Top 10 Things to DO in Family History Research

Get More out of Your Family History Research


Top 10 Things to DO in Family History Research Copyright 2019

This is the second post utilizing two handouts I created for a family history fair my husband and I were asked to help staff.  Please read the other post, Top 10 Things to Avoid in Family History Research.

Ask Your Family for Help. They may know more than you think!

1.Interview family members (using open-ended questions) and record (with permission). Upload to FamilySearch for future reference.

2. Involve family members to help with research and completing ordinance work. Divide up the work and relieve the stress you’ve placed on yourself.

Take it one record at a time. Get familiar with your sources.

3. Consider which line or specific ancestor is most important to you to find more information on and then focus your efforts there.

4. Familiarize yourself with available records for the locales your family has lived or worked in throughout their lifetimes. You might find an ancestor working at a farm three doors down or helping an extended family member in a neighboring town.

5. Look at the neighbors on censuses (the page before, page of, and the page after). You might find additional family living close by or recognize a name of an ancestor that was a neighbor first before becoming family.

Learn about the different regions, cultures, and religions that could have influenced your ancestor’s life.

6. Learn the names of the cities, counties (parishes for Louisiana), states, and countries where you’re researching. Do you know when boundaries changed or when two combined? Events occurring before or after a state joined the Union determines how it is listed. (For example, did the event occur in the State of Alaska or Alaska, U.S. Territory?)

7. How’s your Latin? When searching Catholic records, knowing Latin can be a huge help.

8. In countries like Norway, remember that you’ll need to search for the surname as well as the town as a surname. For example, John Peterson may be listed as John Peterson Graham meaning John Peterson of Graham.

Look for official government (non-vital) records online or in person.

9. Search military records for those who served as well as for widows or children of deceased Servicemembers who applied for the pension.

10. Search the Social Security Death Index (S.S.D.I.). Remember that Social Security numbers started being issued in 1936. SS numbers were required for employment in different years based on industry. SS numbers weren’t required to claim dependents on taxes until 1986 (for ages five and up).

Finding information on ancestors is not always quick and simple. It can take years (decades, even) to find documentation proving a marriage, birth, death, or other important event in the life of an ancestor.

I would love to hear your tips and favorite resources for doing family history research!


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