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
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, ancesters.com or
genealogy.com. 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
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
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.
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
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
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
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. Ancestry.com. With an estimated four billion names in its database and
counting, Ancestry.com 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. Genealogy.com. Another well-known genealogical research website,
Genealogy.com is actually a "sister" of Ancestry.com. 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 Genealogy.com
is a list of celebrity family trees. .
Genealogy.com 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. GenealogyBank.com. This genealogy website contains information from all 50
U.S. states from the 17th century forward. One of the advantages of
GenealogyBank.com 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 GenealogyBank.com, 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. FamilySearch.org. 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
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, FamilySearch.org
also offers help and support services. .
5. Archives.com. One of the newer genealogy search websites, Archives.com 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 Archives.com membership, you can order vital
documents that you may not have been able to find elsewhere through
Vitalchek.com or newspaper clippings from NewspaperArchive.com. 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. USGenWeb.com. 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. WorldVitalRecords.com.A genealogy records website that charges an amount for
membership that is less than Ancestry.com but more than Archives.com,
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
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. Footnote.com. 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. MyHeritage.com. 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
MyHeritage.com 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. AncestralFindings.com. 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