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Evelyn Harrison

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Research Your Family Ancestry

It's not always easy to research your family ancestry. There are many avenues you can go to get information though. Some of that information is right under your nose and other information will take some detective work. One thing is sure; you can do it yourself with a lot of hard work and patience.

The very first thing you want to do is put down on paper what you do know. Make a tree of your relatives that you are aware of. If you know birth dates that may help you later. So put the birth dates next to the person's name.

Talk to your relatives. Tell them what you're doing and ask for their help. They will want to tell you stories which may even help you somehow piece everything together. If there are any documents they have from parents or grandparents, ask if you can make a copy of them. Try to talk to the oldest people in the family as they can tell you further back in your family ancestry.

Search through your photos of parents and grandparents. Look on the back of photographs for dates of the photos. Record dates of weddings, births, and birthday parties. These will all serve as clues for the dates you may need to dig up in public records that will lead you to good results while you research for information.

Your computer can be a huge help in your research and save you some time. You might try to purchase genealogy software for your computer to keep things organized. You could join an online research website like, or Besides these sites ,which may be used if necessary, there are a ton of tools on the internet to help you hunt down your relatives.

If you can find out where relatives were buried, it can also be helpful. There are lots of families that have cemetery plots together. If you know of the cemetery where some or all of your relatives are buried in, it's an easy task from there. This will be helpful in knowing birthdates and burial dates. Make sure you contact the cemetery to find where your relatives were laid to rest. Otherwise, it may be too difficult to find the family headstones.

When you research your family ancestry, reading a book or two or listening to a CD while traveling about this type of research, can be very helpful. There are lots of books on specific steps of researching your family ancestry. For instance, there is a book on just using the courthouse to do your research ("Courthouse: Research for family historians: Your guide to genealogy treasures"). There is also a book on "Finding your family on the internet" as well.

Start with the easiest steps, finding out what you know first. Use your relatives to draw more information and documentation. Once it gets too hard, you may want to pay for help or pay for a ancestry website. Take your time, there is no hurry and enjoy the process.


Documenting Your Family Ancestry

Genealogy is a great family hobby. No matter where you live, people from around the world are enthusiastically searching for their ancestors. It helps give people a reference of where they came from and might help you to understand how you got to where you are today.

Beginners usually rely on assembled family information from family trees that they have found on the internet. The internet has driven the genealogy hobby to be what it is today. 10 years ago, the research process was much different. If you wanted to learn about your ancestors, you went to your local genealogical society, family history library, and the national archives. These types of facilities were the starting point to your journey of documenting your ancestry. Now these facilities seem to be the end point for most hobbyists. For the hobbyist who is really the family historian who wants to accurately document their ancestry we have a few helpful tips.

Getting Organized

Whether you are traveling long distance to take photos of headstones, going to a State Archive, or your local library, you should be prepared. In order to maximize your time, we have a few helpful tips. Know what the facility has as far as what you are looking for. Call, Email, or if they have an online index, spend time to get familiar with the facility and what it has to offer. Know their hours of operation, and their use policies. Some facilities require appointments. To get the most out of your visit, plan as much as you can. This will help to maximize your time at the facility.

Before you go, create a to-do list for your research. The more detailed your list is, the better off you will be. You should have a good idea of what you are looking for, and know what is available. You may get overwhelmed with what you are researching because of too much or too little information that you actually find. Sometimes you will start to find information for another family member from the same source that you were actually trying to find information for another ancestor. You might get off track so it is a good idea to have a copy of your family tree and family fact sheet to help with the information that you find.

Keeping Track of your Research

Once you get to your destination, you know you have a limited amount of time to research your ancestry. You are there to gather as much information as possible, so you eagerly gather as much as you can. You make copies from different books, microfilms, etc. Some researchers in their haste realize that when they get home and sort through their information, that it is not organized or well documented. They look at the information and have a mess to sort through, and even have to throw some of it out because they can't recall where the information came from, who it was for, or why they made copies.

When you are coping information, look over the copy, make sure all the information you are looking for copied correctly. Immediately bind the information together with a stapler or paper clips. Write down all the necessary information to recall the source. If you can't recall the source, the information is not going to be clear to you. If the information is from a book, copy the cover, the chapter information, and write down the page numbers if they are not present on your copies. Be as specific as you can. Write the information on the front or back of the copies. Once you get home, if you are missing something, it will be easy for you to call the facility and ask them to copy what you are missing. If you don't have enough details, they won't be able to help you.

Research Logs keep you Focused

Once you have a document in front of you, take the time to write down all the source information and source citation. Source information is the information in the source; it is the details that you find about your ancestor. Source citation, is the document itself. It is the facilities reference information to recall the document, like the number on the side of the book and the section you found the book in. It also includes the details of the document, like book name, author, when it was published, and page number.

Having a research log will help you in knowing what you have researched and what to work on next. Write down what you have researched, what your conclusions are. Keeping a spreadsheet can help you to sort and filter on what has worked for you, what has not, and will give you the ability to recall information easily. We have templates for Research planning, tasks, document management or blank genealogy charts and forms

Managing your Research

When you get over-whelmed with your research, document what you have done, take a break, and come back to it later. At the end of the day, the process should be enjoyable and rewarding, so when things get frustrating take a step back and take a deep breath. This will help you stay energized and focused on the task at hand. If you are at a loss for what type of document to use to help document your ancestry, we have reference lists to help in your ancestry research.


Best 10 Genealogy Websites For Ancestry Research

Genealogical research has become very popular recently, especially since the Internet has made searching for records so much faster and easier than in the past. Not only can you find surprising information about your family and ancestors, but you can make connections with other genealogy researchers. It isn't uncommon to find a distant relative in this way, but at the very least, you can obtain tips from others with more genealogy experience.

Still, it can be daunting when you begin to research your family ancestry. Of the many genealogical research websites available, how do you decide which ones to try? After careful review of the most popular genealogy sites the following ten are my top picks. These genealogy websites have great features and reach and are also exceptionally user-friendly. .

1. With an estimated four billion names in its database and counting, is probably the best known genealogy website and a favorite of many users. Its Family Tree Maker software is one of its main draws, and there are video tutorials, a monthly newsletter, and access to other researchers available. .

While most of the site's search capabilities are not free, you can access scans of documents and images, such as birth certificates, court records, and photographs. Obituaries are available, as well as census and military records, land office records, and school yearbooks from the U.S. You can store what you find in what is called the "Shoebox" so that you don't have to search for it again, and you can sort the list of databases on the site in a number of ways to make it easier to find what you need. .

Membership options allow you to choose from only U.S. records or from the worldwide database, which allows you to narrow down your search based on location within a particular country. You can also apply filters to the genealogy databases, such as the type of record you're seeking, if you have that information available. Rankings are given to the results via stars so that you can see the data that matches your search best. .

2. Another well-known genealogical research website, is actually a "sister" of Primarily for people in the U.S., the site includes information on 300+ million names. In excess of a quarter of a million records are added weekly. .

Family Tree Maker is also available on this genealogy search site, and it merges your family tree with others who are related, allowing members to assist one another in building their genealogy. You can also search for the family trees of others to find relatives and connections, and there are photos of gravestones as well. One of the more fun features of is a list of celebrity family trees. . offers a free 14-day trial. Then, you can choose from three levels of membership - Basic, Deluxe, or Gold. The Deluxe membership includes the World Family Tree, and Gold membership gives you full access to the entire site.

3. This genealogy website contains information from all 50 U.S. states from the 17th century forward. One of the advantages of is that it includes access to a large number of digitized historical documents, newspapers, pamphlets, and books that are not available elsewhere, so if you have been unable to find a family document or clipping, try searching this site. To make your search even more convenient, the digitized clippings can be saved as PDF files on your computer. .

The complete American State Papers produced between 1789 and 1838 are included on, making for some very interesting research possibilities even if you aren't looking up your own family's history. The site contains African American and Hispanic American newspaper collections for those researching ethnic ancestries. The U.S. Social Security Death Index is also available for free on the site, along with additional information, such as the day of the week of birth and death dates. Access to the subscription-only areas of the website is available via an affordably priced 30 day trial. .

4. If you want to begin your genealogy research without spending any money, this free genealogy site run by volunteers from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is a great place to start. It boasts in excess of 36 million family names, but it also links you to the International Genealogical Index with over 600 million names of the deceased, as well as pedigree charts in the Ancestral File database. African American and Latino records are included, and you are given access to the church's Family History Libraries.

The census records on the site begin in the late 1800s and include the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. Research centers that focus on genealogy are listed as well in case you wish to visit one of these locations. Thousands of free articles by experts in the website's Wiki are a major perk because you can learn a great deal about genealogical research that you can take to other paid membership genealogy sites later, if you wish. Despite its free status, also offers help and support services. .

5. One of the newer genealogy search websites, has already amassed thousands of members. While it is not free, the site is less expensive than many other genealogy sites and offers a 7-day free trial and family tree-building tool. With a large database of resources, the site includes information about the living so that you can potentially find relatives. .

Generally, the records include the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom. You will find war records such as World War II enlistment data, as well as birth records from England and Wales and the Dictionary of American Family Names. For African Americans, the website includes an African Heritage page with advice from Henry Louis Gates, the director of the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University. .

At a discounted rate through your membership, you can order vital documents that you may not have been able to find elsewhere through or newspaper clippings from You can also order an in-person search in a particular location for court records. Within a matter of hours for a nominal price, you can have your document. .

6. Run by volunteers, this genealogy website is free and contains a page for each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, which is then divided further into counties and towns. Marriage, birth, death, census, immigration, and church records are available, as well as an extensive database of maps. .

The ability to search each state's information can sometimes provide you with data you may not find on other genealogy sites. It is especially helpful when you have geographical information for the family members/ancestors you wish to locate. You may need to search more than one page to find what you're looking for, but the results are well worth the effort. .

The site is working on a number of projects such as the Archivest Project to transcribe many public records, and the African American Griots Project to assist African Americans in researching their family histories. The Genealogical Events Project lets you know about events where you can gain information about ancestry research and meet others involved in genealogy. Yet another project called the Kidz Project teaches children about genealogical research. .

7. genealogy records website that charges an amount for membership that is less than but more than, WorldVitalRecords charges less if you want to search only U.S. records rather than the worldwide database. If you choose the international option, however, you will have access to more than 11,000 databases. .

The site's pioneer collection contains nearly 14 million names in more than 500 databases, including passenger lists, and there are about 300 million military records available. The school yearbook database boasts over 70 million names. The genealogy research site now also contains a card catalog that allows you to search with a title keyword. Locations are provided with a map with zoom capability. .

A monthly newsletter is provided, and there are articles and tutorials to assist you. Help is also provided for scrapbooking your results, and the message boards allow you to connect with other genealogy researchers. Besides telephone support, there is an online store. You can try the site for free for three days, and you can get your money back after 30 days, if you choose. .

8. What makes Footnote unique is that individuals can post documents for others to see. So, if someone has a document or record in a private collection that is not otherwise available, you may be able to find it on this genealogy site, which includes in excess of 85 million documents and images starting in the 17th century and organized by era. Even if you simply want to find documents not related to your family, this site can be infinitely interesting. An item is featured on the home page, and you can look back at previous featured items on the Spotlights page. .

There are numerous documents and photographs from wars in which the United States fought, starting with the Revolutionary War. You can also create a memorial page for someone or a footnote page to show off your own documents. .

A basic membership to the website is free, and quite a few of the documents are available with this option. Paid membership allows for complete access and is still quite economical with a seven-day trial available. .

9. This free website has its own family tree builder and family webpage functionality, allowing family members to have a central place to build their family records, making it a combination of genealogy search and social network. You can choose to make your information private or public. If you want unlimited storage capabilities, you must pay a nominal monthly fee. .

While the genealogy website does not contain its own databases, its search engine is quite comprehensive, bringing back results from more than 1,500 places. These include archived medical records and telephone books, as well as newspapers and the usual official records, some of which are international. .

You can search for foreign language names, for example, and if you are uncertain of the spelling, you can choose to research it using Megadex, a technology that developed to fill the gaps of Soundex, a more limited technology that was developed before the invention of computers and searches for names that "sound like" the name you entered. .

10. Much of the information on this genealogy website is free, and it contains some unusual international inclusions, such as records of people who were executed by guillotine during the French Revolution. The database also contains records from Sweden and Germany, as well as English-speaking countries, and it includes a list of cemeteries in both the United States and United Kingdom. .

The help provided on this site is extensive with a list of genealogy books and numerous articles. Email assistance is also available, as well as a listing of other genealogy websites. A guide on the website helps you get started, and a blog allows you to ask questions of other family history researchers. .

Genealogy research can be exciting, fun, and rewarding, connecting you with your history, as well as others who are discovering their family backgrounds. Nothing brings the reality of "six degrees of separation" more to the forefront than researching your ancestry. You may very well find relatives in unexpected places or even a lineage that leads to royalty. These top ten genealogy website reviews should have you well on your way to finding the best information to discover your family history

©2014 - Evelyn Harrison