- Introduction to Genealogy
- RootsWeb “Where to Begin”
- HeritageQuest Genealogy 101
- BYU Independent Study Online Courses
- Genealogy.com University
- Genealogy.com Learning Center
- Cyndi’s List – Educational Online Courses and Webinars
- FamilySearch Learning Center
- Family Tree University
- Ancestry.com Archived Video Webinars
- National Archives Resources for Genealogists
- Free Genealogy Tools
- LDS Genealogy Resources
- Pinterest Genealogy Training
HAVE A GOAL
If you have a beginning target in mind, someone or something specific you’re looking for, you’ll be better able to choose the type of search you need and formulate that search to achieve your goal. Be sure to track your searches (use a spreadsheet to mark off the sites or databases you’ve searched) and when you’ve exhausted your initial search start fresh with an allied surname or objective target search.
Try unusual and dissimilar variants of your surname(s). Many online databases (including federal census returns) include your ancestor with variant name spellings. Many enumerators recorded names the way they sounded rather than the way your ancestor spelled them. For example, the surname Smith could have been recorded as Smyth, Smythe, Smitty, or Smit. Also, make sure you try “last name, first name” as in “smith, john” in your genealogical searches.
Both maiden and married names should always checked when searching on-line. It’s surprising how often we forget to search married names. Also, if one of your ancestors was married more than once remember to search all the married names.
Whenever possible use date ranges for your searches. Census records are notorious for being off by years for births. Search a 10 year range for the best results. If a date range isn’t possible, search each date separately until the range has been exhausted. Also, try using various date range formats, i.e. 1840-1860, 1840 to 1860, 1840…1860, etc.
BROWSER FIND FEATURE
Use Ctr+F (Control Find) in your web browser to quickly locate key words in your search. Remember to use alternate surname spellings. PDF documents also have a find feature (binocular icon) to search the entire document.
USE GENEALOGICAL KEY WORDS
Add genealogical terms to your surname search strings and search with different emphasis. Use birth, born, died, dead, married, marriage, buried, cemetery, list, index, will, probate, patent, family, history, genealogy, roster, regiment, etc. in you strings.
If a genealogy record is on the internet then chances are that Google has indexed the information. For genealogy, the fundamental principle in Google searching for an ancestor is to use methods and approaches that maximize your chances of finding the information you want while simultaneously minimizing irrelevant results that are of no value.
- Country Listings – In most cases, when using Google to search, the country is defaulted to the one you live in. Try typing “google uk” to get the website address for Google’s UK search engine, or “google country” for any country, to return better results. Use the Google search engine for the country where the genealogy record exists.
- Advanced Search – Always use Google’s Advance Search for genealogy searches. The filters and tools in the advanced search feature are perfect for genealogy searches. Use the Exact Phrase line of Advanced Search and try obvious surname variations. Again, make sure you try “last name, first name” as in “smith, john” in your genealogical searches.
SEARCH THE “INVISIBLE” INTERNET
Genealogy sites that contain their own search engines make up the “invisible” internet. Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.ord, and RootsWeb.com must be searched individually inside the site.
CITE YOUR WEB SOURCES
That’s it. Remember to cite your sources. There’s nothing worse than finding a additional clue to a previously searched individual only to find that you forgot where you got the original information.
Search on-line for the following records in the area your ancestors lived.
- Census Records (Federal and State)
- Vital records (Birth, Marriage, Death)
- Military records (National and State)
- Criminal records (Jails, Insane Asylums, Poorhouses)
- Cemetery research (Funeral Homes and Cemetery)
- Land and property records (Patents, War Bounty, Homesteads)
- Community newspapers (Obits, Social happenings, Wedding announcements)
- Printed Biographies (Contemporary biographies of local citizens)
- Local Histories (Townships, Cities, States)
- City Directories (Residence and Occupations)
- Business Directories (Employments)
- Family Bible (Vital dates)
- Start as narrow as possible then broaden the search.
- Try variations of known information, including surnames.
- Slowly broaden the pattern by relaxing or removing a constraint.
- Retry variations again with relaxed constraints.
- Think outside the box…
Good luck with your family history search!
Nowhere is technology more important and prevalent than in the current surge of family history and genealogy research. Here are a few ways technology makes your search easier… Comments welcome!
Spread sheet programs like Microsoft Excel are perfect for tracking family timelines and tasks. Add dates, places, and names to separate columns and then filter and sort by subject. Tasks can be tracked and marked as completed easily.
Using mobile technology has never been easier. You can recording family history with your mobile tech either by documenting an oral history on video or by recording living history in an audio format.
Tablets and Smart Phones
Family Tree Software can now be loaded onto smart phones and tablets and taken with you wherever you go. This makes remote research easier than it’s ever been before. Your family tree travels with you! Another advantage to this technology is that you can use the photography app on your tablet or smart phone to instantly record photographs or video of tombstones, records, documents, or newspapers.
Mapping Software and GPS
Mapping software can be tweaked to help you track your family migration patterns and follow individuals and families as they moved east to west in the early days of U.S. expansion. GPS systems can help find the property your ancestor once owned or to locate a lost town or cemetery.
The Internet is a treasure trove of information but… it is a place to start only. It should never be the end-all to your research. However, the Internet can be used to search Historical Societies websites, on-line databases, genealogy sites, Military records, local city directories, and newspapers, as well as many other records and documents and are all readily available to search on the Internet.
DNA testing can be used to help locate find otherwise unknown genetic match or to discover one’s ethnicity of Haplogroup.
Social Media can be used to search for living family members who may already have valuable information to help you in your search. As always, be respectful when using Social Media.
Online genealogy courses and web seminars
Some universities and colleges now offer a number of beginning genealogical and family history courses for free. Family history webinars for almost every family history subject are also available.
Search Engines make it very easy to search your ancestors. Try different spellings of your surname. Think outside the box… Search maiden names and nicknames if you don’t find what you’re looking for.
E-mail and Text Messaging
Use e-mail and text messaging to contact family members. Ask what they know about your ancestors. Find the oldest living relative. Interview them.
Many news apps can be filtered to include genaeloy and family history. Use the personalization feature to filter articles you might find interesting or helpful to your search.
Blogs and Websites
Follow pertinent blogs and websites that contain genealogical content or, better yet, create your own family history blog and then join a blogger group.
More information is available today than ever before. Use a search engine to locate the records you may find important to your search.
Family History Websites
Genealogy sites such as MyHeritage.com, Ancestry.com, and FamilySearch.org can be an incredible source of information.
One of the most unique uses of technology in family history work is from a Salt Lake City company called Stories in Stone. For a fee, you receive a QR-coded piece of porcelain, aluminum, glass, or vinyl that can be attached to a headstone at the cemetery. With a mobile device and scanning software, you can visit a grave and scan the QR code to look at an obituary, video, music, photo, or story about the deceased. In an instant family history is available in a new and interactive way.
Remember, always cite your sources!!!!