contains helpful information about the truck farming industry in general. Finally, I found this fantastic report about the markets in Chicago where truck farmers sold their produce.

I look forward to continuing my research into Otto and sharing more information about him and my research process soon!