Tips, Tricks, Hints,
Remember there is no sure fire way to find your
family members, whether you are looking for your relative born in
1700 or for your Birth Family.
But, we hope to give you some helpful ways that
we and others have found that elusive family member.
OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS:
best source of information will be other family members. You may
have some you haven't talked to in years, or have never talked to at
all. Now, is the time to get out the family address book and start
making calls or writing letters. You'll be surprised to find out who
else in the family is doing the same thing you are. I found tons of
papers from family members I'd only ever heard mention of. I've now
met them, and have a great relationship with them. If they are doing
research, they will love to know someone else is, too.
DON'T FORGET ABOUT
Sometimes we can get so caught up in looking
that we truely forget the obvious. If you know your grandfather's
name and about when he was born or died. Look for him in the social
security death index. If he was born after about 1890, he may have
had a number. If he did, you can file for his application. It will
give you his place of birth, his parents names (mother's maiden),
then you can get the birth certificate (if he was born after about
1910), that too, will give you lots of information. If you know when
and where he died (again after about 1910) File for his death
certificate. Lots of info there as well.
Another great source of information is
obituaries. That's right, most of the time an obit will include such
information as parents, siblings, and decendents. If you are looking
for a living person, and find the obit of a deceased relative, you
may find out Ann's married name and where she is living now (or was
at the time of the relative's passing). If you are looking for other
decendents, you'll see where that relative was born and when, which
may help you to find them in a census for that time frame.
ON ALL THESE RECORDS BELOW
are a great source of information, but not always 100% accurate.
Many times names were misspelled, or family members left out. No one
had to verify there name or age for the census taker. If they
weren't home, sometimes information was given by the neighbors, and
if they didn't read or write well, the name may not be spelled
correctly. We were looking for Wasson's and found them under Waren.
Also, they may have used initials instead of full names. If you
can't find William George Smith, try looking for W.G. Smith. When
searching the census by name, if exact match doesn't work try the
soundex, if that doesn't work, make up your own spellings of the
name you're looking for. You might find it.
Another thing to keep in mind, most families
usually lived close to other family members. If you are looking for
great grandpa Jones, and find him on page 1, don't stop, check a few
more pages, you just might find his in-laws, or another brother, or
his parents. One county census can end up being a gold mine of
information about the entire family.
ANCESTRY.COM OR OTHER FAMILY TREE
these are great sources of information, as long as you remember a
The best way to use the information you get off these trees is a
source of guesses. ALWAYS verify all the information you get.
Sometimes people will get information from one tree from another, if
the first tree had errors, they will get passed on. Try to find the
ones that give sources, and check those sources. If nothing else, it
will give you the paper work to back up what you say.
Try emailing the person that put up the tree. Ask them how they fit
into your tree, and where they got their info. If they email is no
good, then really look at the information and the dates and see if
you can figure out what sources they used.
The main thing is don't automatically assume what you see is what
you get. People are human and errors happen. If you see an error, it
is fine to let the person know just make sure you give them your
source information to verify what you are saying, and don't get
upset with them. They took the time to put it up to try to help
others. Make sure to give them that credit.
forget to document ALL your work. Even your notes about people you
aren't sure of. Ancestry and other sites have several free forms to
help you keep your records straight. I find the family group sheets
are great for keeping families straight. Keep all your notes on
certain surnames together. Then when you get a line figured out. get
it all set up in ancestor sheets and family group sheets, and that
will make easy access for other people you will find to see if they
match that line. Keep track of places you have looked for
information and what you found there. Then you'll remember later, if
that is a place to go back to. I have files, and files, of notes,
family sheets partially filled out, etc. They are filed in one box,
and my semi-finished ones (I say that because are you ever really
finished with a line?) in a folder easily accessable. Makes it much
easier when I find a possible lead to either match it, or disprove
Looking for an obit in Calilfornia, but you live
in New York? Check the web, there are several volunteers that do
live in California (or any of the other 49 states) that would be
willing to look it up for you. Most of the time all they ask is you
do at least one local lookup for someone else. They are quite
helpful, and I've seen where they will do obit lookups, headstone
pics, and several other things for you.
DON'T GET STUCK ON
THE MAIN TREE
Remember that women change their names when they
marry but men don't. An obvious thing to say? Well, think of this.
You're looking for grandma Ethel, but don't know her husband's first
name, but you know she had a brother named Charles. Find Charles,
his name won't change and he'll be easier to find. His decendents,
might know who Grandma married. And there you go, you've branched
out on the tree, and made it back to the main tree trunk. This
process works for other searches as well, the men are always easier
to track. Even if you are looking for a living relative. Find the
brother and you can usually find the sister even without knowing
what her last name is now.
boards are extremely popular. You can post by surname, state, county
and even city. You'd surprised at how much information others are
putting up, or asking about that you may know. I found a great
relative with all the information on one line of my family in a
message board. He even sent me all the hard paper copies of wills,
deeds, and more. We talk all the time now, and it's wonderful. The
main thing is make sure to post properly. A post like: I'm looking for
information on N.B. Smith will not get you a lot of
results. Be as specific as you can: I'm looking for information on N.B. Smith born
1-10-1852 in Tennessee, he moved to Ark and changed his name. Am
trying to find what his birth name really is. He married Francis
Pearlee Thompson in Daisy, Ok and had we think 11 children.
This gives more information so I know if their N.B.
Smith was born N.B. Smith, they are not looking for the one I have
in my line. But, I have one I heard changed his name and left
Tennessee and was born about the same time, it might be worth
checking into. The more specific you are the more chance you are to
get a response. There are millions of people doing the same research
you are, and you're likely to find lots of cousins with the right
BIRTH, DEATH, AND MARRIAGE RECORDS
are now becoming so easy to find online. You might not get the
actual record online, but you can usually find an index of names for
almost any year in almost any state. Once found in an index, you can
send to that state for the actual record. Death and Birth records
usually run at the most $10.00. Marriage records vary by state.
Remember though, these records were usually not kept at courthouses
until after the early 1900's in most states. Some states do have
records in the late 1800's so it's worth checking out. These records
can be a great source of information, or at least they can give you
the paper records to back up your information.
records can be misleading, if the next of kin giving the information
didn't really know and guessed at it. Unfortunately this did happen.
So, on a death record, you may need to do more
of the best sources of information, and one of the most overlooked.
But again, be careful, not always 100% accurate. Information was
given by whoever they could get it from. Could have been next of kin
that knew it all, or next of kin that guessed a lot. So, once you
get the information, use it to investigate further. Most newspapers
are now on microfilm. Sometimes they are indexed sometimes not, but
think about the last obit you looked at. You got the person's
parents names, their siblings names, their children's names, who
passed before them and what state and/or city their survivor's live
in. Depending on whether you are looking for deceased relatives or
living ones, the obit can provide LOTS of information. Obituaries
were sometimes printed in papers before death certificates were even
issued. There are several old newspaper sites on the internet, plus
the library usually carries all old papers for their
SOCIAL SECURITY APPLICATIONS
your mother know her grandfather but doesn't know anymore? And there
is no one else who seems to know? Check to see if Grandpa had a
social security number. If he did, you can find him in the social
security death index. For $27.00 if you know for sure it's him,
$29.00 if you need them to search a little for you, you can get a
copy of the application he filled out to get his ssn. He would have
had to put the following information down to get his ssn:
name, place of residence, where he works and who for, father's name,
mother's name (maiden). If you can't find a birth certificate to
give you this information, you can get it off the application. Then
you'll have another generation of grandparents to start searching.
are usually housed in the state archives. Where census records can
help you keep track every 10 years, these directories can help fill
in missing years. They are almost like our current phone books. They
list by head of household, so you can sometimes get narrowed down
the year the male spouse died if you find the female as head of
household in a certain year. They can also lead to you church
records, they show you where the person worked, and where they
lived, which might help find them in a census if you're looking in
one that isn't indexed, or their name might be spelled wrong in ,
you'll have an idea of the enumeration district to check in. Some of
these directories can be found online but, again check with your
state archives or library to see where they are in your