5 Tips For A Better Family History Search

By | October 26, 2016

We all want to make the best possible effort while researching our ancestry. These 5 tips for a better family history search will help you get the most from this exciting past time. Family historians all want to create and build a family tree that we can be proud of. Knowing and recording the lives of our ancestors can be a rewarding hobby. For us genealogists we have a sense of pride of what we have accomplished.

Family History Search

Please note: You can check out 5 more tips for conducting a better family history search by clicking here.


1. Work With What We Know

This tip is probably stating the obvious. We are all working towards the unknown but there is no way we can do this unless we work with the facts – what we know already.

Work With What We Know

For example, if we are trying to trace our great grandparents we will first look at our grandparents. So if we already have our grandparents birth certificates then we will have some very useful information that we can use. Information that can be found on these certificates will include their parents names, occupations and residence.

Have a logical mindset when researching your ancestry!

All of this can be used to find other sources of information for our great grandparents. With this tip we have not jumped forward and looked for our great grandparents right from the start. Instead we have used what we already know in order to find out more information.

So we need to prove links between generations of our family tree before we can move on. If we do not do this then we may actually research the wrong family and waste valuable time.

I must confess though that in the beginning I did make this mistake with my own genealogy research. I was so caught upwith my finding my ancestors and filling in names, dates and places into my family tree. But I was quick to learn from my mistake and I got back on the right track, (or should that be right branch).

Bonus Tip:

When starting with yourself you can check to see what documents and resources that you have around the home. These may be tucked away in cupboards, drawers or shoeboxes. You may find old birth certificates or wills either in the basement or up in the attic. Finding these will help you as they will contain useful details. Also, by doing so you will not have to purchase them again, and so stop you from wasting your money!

==> What Sources of Information At Home Can You Find? <==


2. Ask Our Relatives For Help

Our relatives and even the people who knew our ancestors are a very useful resource when it comes to tracing our ancestors. They may even know information that is not even recorded. So it is definitely worthwhile interviewing them.

Ask Our Relatives For Help

Collecting documents and conducting an interview!

As I mentioned in the bonus tip above we can also collect from them documents, certificates, photographs and other articles from relatives as well. You will though need to ask permission from them before you take these articles.

If they want to keep the originals then you can always make copies. But if they do not want you to borrow them then you can always take photographs of them.

Conducting an interview is another way that you can collect information from them. For this we will need to plan how the interview will be conducted and what we will ask them. By being prepared we will guarantee that we have gathered all the available information that we can get about our ancestors.

==> Top 20 Family History Interview Questions <==


3. Record What We Have Found

At each stage of our research we will record what we have found out. We will either enter this information into a genealogy software program or by using a genealogy search website. Both of these options will allow us to create and build our family tree.

Record What We Have Found

Benefits of using a genealogy software program!

A software program is more versatile than using a genealogy search website for our research. With a software program we can cite our information and add all sorts of media to back up our findings.

Searching for our ancestors within our tree should also be quite quick and easy with this method. And also we will be able to print out our findings through reports and charts.

==> Best Genealogy Software Programs – Your Top 5 <==

These are all useful ways to record what we have found out. By maintaining this practice this will help us decide what next piece of information that we will want to find out.

Record whether we have found any information or not!

On the other hand though we will want to record whether we have not found any information at all. We can also note where we have looked and that we were not successful in finding anything.

The reason for this is rather simple. This practice will save us time in the future when we return to that particular ancestor and want to find out more about them. It will save us from duplicating our efforts as we will not be checking the same sources as we did before.

A software program is useful in this circumstance as we can make notes regarding our progress.

==> Family Tree Maker Deluxe – A Popular Choice <==


4. Record Our Progress So Far

Knowing where we are at all times on our family tree is important. Equally important is knowing what information we have found out about our ancestors, such as their name, dates and places, (as mentioned in the previous tip).

Record Our Progress So Far

Using charts and reports to monitor our progress!

One way to record our progress is through the use of charts or reports. These are particularly useful as we can clearly see all the information that we have gathered so far.

It can save us time as we will not have to go through folders and folders trying to find out what information has been found and what needs to be done next.

Producing charts and reports is another advantage of using a genealogy software program. We can easily update or edit our family tree and then print them out as either charts or reports.

If we were to use the old paper and pencil method then this will be quite time consuming for us. If we did then we would have to redraw our family tree again and again as we make corrections or found new information.


5. Make Educated Guesses

When we are trying to find information about our ancestors we should try to put ourselves in their shoes. By doing so we will have a much better chance of finding anything.

Make Educated Guesses

What do I mean by this you’re asking?

For example, if we already know when our ancestors were married then we can look for their children in subsequent years. We may look within either the husband or wife’s parish for any of their children.

If we have a census for the couple we can check within the area recorded in this document. This document may also list their children, (although it maybe possible that on census night the children were staying with relatives).

On the other hand, the couple may have already had a child before they got married. Or the wife had a child prior to the marriage. These are both entirely possible and must not be disregarded.


Final Thoughts

Over the years researching my family history I have picked up some useful tips that has helped me immensely. There are though many more tips that I could have discussed here, but that would have made this post too long of a read for you.

500 Best Genealogy Tips

Instead you could buy the 500 Best Genealogy & Family History Tips PDF file through the Legacy Family Tree Store. Written by ‘genealogy ninja’ Thomas MacEntree has amassed 500 tips that can be found over 85 packed pages. Considering that there are hundreds of tips to be found in this book it is well worth a bargain at only $5.95.

These tips have been described as a brain dump by Thomas as he has collected them over many years. You can simply use the table of contents at the start of the PDF to find your problem. Or alternatively you can search through the book.

Topics covered in this book include:

  • Research methodology and strategy
  • How to use the Internet to your advantage
  • How to you use social media for research and being secure within it
  • How to preserve your family photos, stories, anecdotes and tales
  • Backing up your genealogy data,
  • Plus much, much more!

Thank You and Please Leave A Comment

I hope you enjoyed these 5 tips for a better family history search. If you think that this post will be helpful to others then please share it with friends and family using the social media buttons below.

If you have any questions or comments then please leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you.

Author: Owain

Hello, Owain here. After researching my family history for a number of years I wanted to give back to the genealogy world. So here you will find guides, tips and product reviews that will help you on your genealogy journey.

10 thoughts on “5 Tips For A Better Family History Search

  1. David

    Hi Owain, I was trying to research my family roots for the past few months and I just came across your website – it is really impressive and your tips on finding my family history roots gives great guidance about how I should be doing this. There are 5 software programs mentioned, which one is the easiest to use?
    Thanks

    Reply
  2. Kenny

    Great Site you have here, I like how you have an introduction of yourself on the side bar. I am really interested in my family History I always have been. You really have it broken down pretty simply. Those 5 steps make it pretty easy to try and figure your history out. I don’t have too many older relatives around anymore so its a bit harder for me. How long have you researched your family?

    Reply
    1. Owain Post author

      Anyway that you can get in contact with older relatives. It maybe a letter or a phone call if you cannot visit them.

      I have been researching my family history for at least six years now. I am so pleased and proud of what I have done. And I can pass it on to my children

      Reply
  3. Funkydunc

    I find it fascinating that in each family, there are some that are drawn it to researching the family genealogy, while others are really not interested in the past.
    I have only a passing interest in my family tree, but some of my cousins know so much about the ancestors. I guess I am not one to look back to far, since I don’t know how it helps me look forward. Maybe I have missed some of life’s lessons doing that, but I just leave it to others to do the search and tell me relevant bits of the big picture.

    Your site will be so helpful to many people.

    Cheers,
    Duncan

    Reply
    1. Owain Post author

      Thanks for your comments Duncan.

      I know what you mean. I started researching my family history quite by accident really. In the beginning I just wanted to write stories that my father would tell me. That snowballed into me doing my own research and writing a book. The more you look though the more you get sucked in. Well that was the case for me.

      Reply
  4. jCamden

    These are some great tips for people wanting to know more about their family history. Everybody wants to know where they came from and what their genealogy is. It’d sure be helpful to have some good genealogy software to help you track everything along the way. What program would you recommend for somebody just starting to look into their family history?
    -Jessica

    Reply
  5. annicklablache

    Nice article with some great tips. I’ve been trying to trace my family tree for ages unfortunately because my grandfather is of African descendant we have no collection of his family background.

    Which system amongst the one mentioned should I use? And is it actually possible to find your family tree by last names?

    Reply
    1. Owain Post author

      Trying to get information from relatives as well as abone who knew our ancestors is always a good step. You could try these 5 More Tips For A Better Family History Search. Joining a genealogy search website may bring up some unexpected results you may find records which will help with your research. Or you may find a fellow researcher who can help. The community within Ancestry are also very helpful if you get lost

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *