Family Research Tips
Do you want to research your family history? Here are tips and resources to help you.
1. Record what you already know.
Write down the names of all your known relatives along with general dates and places. Start with the current generation and work backward. Ask living relatives for additional information to help you fill in blanks.
2. Create a checklist of useful historical records.
Do you know that your relative was in the military? Add veteran records to your list of possible resources. Did your great-grandfather own a business? If so, they may be listed in a city directory. Other helpful historical documents may include naturalization records, land transactions, marriage certificates and business documents.
3. Use Ancestory.com and other online sources.
If you know the address of your ancestor, check the census records. These include information like occupation, age, birth place, head of the household (usually the oldest male in the apartment) and all other occupants of the unit. Ancestory.com is a great resource for census records. Check your public library to see if they have a subscription otherwise it may be worth it to pay the yearly fee. Heritage Quest is another useful site.
4. Check your municipal archive.
Marriage certificates and records of birth and death can be found at the municipal archives. This may be a great way to fill in gaps in personal information – names, dates, or addresses.
5. Visit the National Archives website (www.archives.gov).
This is an invaluable site for those doing genealogical research. Here you’ll find documents that may otherwise be difficult to find – veteran service records, land records, naturalization records and court case files. Keep in mind that records from this site often have to be ordered and received via mail so this may be a slower moving, yet tremendously useful, resource. Also, this is a site that requires payment for many requests.
6. Use city directories and historic guidebooks.
If your ancestor was a business owner or a service provider, they maybe listed in historic directories. The listings often included the name of the proprietor, the address of the business and sometimes even the owner’s home address. If you are searching in New York or Boston, the King’s Handbook of both cities are available free from Google Books. If you are looking elsewhere, ask your librarian where you might find historic directories of your city.
7. Try other genealogy websites.
Your family research will most likely be an ongoing process, so there are always more places to look! If your family is Jewish, visit www.jewishgen.org.This is a fantastic website for research on Jewish ancestors – you can even search by Eastern European shtetl. This website has a large community and you may connect with someone who has information about your ancestor’s village or a distant relative. If you know that your family came through New York, try the immigration records at Castle Garden at www.stevemorse.org. This is a searchable database of the names of individuals who entered New York through the Castle Garden gateway.
Good luck searching!