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.
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).
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.
Please share with family and friends if you think this post will help others by using the social media buttons below.