Researching your family’s history can be a rewarding hobby. Read on as I show you 5 tips that will help you conduct a better family history search. We will build our family tree with names, dates and places. Also, we will collect stories and tidbits of information from wherever we can find them. But we can get frustrated along the way when we can’t find what we are looking for.
6. Be Thorough With Your Research
Whenever we are researching a particular ancestor of ours we always want to know everything that we can find about him or her. Well, that was certainly the case for me when I was researching my own family tree. I was fascinated with trying to find out everything that I could about my ancestors. I wanted to look at every source of information that I could use.
How I gathered further information
Firstly I looked online at various genealogy search websites, such as Ancestry and FindMyPast. I would check Censuses, newspaper archives, military records, probates and other databases that these sites held.
I would also look at the indexes for births, deaths and marriages on these sites. Once I had found out these records I could then apply to purchase the actual certificates. After I had obtained these certificates I could then gather even more information such as the residence of the person listed, their occupation, date of event and so on.
So what I am saying is I could have been happy with obtaining just the date and the place of the event. But no I wanted to find out all that I could. By doing so I could see the full story of my ancestor. I could only do this by obtaining the certificates. Of course this does cost money, but spending money is the same with any hobby, isn’t it?
Check whether sources of information are available
I have just given one example of finding information about your ancestors and how I looked even further into their past. There is a wealth of information that is online about our ancestors. Websites such as Ancestry and FindMyPast were particularly useful to me for my research.
New information is being added all the time to these sites. But it is important to note that not everything can be found on these sites, or for that matter online. At one stage you will have to plan a visit to the archives to look at records that maybe crucial to your family research.
These sites will often have a digitized image of the record together with a transcription. Always check the transcription with the image as sometimes when these records are being transcribed errors may creep in. This I have seen a number of times during my research.
7. Look At Other Spelling Variants
As if genealogy wasn’t challenging enough you must consider that your ancestor’s name may have been recorded differently throughout their lifetime. This can make it harder to trace their lives. So this tip is definitely worth remembering when we are scouring databases and records for our ancestors.
So why the different spellings?
There are a number of reasons as to why our ancestor’s name may have differed during their lifetime. Often it was written down how it sounded. And of course the person writing down the name would write it how they thought it was spelt.
Our ancestors may not have even known how to spell their own name. So they may have written it down differently from time to time. So whenever they signed something a different spelling may have appeared.
Another possibility could be that our ancestor wanted to change their name for whatever reason. This has been the case for one of my ancestors.
For a number of generations my ancestors were named Watters, spelt with two t’s. However, this subsequently changed to Waters. The reasoning was because my ancestor didn’t want to continue the family’s blacksmith trade and so he wanted to differentiate himself from the family and what their family name represented.
8. Share Your Research With Other Researchers
During your research you will most likely make contact with cousins of yours who will have information about your ancestors. They can share with you what they have found and obviously you can return the gesture. This has happened to me on a number of occasion. I have made many connections while researching my family history.
Making connections with connections is one of the perks if you will of being genealogists. Sure we know that we have cousins out there that they have never meant and didn’t even know existed. So it can be a great surprise when we make a connection and share knowledge about our ancestors.
What can we gain by sharing?
As I mentioned earlier in tip 6 we all want to know as much as we can about our ancestors. Sharing what we have learned will mean that we will gather information a lot faster than if we were to do it alone.
Also, information that we gain from our cousins may not have actually been recorded. Rather stories and tales would have been passed down the generations. It is likely that these stories and information regarding your ancestors may not have been down your family line but that of your cousin.
Therefore, it is important to communicate and share so we can get even more information. Likewise then we will build a bigger picture of our ancestor’s live.
How can you make connections?
There are a number of ways that you can make connections with cousins. I will just share with you some of my experiences.
I have made connections through both Ancestry and Facebook.
Obviously with Ancestry you can view other people’s family trees. If you see that someone is related to you, (based on the family tree that they have put on the site), then you can communicate with them. You can then share more information regarding your family’s history.
Facebook has also allowed me to connect with family members. You may discover a group concerning your ancestors or you may try to track down people on this site.
I though was tracked down by a cousin who searched for my name. Once you have made a connection through Facebook then this opens the door to other cousins contacting you. When one cousin makes contact with you then they can introduce to another and so on.
9. Map Your Ancestors Lives
By looking at historical maps you will get an idea of the area in which your ancestor lived in. You can see the landscape around them as well as what businesses were in the area. If you know what your ancestor did for a living you may then find out where he or she worked.
What do I mean by this?
For example, many of my ancestors were coal miners. Before the invention of the car people would naturally live near to where they worked. So finding where my ancestors lived, (through censuses), I could find the nearest collieries to them.
One of my coal mining ancestors did though move about a bit. The reason was because a number of collieries did close and so he and his family had to relocate. Checking censuses he was still listed as a colliery working and was always living near to a coal mine.
10. Join A Library and Family History Society
A typical library should have a section on the local history of the area. By exploring what resources they have you will get an understanding of the area in which your ancestor lived in. Maps can obviously show you the landscape around them as mentioned in the previous step. But resources at a library will show you what job prospects there were, what the economy was like, the total population and so on.
Also, you may find family research that has been donated to the library. These maybe useful to you as they may contain information about your ancestors, or a connection in some way.
What can a family history society do for me?
A family history society can give you the same information as a library. They will have a wealth of information and are always making new records available which you can check out.
These societies can also personally help you with your genealogy research. They can steer you in the right direction by discussing the area in which your ancestor lived in. They may even have knowledge about your ancestor that they can share with you.
You can learn new skills by joining a family history society which you can use for your genealogy research. Obviously joining such a society will cost you an annual membership but the information that you will gain will justify the expense.
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.
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 more 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.
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