Musings From MommyLand

Because sometimes there is more to Mommy…

Family History Week Continues…Lets Talk Genealogy

on March 30, 2012

I don’t want to be the girl who beats a dead horse…I think you all know where I stand on the importance of family and personal history.  So, I thought today I would just write about some of the tricks I have learned from doing my own genealogy research, as well as some of my favorite genealogical websites.

1. Ancestry.com

Ancestry.com was the first place I went when I decided to get serious about working on my genealogy and I am so glad that it was.  Yes, it does have a monthly fee, but I like it because you can pay month by month.  So if I am feeling very research happy, I pay for a month of it and then stop paying for it until I feel like there might be something new a few months down the road.  And even if you aren’t paying for it, I think that it is a great place to keep track of your family tree.  There are so many records here and they have it set up to be as user friendly as possible (it really is as easy as the commercials make it out to be).  If you are just getting started or feel like you don’t really know where to start, I would definitely recommend ancestry.com.

2.  Look at every angle

My Jones great-great grandparents.

If there is one thing that I have learned from looking for my ancestors, it is that the path usually definitely isn’t straight or easy.  If you are having trouble finding information on a relative, try going in the back door.  Look at all of the children or siblings of your ancestor because you never know what you may find out.  Maybe they moved in with a relative or are living next door to them during a census.  My example…My great-great-great grandmother whose maiden name I don’t know.  What I do know is that she was married once and had one child before she married my 3rd great grandfather.  So, I am trying to get a hold of her first child’s death certificate to see if it lists his father’s name so that maybe I can find her first marriage certificate and possibly her maiden name.  It may be a long shot, but it is what I have at the moment.

Don’t forget to check alternative spellings of your surname as well.  I am “lucky” enough to have a lot of common names in my genealogy…yes I am being sarcastic.  Trying to find my David Jones a midst 5 million other David Jones’ can be…well, trying.  Anyways, I do have one or two relatives with slightly less common names and I have found that trying variations on the spelling really can help.  Especially try spelling it phonetically, immigration officials and census takers are notorious for not taking the time to ask for how a name was actually spelled.

3.  Talk to your family before it’s too late

Nowadays, there is a great deal of information you can find out about your ancestors online.  I know that my great-grandparents lived in Missouri during the 1910 census and had made it to Colorado by the 1930 census.  However, if it weren’t for talking to my grandma, I wouldn’t know that when they had gotten married, they did it by sneaking over into Iowa on the Fourth of July because my Great-grandmother wasn’t quiet 18 or that they had met because my great-grandfather was a teacher and my great-grandmother was his student or that the reason they came to Colorado was because my great-grandmother had tuberculosis.

What I guess I am trying to say is, if you are lucky enough to still have grandmas and grandpas around…they can be the most amazing source of information.  And, I bet that they would love to share what they know.

4.  findagrave.com

I came across this website about 6 months ago and while I was a bit apprehensive about the macabre nature of it, I am so glad that I got over it and started looking around.  I have found a couple of ancestors because of this website.  Find A Grave is a user generated content site where anyone can add grave site information.  And there are SO many records.  I think that there are people out there who just go to cemeteries and walk the rows taking down information to add to the website and I am quite grateful to them.  Through this, I found out where a 3rd great-grandfather who died on the train home from the Civil War was buried.

This website also helped me find a distant cousin.  I was making the rounds one day to see if there was any new information when I realized that there was someone new managing a lot of my ancestors graves…and he had added a great deal of information and pictures.  So, I emailed him and asked if he was related to these people…and he was…just as I was.  It turned out that our lines meet at our great-great-grandfather.  We have swapped all kinds of information and pictures, and I am so grateful that there was a place like Find a Grave where our paths were able to cross.

5.  Write everything down and stay organized

I am definitely guilty of not following my own advice on this one, which is why I can tell you how important it is. Write down the websites you find or thoughts you have on how to find an ancestor.  If you don’t, you will find yourself doing everything twice or three times and pulling your hair out in the process.  I now keep everything in a giant three ring binder.  I use little tabs to separate each couple and keep all records and notes I have of them right behind their family unit worksheet.  Here is a Family Unit Chart I created for the genealogy toolkit I sell on Etsy for Your Legacy Creations.  Hope it helps you get organized.  Keeping notes and staying organized is really the key, I think, to staying sane while you research your family line.

6.  Persevere

My great great great grandfather William Henderson who survived the Civil War only to die on the train ride home.

Genealogy isn’t easy…and there is definitely no instant gratification.  But, keep at it because when you do finally find something on that ancestor you have been looking for for months, it is well worth it.

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3 responses to “Family History Week Continues…Lets Talk Genealogy

  1. Judy Curbow says:

    I’ve also had huge success with familysearch.org (particularly birth, death, marriage and baptism records and Fold3 (military records).

  2. Looking from different angles has been key for me as well. And as you say, the rewards are well worth it if you persevere 🙂

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