Blanket Research

What is it ? and is it worth the time?


Blanket research is the genealogists term used to describe the search of ALL persons with a particular surname.

For the most part it is a very interesting project, but it can be almost totally time consuming to accomplish. Think most carefully prior to beginning the search.

Around about two years ago, another researcher and I were casually talking on the Instant Messenger one evening. We both descended from the same family surname, although we both laid claim to two different brothers of the original clan. We both researched in quite the typical manners and occasionally traded data that might help the other one more then ourselves.

As most of you have experienced in your discussions with other researchers from time to time; the conversations bordered on the impossibility of the search and silly comments are made that are intended to be just that, simply passing silly comments.

The difference with myself and the other researcher is that when we "jokingly" stated, "Maybe we should just look at all of the Baldwins and then sort them out into their prospective families". 

It went beyond the joking point and we both pursued the endeavor. (Why, I don't know as we both pretty much had all the data we needed on our direct lineages). For some reasons, we were both fixated on men who were not directly connected to our lines, but finding the "missing link" had become an obsession.

The "blanket search" took us outside of the original Owen-Putnam county area and new found connections were found in the Morgan County area. We even found one more member of the original children that previously we had no knowledge of. We had both for the most part considered that of the Morgan County area we were connected to only a couple of the Baldwin men there, but not the rest. It ended up being the other way around.

The search also took us into Tipton, Montgomery and other Indiana Counties before unsuspected.

We visited new states also; Missouri, Wisconsin, California, Washington, Illinois, and others.

We obtained many other spellings of the surname (we already had about 5).

Found several "new" family connections and additional surnames previously overlooked.

It was most educational and for the most part, enjoyable even if frustrating. Sad to say, we are still missing the data about the original "missing link brother". Perhaps that is what keeps us searching and finding more connections.

In another arena, I found myself starting on a blanket search of a different surname.

It started much the same way, by one passing fleeting comment by someone.

I had the McCullough family surname in my lineage. A few persons had made the comment that they felt or had heard the oldest one I had was the "granddaddy" of ALL the Owen County McCullough's that there were.

Okay, there was the gauntlet thrown at my feet.

Aside from this, someone in my Carter lineage had married a "McCullough" man, but everyone was certain that "he wasn't connected" and nobody knew much about him. He wasn't a direct line for me, just a second husband of a direct line ancestor.

All the same, I let this blanket search consume my researching hours for some time.

I ended up being referred to another researcher who was said to be "the expert" on this family surname. She was most generous with her data, and  I really mean this. She sent me an 8 inch tall stack of papers and documents. These contained everything she had ever received from the various persons researching that line and each one was descended from one of the original 8 children. Much of the data was erroneous, but some was usable. She was aware of the errors in most areas, but had never really "cleaned" it out.  It took 2 solid weeks to sort out and discard the errors. It was your standard (unfortunately) lineage; full of several generations of sons with the same name. Each of the original eight children had married and had children with those same eight names!

After finding a couple of very interesting bits of data I contacted the "lady expert" in Colorado again. I felt I owed her the information to further her own research. Well, in the interim her husband had passed away and she was no longer "doing genealogy". She informed me that with the data I had, I now held the reins of being the "expert" on that surname. It being a very confusing surname to research, I wasn't really certain that I wanted to be the "expert" and be explaining to others things that for the most part I wasn't entirely clear on all the time.

In the end I have a lineage that I have gone from 1730-the present; and indeed, those initial rumors were true!

All of the McCullough surname in Owen County did descend from the original pioneer. The "second husband non connected guy" ended up being the son or great grandson of the original pioneer. His father had been the grandson of one of the original pioneer's children that I had no family for. So I learned quite a bit in the research.

Of course, this is data that nobody else wants.

It has for the most part consumed much of my researching time over the past 3 years. I have utilized obituaries, census, military records, 3x5 cards (for separation and sorting). However, I have learned that "sometimes" all of a family surname in an area do connect; some of them in the strangest and most unexpected ways.

In summary, if you are at a brick wall in your research and have much patience, then perhaps blanket research is for you. It does lead to other connections and sometimes answers questions in other lineages as well.

One important thing to remember though is that:

Not ALL of a surname is ALWAYS connected.