GENEALOGY SEARCH TIPS
Genealogical research can be a very expensive, time
consuming and may take an extroadinary amount of
effort invested. However, it can prove to be the
adventurous journey of a lifetime.
I suggest one take their time in the process. You must
control the process and not allow it at any point to
control you. It can be educational as well as
I have learned the various tips I will list here along
the way during my thirteen years of research after the
intitial eight year for my birth parents and siblings.
Some I have been able to utilize myself and others due
to my unique circumstances I was unable to.
I have attempted to list my tips by stages of your
research. It allows for an orderly process though you
may arrange your search in the manner most comfortable
May your journey be as thrilling and successful as
mine turned out to be!
Before beginning your research I strongly suggest
following these three steps:
Create a search journal; this will assist you in
keeping track of the steps you have taken in your
Create a search file/binder in which to place all
documents, interviews or photographs you may obtain
during your search. Save the information in an orderly
way as to preserve the information you have
gathered(future generations will appreciate it and you
will to when searching for information quickly) I use
plastic sheet protectors on all of my documents
(keeping dirty fingers off of them)
As early in your search as possible, if you have a
computer with Internet access; join Genealogy
newsgroups for the cities, states or countries you may
be searching and/or support groups. They can not only
provide resources to search but also moral support
during your search process.
Start With Your Immediate Household:
The first step in genealogy is to identify what you
already know. Start with yourself and work backward in
time by filling in as much information as you can, by
memory, on a Family Tree Chart. When you're done,
you'll know who's missing in your family tree.
Here's the information you'll need for each missing
Full name (including maiden names for women)
Dates for vital events (birth, death,
marriage, residence, etc.
Locations for vital events — location is the key
element in genealogy, since it indicates where vital
records are today
Now that you have recorded all the facts that you
know...you are actually ready to begin your
Interview Others in Family:
Let the other members of your family know that you
are doing genealogy research on your family and have a
series of questions you would like to ask then. Be
considerate of others and their privacy, record
and views. You are asking for help treat them with all
the respect that you would also want. You will find
some have information, but are unwilling to share it
with you. Try to find out why there is this feeling
and do your best to set their minds at rest.
1. Ask questions about what they know about the
family; find out where they grew up,(town, county,
2. Ask if they know any dates for birth , death, and
marriage for any of the above and if they might have
copies of any of the documents.
3. Ask where relatives such as parents, grandparents
and so forth are buried (locations, cemeteries name,
county, state). It is importnant to know where things
happened to get an understanding of "place" —
remember, location is key in genealogical research.
4. Ask if there are any of your Aunts, Uncles or other
relatives have previously done any genealogy
5. Ask if they know any stories about the family.
6. Ask if they know any other living relatives, the
oldest living relatives(then make plans to visit
7. Ask if there are any family photo albums? Take a
camera with you on your interviews and take pictures
of those pictures that others won't let you have. Even
if you just want to run down the street to have a copy
made most people will NOT let you leave with their
original pictures.(don't be upset about this, just
think if it was some stranger coming to your door
wanting to "borrow" your treasured pictures for a few
minutes. Would you??)
8. Ask if there are any old letters sitting in a trunk
9. Ask if there are any family papers of any kind?
(Insurance papers, deeds etc.)
10. Think of things that are in your home that may
give Dad's name or Grandma's recipes. Perhaps there's
an old journal from the family farm business.
11. Who ended up with Grandma's old Bible? Past
generations many times kept very good family trees
which could assist you greatly.
12.Has the family ever been mentioned in a book?
13. Is there a famous person to whom you are supposed
to be related?
14. Ask each family member you interview the same
15. If at all possible you should record the
interviews, especially any stories that are shared.
These recordings will be treasured by future
generations as they will be able to hear the voices of
those who have passed on.
16. Compare your memories with those of your siblings,
parents, cousins, grandparents, etc. The varying
recollections of the same event will surprise you!
16. Fill in a Family Tree Sheets (FGS) to organize
your ancestors according to marriages as you progress
through your interviews.
Now that you have completed your interviews it is time
to begin collecting records. In most cases family
members will not be able to provide birth, marriage or
death records so you will need to obtain them. Each
record will provide information that will assist you
in your genealogical research. Below I attempt to
provide information for each type of record you might
Now you're ready to take the next step in piecing
together your heritage: obtaining death records for
your ancestors. Death records are an essential tool
for discovering genealogical information, because they
include the following:
Exact place of death — which leads you to other
records about the person's death (and life)
Name of the person's father and the maiden name of the
Exact date of birth and death
Possibly, the person's spouse
Cemetery where the person was interred
Social Security number
Information about the informant (who may be a
relative or care provider)
How to write for death records:
Determine the state in which the person died.
(Statewide registration of vital records started
between 1900 and 1920; all but a few states have
records from 1910 forward.)
Find the address for the state's vital statistics
registration office. You can get this from the Social
Security Administration by phone at 1-800-772-1213.
Write to the vital statistics registration office and
provide any known information about the deceased
(name, approximate date of birth, parents' names,
Once you have a death certificate of a relative, which
will list the funeral home, contact the funeral home.
They will have usually a copy of the obituary where
you will find surivors names. You may discover
relatives you didn't even know you had. They will list
the cemetery where the relative is buried.
Contact or visit the cemtery listed. They will share
not only where the relative is buried but may be able
to provide other information as well. Be prepared for
inaccurate record keeping from older years as
cemeteries did not keep the best records years ago.
You may need to be prepared to actually walk the
cemetery row by row to discover relative grave sites.
I discovered graves of some of my relatives this
Follow Up On Death Record Clues:
From the information on the death records you've
found, you're ready to search for the types of records
listed below. Remember, each document you find about
one ancestor may lead you to another ancestor you
didn't know about before.
Birth records: Does the death record give a date and
place of birth? If so, write for a copy of the birth
certificate. For births prior to statewide
registration (about 1900-1920), records may still be
available from a county courthouse near the place of
birth. Birth records are only provided to the person
the certificate belongs to or a parent unless you are
able to show that the person is deceased.
Funeral records: To get an address for a funeral home
anywhere in the US or Canada, call or visit any
funeral director in your area and ask if you can use
their directory of funeral homes, The Yellow Book.
This directory gives the name, address, and phone
number of every funeral home in North America. In your
request for funeral records, include a self-addressed
stamped envelope (SASE), and be sure to ask about the
cemetery where the person was buried and whether or
not they can provide an address or phone number for
the cemetery office.
Cemetery records: A cemetery office may have
information such as the inscription on your ancestor's
tombstone. If a cemetery does not have an office, a
local funeral director may be able to tell you who the
record keeper for the cemetery is.
Obituaries: Most libraries carry the Directory of
Libraries, published by the R. R. Bowker, NY, NY. From
it, you can get the address for the library nearest
the place where your ancestor died. Write a letter
(with a SASE) requesting a copy of the person's
obituary from the local newspaper, which most
libraries keep on microfilm.
PLEASE NOTE: Before attempting to obtain death, birth
or marriage records from the state you may first want
to try the county where they occured. The County Clerk
is usially responsible for this record keeping. Some
counties have set hours where one can go for
genealogical research so it is wise to call
beforehand. The reason I suggest this is that the
county could save you money. In my search in Bay
County, Michigan I found I usually saved 60 percent
for each document. This savings can add up quickly if
you have several records to obtain.
Locate all churches of the faith of your
relatives in the area where they live as they may have
record of births, baptisms, marriages or deaths for
them. The church clerk may be able to check records
for you. Remember. genealogical research is not the
main function of the clerk. Be patient when requesting
them to check records for you. Always include a SASE
with your request.
Search the Census:
By gathering your home resources, interviewing your
relatives, and obtaining vital records for your
ancestors, you've established a firm foundation for
your genealogical research. Now, you're ready to
tackle the census.
Census records have become a major source for locating
the place where an ancestor lived, and after 1840 they
also list age and place of birth, occupation, personal
wealth, education, spouse, children, hired hands, and
even immigration information.
To protect individual
privacy, the government doesn't release census data
for 72 years after they take it. The 1930 census is
the latest census available; the 1940 census will be
made available in 2012.
Microfilm and CD copies of the original records from
the 1790 through 1930 censuses are available to
archives, libraries, and individuals. You may be able
to use these records at a library near you; however,
you are sure to find them at one of the regional
branches of the National Archives.
The National Archives branches are located at
Washington, DC; Waltham, MA, New York City,
Philadelphia, Chicago, East Point, GA, Kansas City,
MO, Ft. Worth, TX, Denver, CO, San Bruno, CA, Laguna
Niguel, CA, Seattle, WA, and Anchorage, AK.
Here's why a genealogist needs the census:
For census years 1790-1840, it lists names of heads of
household in every state.
For census years 1850-1930, it lists the name of every
person in a household. (Note: damage from a fire
destroyed the 1890 census.) From 1880 forward, it
shows the relationship of each family member to the
head of household.
A census tells you precisely where a person lived,
which opens the door to many more discoveries.
A census gives you the name of the county in which
your ancestor's vital events occurred. This is vital information for researching beyond the borders of America.
When requesting census records you will also want to
request forms so you will be able to record all the
information you see on the various census years you