We all want to make the best possible effort while we research our ancestry. These 5 tips for a better family history search will help you get the most from this exciting pastime.
Family historians all want to create and build a family tree to 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 in what we have accomplished.
Discussed in this post:
- Work With What You Know
- Ask Your Relatives For Help
- Record What You Find
- Record Your Progress So Far
- Make Educated Guesses
After reading these useful tips please check out my 5 More Tips To Search Your Family History post.
Or, why not head on over to FamilySearch where you can find records about your ancestors without spending any money.
This online resource though is a bit hit-and-miss, but it is worth checking out.
Express Your Thoughts Below!
I would love to hear from you.
1. Work With What You Know
This tip is probably stating the obvious. We are all working towards the unknown but there is no way you can do this unless you work with the facts – what you know already.
For example, if you are trying to trace your great grandparents you will first look at our grandparents.
So, if you already have your grandparent’s birth certificates then you will have some very useful information that you can use.
Information that can be found on these certificates will include their parents’ names, occupations, and residence.
Have a logical mindset when researching!
All of this can be used to find other sources of information for your great-grandparents.
With this tip, you have not jumped forward and looked for your great grandparents right from the start.
Instead, you have used what you already know to find out more information.
So, you need to prove links between generations of our family tree before you can move on. If you do not do this then you may research the wrong family and waste valuable time.
I must confess though that in the beginning, I did make this mistake with my genealogy research. I was so caught up with 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 the right branch).
* Owain’s 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!
2. Ask Your 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 worthwhile interviewing them!
Collecting documents and conducting an interview!
As I mentioned in the bonus tip above you can also collect their 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, you will need to plan how the interview will be conducted and what you will ask them.
By being prepared you will guarantee that you have gathered all the available information that you can get about our ancestors.
3. Record What You Find
At each stage of our research, you will record what we have found out. You will either enter this information into a genealogy software program or by using a genealogy search website.
Both of these options will allow you to create and build our family tree.
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 your ancestors within our tree should also be quite quick and easy with this method.
And also you will be able to print out your findings through reports and charts.
These are all useful ways to record what you have found out.
By maintaining this practice will help you decide what next piece of information that you will want to find out.
Record whether you have found any information at all!
On the other hand, though you will want to record whether you have not found any information at all.
You can also note where you have looked and that you were not successful in finding anything.
The reason for this is rather simple.
This practice will save you time in the future when you return to that particular ancestor and want to find out more about him or her.
It will save you from duplicating our efforts as you will not be checking the same sources as you did before.
A software program is useful in this circumstance as you can make notes regarding our progress.
4. Record Your Progress So Far
Knowing where you are at all times on your family tree is important. Equally important is knowing what information you have found out about your ancestors, such as their name, dates, and places, (as mentioned in the previous tip).
Use charts and reports to monitor your progress!
One way to record your progress is through the use of charts or reports.
These are particularly useful as you can see all the information that you have gathered thus far.
It can save you time as you 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.
You can easily update or edit your family tree and then print them out as either charts or reports.
If you were to use the old paper and pencil method then this will be quite time-consuming for you. If you did then we would have to redraw your family tree time and time again as you make corrections or find new information.
5. Make Educated Guesses
When you are trying to find information about your ancestors you should try to put yourself in their shoes. By doing so you will have a much better chance of finding anything.
What do I mean by this you’re asking?
For example, if you already know when your ancestors were married then you can look for their children in subsequent years.
You may look within either the husband or wife’s parish for any of their children.
If you have a census for the couple you can check within the area recorded in this document.
This document may also list their children, (although it may be 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 before the marriage. These are both entirely possible and must not be disregarded.
My Final Thoughts!
Over the years of researching my family history, I have picked up some useful tips that have 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.
Alternatively, you can search through the book.
Topics covered in this book:
- Research methodology and strategy
- How to use the Internet to your advantage
- How to use social media for research and being secure within it
- Preserving your family photos, stories, anecdotes, and tales
- Backing up your genealogy data,
- Plus much, much more!
What do you think?
If you decide to buy this helpful book then please come back and let me know what you think. I would love to hear from you.
Thank You and Please Leave A Comment
I hope you enjoyed these 5 tips for a better family history search. If you have any questions or comments then please leave a comment below.
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14 thoughts on “5 Tips For A Better Family History Search”
You made an interesting point when you explained that it is a good idea to put yourself in the shoes of your ancestors when you are trying to figure out your ancestral history. As far as I know, somewhere along my family line, I have a history of pioneers. I think it would be a good idea for me to find some books on pioneers and see if I can find my family name anywhere.
It’s definitely a good idea to read up on your ancestors occupation. My ancestors were shoemakers, coal miners, blacksmiths, mariners, etc. It just opens your eyes so much more when you look deeper into their lives.
Those are realistic tips. I have never done any family research but if I decide to do so I would begin with what I know and move on to family members who are still alive. Now that I thought about it I only have 1 older relative to help me along.
Do you think I will get very far with my limited information?
Since I do not have much to go on where do you suggest that I start?
Not to sound morbid or anything but I feel that it is important to gather as much information from our older relatives before it is too late. That is why I started my family history so that my family’s stories and memories are preserved and also can be passed down to my children.
The important thing is that you make a start. We all have to begin somewhere. Start with asking family about what they know. And you can check what you have around the home. You will be amazed as to what information we have around our homes.
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?
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
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?
You can check out Best Genealogy Software Programs – Your Top 5. Legacy 8 is rated the best. I personally use Family Tree Maker Deluxe. I have found this to be a great tool to create and build my family tree. I can easily print out reports and charts with this program, which I should something that I like to add to my family history book that I have written
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.
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.
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?
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
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?
Family Historian 6 has been billed as the easiest to use. You may wish to check out Family Tree Maker Deluxe which is what I have used to create and build my family tree