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 exciting.

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 for you.

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 search.

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 person:
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 are actually ready to begin your research.

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, state).

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 research.

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 them.

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 somewhere?

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 above questions.

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 request.

Death Records:

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 person's mother

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, spouse, etc.).

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 way.

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 search

Search at the State and County Level:

If you've located an ancestor on a census, you know their county of residence. Now you're ready to search for their records at the state and county level.

State and county documents to search:


State censuses

State military records

County histories

Special genealogy collections

Tax lists

Voter registrations

Court records (vital records, land records, etc.)

Coroner's records

Probate records (wills, estate papers, etc.)

State archives

County courthouses

Land offices



Genealogical societies (there are over 2,000 genealogy clubs in America!)Join your local Genealogy or Historical Society, State Societies can also be a lot of help in your research.

If you found in the census that your ancestors immigrated to America it is important to record the year. The year will give you a good idea as to when an ancestor may have applied for citizenship. They would have had to file a Declaration of Intent and an Apllication for Naturlaization. Most of these files would be maintained at one of the regional National Archive Centers I have listed already. These records prior to 1906 may be fragmented at best but you won't know until you request them. Since 1906 a large amount of information was required on the application including: where immigrating from, where they embarked for America and how, port of entry, occupation, information on those who travelled with them, etc. One could file a Declaration of Intent two years after arrival in America. Application for Naturalization could filed five years after immigration. In census forms were filed out properly you will know if a relative filed for Naturaliztion. Even if in doubt don't disregard this possibility. All should file the necessary form to receive any information about Intent or Naturaliation for ancestors. The National Archives allows one to make fice requests at a time at no charge. As with other patient as it make take awhile to have results returned to you.

Military Service:

You may find during your interviews or research that a family member served in the military. Order a copy of How to Locate Anyone Who Is or Has Been in the Military 1-800-937-2133. You will also want to write to the appropriate branch of service for old military records of deceased relatives. This book will advise you how and also indicate what forms will be required when reguesting records.

Search the LDS Family History Library:

In the previous section, you identified state and local sources of information about your ancestors. One of the premier resources for this kind of information is the LDS Family History Library, located in Salt Lake City, Utah. If you are able to travel to the Library I strongly reccomend it. You will be amazed with the records you will find there both domestic and foreign. It will be most helpful when your research takes you back to the "old country." The library has 2,000 branches throughout the US and abroad. To locate one near you, visit their online branch locator.

Tools available for genealogists at the Library include:

Catalog search: The library has 4.5 million books on microfilm for cities and counties in the US and abroad, including city and county histories; original court records; birth, death and marriage records; and censuses, tax lists, and the like. Your local branch can borrow titles from the main library for use at your local facility.
Access to the International Genealogical Index™ (IGI): The IGI lists over 225 million surnames organized by county. It references a name and a source (such as a parish register, marriage record, or census) — all related to a place where a person lived.
Ancestral File™: With about 30 million names so far, this giant collection of pedigree charts submitted by thousands of genealogists worldwide makes it possible to find relationships to parents, grandparents, and several generations of a pedigree. As a bonus, it will also lead you to the name and address of the person who submitted the file.
Social Security Death Index (SSDI): A searchable computer index of about 120 million Americans who died between 1962-2001, the SSDI allows you to find the social security number, place of death, last address to receive a social security check, and the exact date of death of your ancestor. With your ancestor's social security number, you'll be able to get a copy of their original social security card application.

The Library in the past few years has made much of their collection available on the Internet for those who have a computer.

If you have completed ALL the above stages you are well on your way in putting together your family genealogy. Here are a few more tips you might want to try for added information.

1. Search the internet for the surnames that you have found(mothers maiden name, grandmothers maiden name, etc) This will possibly find others doing research on the same lines of genealogy you are wanting.

2.Cyndi's List: A Comprehensive List of 50,000 Sites on the Internet, by Cyndi Howells, provides links to every conceivable genealogical resource on the Internet.

3. Visit the internet GenWeb Project for your area. You can search the internet for their web sites, usually have good hints for searching in that area.

4. Consider a temporary membership for They have some records available for free but the most important ones due require a paid membership.

5. You can hire a professional genealogist, before doing this make sure that you have good references from others that are familiar with this persons work. This when searching in an area that you are not familiar with or unable to travel to and know that the researcher can gain access to records.

6. Visit Used books stores looking for genealogical books, you will be surprised to find some great older books that have "how to" information in them.

7. Check in old city directories to try to locate your relatives. I tracked my maternal grandfather for over thirty years using this resource. When he suddenly disappeared is when I decided to request a death certificate from the state.

Check in city directories to match an occupation to a name. Some older city directories actually listed companies where people worked. Finding out where my paternal grandfather had one time worked led me to my birth father's sister and eventually to my birth father.

Cross reference city directory information year by year.

8. Consider, if able, going to the local neighborhood of passed relatives. This is especially true of a neighborhood where large populations of certain ethnic groups may have clustered. This was true of my ancestors. Many Poles immigrated to Bay City, Michigan's infamous South End. It paid for me to travel to Bay City and walk the old neighborhoods as many people had resided in the neighborhoods all their lives. If they cannot offer information on your relatives they may be able to relate stories of the past, the customs of your culture and at least other information of interest. It may not result in your obtaining any new information but it will definitely give you a deeper appreciation of your ancestors and their early years here in America.

9.Check old high school & college yearbooks in the areas of your search.

and finally: Leave no stone never know where you might find the gold nugget of information you have been looking for!

I hope I have provided at least a few good tips for your research. Bare in mind it is not intended to be an all inclusive is a start.

Best wishes in your exciting, adventurous journey ahead!















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