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Researching my family genealogy is important to me. It’s important enough that I’ve been working on it for years and don’t see an end in sight. I love reading about the people in my family history, their stories, their faults and especially the surprise of finding things that I never expected to find. I have traced my own tree to royalty, Sir Isaac Newton and more. I’ve discovered that our family had acres upon acres of land in Southern Ohio – 869 acres at one point – and that the Civil War followed by the Great Depression was the downfall of my family and the wealth they had amassed. Simply put, it is fascinating to me to be able to follow, line for line, where we came from to get to where we are today. Where I’m at today with my family tree is the culmination of years of work, but when I first began, I felt lost. Actually, lost is putting it mildly. I felt like my brain had exploded and I had fallen off the fact of the planet. Ever feel that way? No? Just me? Good to know. 😉 Anyhow, back then it was these genealogy resources that helped me find my path in the very beginning. Most of them, I still use in my research today.
Sometimes when you’re researching your family genealogy, you end up stuck. Frankly, it happens more often than not and if you’re not certain where to find the information that will help you get unstuck, you may never figure out that particular branch of your family tree. For me, my tree has multiple branches that are “dead” currently because the records no longer exist or they’re in the UK and I simply haven’t made it over there to look in person. Someday I’m sure I will, but for now, I’ll keep checking these genealogy resources to see if the records have been made available with digital copies or not.
Resources for Researching Your Family Tree
Whether you’re just starting and are looking at genealogy resources that would be good for beginners or like me, you’ve been researching for a while but find yourself stuck, these resources are only a few that are out there. Google is your friend when it comes to finding new sources and resources since there is no possible way I could list them all. The biggest genealogy for beginners tip that I could possibly give you is to exhaust every source and take things slowly before moving onto the next one. Check, double check then triple check your information unless you want to build an incorrect tree. Take it from my experience, rebuilding a tree that you’ve messed up is no fun for anyone involved.
Ancestry.com should be one of your first stops when you’re just beginning your family genealogy and not for the reasons you might think. Not only do they have millions of records that you are able to access, but they also give you a place to store your family tree research. If you’re going to be doing online genealogy research for a while, chances are good that you will have to sign up for an Ancestry account since a huge portion of records are only available over there.
I would caution you not to follow what everyone else is saying on Ancestry and to do the research yourself to make sure everything matches and lines up correctly. Far too many people are all too happy to hit confirm without verifying. When you head HERE to the Ancestry.com website, they’ll give you a free 14 day trial so you can make sure that you want to use them to store and do your research. If you do, I highly recommend that you stop and pick up THIS book so wading through everything is easier for you. If you don’t want to use Ancestry, you will still need a place to store your data. Having a GEDCOM compatible family tree software such as THIS one can help with that.
Another family genealogy resource you’ll want to invest in is Ancestry DNA. Having your DNA traced for its ancestral origins gives you an insight to your family history that you can’t find anywhere else. For instance, I had always been told that my ancestry was German. While a recent surname is indeed German, my own DNA has no German ancestry in it. In fact, the most recent DNA traces for my own are Scandinavian. Had I not took the time to purchase Ancestry DNA, I’d have never known that since as I said, my Grandmother’s maiden name was indeed German in its origins. I’m still trying to find out how a non-German family took a German surname but at least now I know that I need to look for those answers.
Before you purchase AncestryDNA, you need to know that it will only track paternal DNA. If you want to track maternal DNA as well, you’ll need to purchase a test like 23andMe. 23andme will track both sides of your DNA which is important to some genealogists since having both sides of your ancestral DNA done gives you a more complete picture of where your family came from. When I first began, I used AncestryDNA to get smaller picture. Then, when I knew more about my Moms side of the family, I used 23andMe to get the rest of the picture. Both were a huge help. You can check out AncestryDNA HERE and 23andMe right HERE.
The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing & Genetic Genealogy
If you do opt to buy AncestryDNA or 23andMe, you’ll want to grab the book, The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy, to help you decode your results. Most of them are self explanatory, but the book is good to have on hand just in case. Not only will it help you decode your results, but it will answer any questions you may have. You can buy it on Kindle or paperback HERE.
The Family Tree Problem Solver
Like I’ve already mentioned, at some point, you will run into a problem branch or twenty. Knowing how to solve those problems is key to finishing your family tree and taking it as far back as you possibly can. The book, The Family Tree Problem Solver: Tried-and-True Tactics for Tracing Elusive Ancestors, is a great genealogy resource for learning how to track those ancestors that simply don’t want to be found. It is available on Kindle or paperback HERE.
Organize Your Genealogy: Strategies and Solutions for Every Researcher
Not only are dead ends a common problem when you’re researching your genealogy, but being unorganized is another. It can cause you to lose documents, miss leads and more. When you pick up your copy of Organize Your Genealogy: Strategies and Solutions for Every Researcher over HERE, you’ll give yourself a leg up on ways to keep your genealogy organized to keep things moving and running smoothly. If nothing else, pick up a few file folders like THESE and hanging folders with a file box like THIS one to keep any printed documents you have organized.
Your Local Genealogical Society
I have never seen a county that did not have a genealogical library that was free to visit. They can be a huge resource for those looking to get started or to fill in a missing gap. You will want to visit the genealogical library in the county that your family comes from to get started. This can give you access to birth and death records, marriage records, land records and more.
The National Archives website is a fantastic resource for military records and more. In addition to the military aspect, you’ll also be able to find obituaries and more. You can check things out on the National Archives website HERE.
Find a Grave
When you’re doing research that involves death records that may or may not exist any longer, you can often find the info that you need from the burial record. Unfortunately, a lot of those records are gone as well, but Find a Grave is working to compile a listing of all graves worldwide. A large portion of these burials have biography’s on their headstones which makes it easy to connect the dots and to find information you may be missing elsewhere. Searching the site is free and you can create an account to save your results free as well. Check it out HERE.
Wiki Tree aims to be the worlds largest family tree and they’re doing it for free. While the info is all user generated and I’m going to urge you to verify everything before you take it as gold, it can be a great place to find a connection that you’re having a hard time with. Names, dates, and family members are all great things to search for when you search the Wiki Tree website.
Want to look for multiple records in one spot? Head over HERE and check out Free BMD. You can search by surname or location and it will pull any known records for you. You will still need to verify them, but it can be a great time saver.
If your family immigrated through Ellis Island, checking the Ellis Island Genealogy records can be a great way to find their immigration records. You’ll often be able to find the names of ships they traveled on, dates of immigration and who they immigrated with. Get started HERE.
Rootsweb is an email based service that sends emails with tips on how to research your genealogy, how to find hard dead ends, family spotlights and more. I highly recommend that you head HERE and sign up.
Daughters of the American Revolution
If your family has ancestors who fought in the American Revolution, Daughters of the American Revolution or their male counterpart, Sons of the American Revolution, very likely has the research you need. You can find applications from descendants who were joining the groups, military records and more. It is well worth heading HERE to take a look.
If your family has any type of Jewish ancestry, JewishGen can be a HUGE help if you’re looking to research your family tree. They have records dating pretty far back and can help with things such as surname requests and more. Head HERE to check it out.
Patriot and Grave Index
If you have ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War or could otherwise be considered a patriot, you might actually find yourself having a bit of trouble finding the location of their graves. Headstones get destroyed over the years from natural erosion, disasters and worse. The Patriot and Grave index can help you find those hard to find locations and even more info about the patriot ancestors that you may have hit a dead end on. You can head HERE to check it out.
Seventh-day Adventist Obituary Database
Local newspaper archives
It may not seem like your local newspapers could be a HUGE genealogical resource, but they can be. From birth announcements and obituaries, you can find a wealth of information about the people in your family tree. For instance, I was able to come across not one, but five articles about my own father that I had never seen before. All five gave me an insight to the man that I wasn’t able to have before I stumbled across them.
Google News Archives
In years gone by, finding newspaper articles from across the country or world took weeks to do, but today we have Google News and their archives. Like your local newspaper archives, the archives of the world’s biggest search engine’s news service can be extremely helpful if you’re looking for news articles, obituaries, birth announcements and more from across the world. While you won’t want to rely on it fully, it can be helpful to check if you run into a dead end.
For modern obituaries, there really isn’t a better genealogy resource than Legacy.com. Legacy loads modern obituaries from newspapers all over the world and the site is 100% free to access. Check it out HERE.
Illinois Digital Newspaper Collection
Sometimes newspaper records can be pretty obscure; especially if they’re from a smaller paper. For most states in the US, there is a digital newspaper collection like the Illinois Digital Newspaper Collection HERE that lists records from each historical newspaper in the state. If you’re having an issue finding newspaper records anywhere else, be sure to check for your state’s website.
Immigrant Ancestors Project
Most of here in the US have an ancestry that leads back to immigrants in some way, shape or form. Once you get to that point in your search, records can be harder to verify, harder to find and sometimes impossible to dig up. Resources such as the Immigrant Ancestors Project found HERE can be a HUGE boost to finding the information that you need.
Believe it or not, Wikipedia can sometimes be a family genealogy resource if you’re looking for information on places, historical figures, and the like. With that said, keep in mind that Wiki is 100% user generated content and can be edited by anyone at anytime. Take that you find with a grain of salt and be sure to verify any information with a secondary and sometimes a third source to be sure that you meet the genealogical standard of proof for accuracy.
If, at the end of your research, all else fails, sometimes a simple Google search can bring a new angle to your searching, new information or even something as small as a clue. Remember that a lot of genealogy research is simply playing detective and following a paper trail. When you’re at the end of that trail, keep searching in places that you wouldn’t otherwise think of. You never know what you’ll find.
Once you start building your family tree, it can also be helpful to start a blog with the information that you’ve found. Doing this can help others who are stuck or searching for info easily find it, can connect you with long lost relatives and more. Learning how to start your own blog is super easy and you can learn how to start a blog in just 15 minutes right HERE.
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