Wednesday, September 01, 2010


I'm not a professional genealogist by any stretch of the imagination but
I've been climbing my family tree now for over five years and I'd guess
I'm at the intermediate level of experience. I've had folks help me along
the way and I like to return the favor by helping those who ask me to
help them get started in researching their own ancestors. Because I do
have a fulltime day job my research is online and I've established a
routine which has given me some success.

First of all, I ask the person what information they already have:
What do they know about their grandparents? Are they still alive? Do
they know anything about their great grandparents? I ask if they know
where they lived and especially if they know where in any of the
Federal Census years from the early twentieth century. If their
ancestors were immigrants, what country did they emigrate from and
what year did they come to this country? Did any of them serve in the

Then with whatever information they gave me, I check several websites:

1. for the Census records and images. I make note of
the street addresses for the results because there may be more than
one person with the same name living in the town where the ancestor
lived. Then I check the "Birth, Marriage and Death" and "Military"
records. If there are images I download a copy to my computer.Then
I check the Family Trees and check their information against what the
person has told me and against the records I might have found. I
look to see if there are source citations. 

2.Next I check the Family Search RecordSearch website. This is a
new addition to my list of websites to check which has records and
images not on Ancestory. Again, I dl any images .

3.The next stop is RootsWeb's Worldconnect Project. Using what
information I have found so far I run a search on the names to see if
anyone has posted a family tree there and check them against what
I've already found. Here too I check for sources.

4. Then I search next at the Family Search site, again double-checking
the trees there with what I have so far found. Again, are sources

5. Finally, I Google search the ancestors and then try Google Books
for family genealogies.

When I've found everything I could, I go over it with the person. Once
I'm satisfied that I've found their ancestors, I email them the images of
the records I've found and tell them where I found them. I suggest that
they use this information to follow up and do some research on their own .
If I've found a website or family tree that was well sourced, I tell the
person how to get in touch with the owners.

I've had varying degrees of success helping people. Two recent incidents
turned out very well, with one friend discovering quite a bit about one
side of her family which she hadn't known before. She has since made
several trips to where her ancestors lived and visited family graves.
And I was able to help a high school classmate find out that his family
traces back to 17th century Quebec.

What I get out of this is the fun of solving a puzzle and knowing that
I've helped someone else the way others helped me when I first started
the long climb up my own family tree!

Written for the 97th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy


Lori H said...

There is nothing I enjoy more than helping someone else find their ancestors. I usually start with Ancestry as well, but, familysearch, and local libraries are a staple as well!

J.M. said...

You must help out a lot if you've already developed a well thought out routine. A nice and concise (sp?) post, I enjoyed reading it.

Dorene from Ohio said...

You are so organized! What a terrific post!

Marsyl said...

I love helping others get started also! Good karma as well.
I've found it really encourages people to contact their parents, grandparents, and ask them some questions. Especially helpful is to get the names of aa many siblings of the parents, grandparents, etc.
I also love just having a puzzle to solve. Recently I was able to find the name of a friend's grandmother who had passed when his mother was very young - no one in the family knew her name! They needed it for her obituary, so I got to digging and found it in about 4 hours - with much luck on my side.

Kerry Scott said...

I really like your organized approach. Having a routine in place to get a search started is a great idea!

Cynthia Shenette said...

I like your organized approach. I use many of the same resources, but I'm not nearly as methodical as you are. Thank you for helping to rethink my process!