Want to learn how to do genealogy and family history?

Family History and Genealogy is like a puzzle. It's a big puzzle and it can be overwhelming at times. This blog is to help you gather pieces to your family puzzle and give you strategies on piecing it together. This blog will be updated weekly with a new research tip (puzzle piece).

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Networking - Group work

I don’t know about you, but when I am trying to put together a big tough puzzle, I prefer help. Putting together a puzzle as a group is easier and more fun than doing it all by yourself. So, where do you get help with your genealogy puzzle?

1.       Family Tree – My first recommendation on this blog was to sign up for family tree. Once you are signed into Family Tree, go to the person or family you are researching, click on “view person” (not view tree). On the right hand side of the screen, there is a column that says “latest changes”, within that column, click “show all.” A list of changes will come up and it will say “by”. Most of the changes will probably say “familysearch”, but the most recent ones may have a person. Click on the person’s name and it will show you the contact information for this person. Email or call the person and ask them to share what information they have.

2.       Track down living family/distant cousins. In the U.S. this is easy with the 1940 census. Find your ancestors family in the 1940 census and then look on whitepages.com for one of their children.  You can check the Social Security death index (SSDI) to see if they have died. If you can’t locate them on the SSDI then chances are they are still living. Call them or write them and ask them if they have any pictures of their ancestors or any other information.

3.       Facebook pages. Join a genealogy group, either by surname or place where your ancestor lived. To find a familysearch community page, go to this website and locate your community page. https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Research_Communities_on_Facebook Once you locate a page, then like the page. Once you like the group, you can make a query on the surname you are researching.  Currently I have “liked” general family search, Pennsylvania, and Sweden. These groups can also be helpful in locating sources. You ask questions about churches, cemeteries, anything you want to know the answer on.

4.       Rootsweb has genealogy boards and email groups. Go to http://lists.rootsweb.ancestry.com/ and you can search previous posts or you can search an email group by place. Once you search for a group, join the group by following the directions or send an email to “subscribe”. Once you subscribe, send an email to the group (directions for this should be on the page you subscribed on), in the email put the surname in the title or subject. For surname rootsweb email groups, search here: http://rsl.rootsweb.ancestry.com/

If you have any questions, just comment, and I’ll be happy to help. I have found several people willing to share information. That is how I get most of my pictures and family histories. Plus you have distant family friends for life.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Family History Centers

What do you do once you have exhausted all online resources? There are several resources online, but sometimes you just can’t find what you need online. Ancestry.com (a pay site) has some church records online, but most of the time church records are rare to find online. Same with land records, wills, tax records, and lots of other resources.

Most historical societies will have all the local resources that are available, but if you aren’t local, then you usually have to pay to have someone search the local records.

The LDS church has hundreds of family history centers located throughout the world. Remember in my previous posts, the LDS church has preserved and microfilmed millions of records. These records are slowly being made available online and indexed by volunteers. But, it could take years for all the records to be made available online. So in order to view records that aren’t available online yet, one can go to a family history center and browse microfilms. To find a family history center near you, go to http://www.familysearch.org/locations/ then type in your address.

Once you find a family history center, you will need to visit the center to see what microfilms and books are there. Every center will have different microfilms and books. If you can’t find anything from the resources there, then you may want to check out the family history catalog. This is the catalog for all records that the LDS church has. You should be able to order any microfilms or microfiches to your current center. This does cost and your local center should be able to help with this process. Or you can visit here https://familysearch.org/learningcenter/lesson/online-film-ordering-ordering-microfilms/697 and order them online. I’m not sure how much it currently costs or the process, but it was $7 a microfilm. If you live in Utah and can make it to Salt Lake City, then you can visit the Family History Library. They have all these resources available. No need to order them. To learn more about the family history catalog, you can go here: https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Introduction_to_the_Family_History_Library_Catalog

Another advantage of going to a family history center is they have several “pay” sites that you can search for free such as ancestry.com, fold3.com, and even international sites. There are also several volunteers that are available to assist you or answer your genealogy questions. There may also be family history classes.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Process of Elimination

I’d really like this blog to be more interactive. So, for next week’s post, I will be answering any questions you have. Here’s your opportunity to get help. This week make a comment on the blog (not facebook). I’d like to see any questions you have or what piece of your puzzle that you are working on. What surname, location, and time period are you working on? It’s not hard to make a comment. Just click on the bottom of any post where it says “comment”, if no one has commented yet it will say “no comment”. Click there, and then scroll down to the bottom of the screen. There will be a white box and right above it says “Post a comment”.  Below the white box, after you type in your comment, it will say “select a profile” click on the down arrow and highlight “Anonymous”. You can sign your name in your comment. Please share with your friends and family. I’d like to help as many people as possible.

Now for this week’s post. This past weekend, the National Swedish Archives were available to browse online for free. Here’s a key word, “Browse”. I think we’re so spoiled with all the indexes that have been made available and search functions, that we have become lazy and seldom “browse” records. I’ll admit, “browsing” is always my last resort. I search all the indexes available and then if I can’t find my information, I start browsing. “Browsing” is the old school of genealogy. It’s the tedious, time consuming work of genealogy.  Is it necessary? Absolutely! There are millions of records that have not been indexed and unless you are willing to roll up your sleeves and work for those hard to find records, you will never find all your puzzle pieces.

Yesterday, I spent about 5 hours, “browsing” the National Swedish Archives, only to find “nothing”! I probably scanned through 400 pages of records looking for one family. One may say, “what a waste of time” and that I didn’t make progress.

Have you ever done a Sudoku puzzle? Sometimes, you have to solve the puzzle, by process of elimination.  It can’t be this number or that number, so that only leaves two other numbers. So it is with genealogy. Sometimes, the only way to find information is to eliminate possibilities. This is especially true in your hard to find “brick wall” lines. There are three “John Taylor’s” living in one county/area. One is my relative (chances are they all are relatives, but only one is my direct descendant). I start looking at one of the “John Taylor’s” until I determine he is mine or not. If he isn’t, I haven’t failed, because now I know that one of the two remaining “John Taylor’s” is probably mine. (But, remember always double check your source)

Yesterday, I eliminated 400 possibilities. This makes me closer to finding my ancestors. Now for another very important part of eliminating possibilities: Keep a record of all your search efforts. Next time the National Swedish Archives are free online again, will I remember what I searched or will I spend another 5 hours searching the same 400 records? Now that would be a waste of time!!! It’s simple to track your searches. I simply use a word document. I have a search log for each of my surnames. Yesterday, I was searching “Lundell”, so I will save in my Lundell word document, what records I searched yesterday. How do you track your searches?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Family Search Wiki

Lots of people have asked for help finding puzzle pieces in foreign countries. Countries, that I have absolutely NO experience. Fortunately, someone out there does have experience. Family Wiki is an online guide where those that have experience with specific countries, share their knowledge and resources.

Here are step by step instructions:

·         Go to http://www.familysearch.org

·         Then click on “Search” (Located at top middle of page)

·         Then click on “Wiki” (Located at top middle of page)

·         Then search a place, for example: Malmohus, Sweden

·         There will be a number of search results. For Malmohus, Sweden, I clicked on the 3rd result down, which is the County page for Malmohus, Sweden.

·         From there it gives me a history of the county and individual parishes/towns within the county and the parish/town page.

·         After clicking on one of the parish pages, it didn’t give me a lot of information. So, I’m going to search just “Sweden”

·         After clicking on search result “Sweden”, I found lots of information and resources. For example: getting started with Sweden research, research tools, maps of jurisdictions, where to find vital records, and lots more.

I have mentioned this in another post, but also try “browsing” family search records to see what is available online for the specific country that you are looking for. Some records might not be indexed yet and won’t show up when you do a search. For example: Family search has Husförhörslängder records (Kind of like census records) under the browse section, but these have not been indexed. I can browse these records for free online; I just have to do the dirty work of searching each individual record. For instructions on "browsing" read this post: http://pieceyourfamilytogether.blogspot.com/2013/07/family-search.html

What places are you currently searching? Where have you found resources and search help?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Cemetery Records

Today we are going to talk about cemeteries. Cemetery records can be hard to locate if you don’t live nearby. If you live close to where your ancestor died, I’d encourage you to go visit the local cemeteries and find your ancestors’ graves. Most cemeteries have an office or an indexed registry. Sometimes the office may be the mortuary as well. They may be able to give you an obituary or copy of death certificate. It’s worth it to at least ask. Once you locate your ancestor’s grave, walk around in a circle, check the other graves. You may find an ancestor that you didn’t know about.

If you don’t live nearby, here are two of my favorite free online resources. http://www.findagrave.com and http://www.billiongraves.com Both of these websites function off of volunteers.

On Findagrave, you can make photo requests of your ancestor’s grave. Volunteers fulfill those requests. I have also found obituaries and death certificates on some of the “memorials”. One downfall of Findagrave is the search function. It’ll conduct an exact name search, unless you click the box that says “Do partial name search on surname”. So again be creative on your search. Try different spellings. Here are step by step instructions on searching Findagrave.
·         Go to http://www.findagrave.com
·         Notice the left side is for famous graves and the right side for any other grave.
·         Click on the right side “Search 103 million grave records” (This number could change if viewing later)
·         Type in search information

Billiongraves is kind of new (to me). It is very similar to Findagrave. The difference is Billiongraves, the volunteer takes a picture with a GPS App. The advantage of this is you can see (long distance) which graves are close to each. The disadvantage, you have to be a special member to use this benefit. But, anyone can search for free. Here are step by step instructions on searching Billiongraves.
·         Go to http://www.billiongraves.com
·         At the top of the website, click “Search”
·         Type in search information

Cemetery records can help you find birth and death dates. On both websites you may find some names that don’t have the birth date listed, but when you look at the picture, it may say “Aged” and you can figure an estimated birth. Remember always double check your source.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Google - My favorite side piece

To simplify a puzzle, I think most people find the side pieces and put those together first.  I think the reason for this is because it’s the easiest part of the puzzle.

So, what is the easiest part of genealogy or family history?  I’m sure this is different for everyone, but the easiest part of genealogy for me is what is most easily accessible. Basically, what I can do from home and for free.

Google is one of my favorite side pieces. Here are a couple of ways I search Google. You will find that there are many ways to search and the more creative you get, the more you will find. If you have an ancestor with a unique name (like James Marberger), you’ll want to widen your search. If you have an ancestor with a common name (like, John Taylor) then you want to narrow your search.

Here is a step by step:

  1. Go to http://www.google.com or any search engine that you prefer.
  2. Put your ancestor’s name in quotation marks. For example: “James Marberger” Any time you put something in quotation marks, the search engine will conduct an exact name search.
  3. If you have an uncommon name, then you may end up getting “no results”. You’ll need to widen your search. Try searching your name without quotations. For example: James Marberger
  4. If you have a common name, then you may end up getting several results. You’ll need to narrow your search. Try searching your name in quotations and adding the city, county, or state where your ancestor lived. For example: “John Taylor” and Kentucky.  Or “John Taylor” and Warren, Kentucky. Or “John Taylor” and Bowling Green Kentucky.
  5. If you still need to narrow your search more, try using one of your ancestor’s sibling’s names. One less common.  For example: “Pleasant Taylor”
  6. If you still need to widen your search, try using just a surname and location. For example: Marberger and Schuylkill Pennsylvania.

I have found several resources from searching the search engines. I have found histories that people have written, wills, other people searching for the same ancestor, and even pictures. Have fun with it, but remember last week’s post: Check your source. Just because you find it on the internet doesn’t make it true. You’ll want to double check it with your other sources and use it as a guide to help you find more pieces of your puzzle.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Check Your Source

Have you ever put a puzzle together where the pieces are very similar? Sometimes so similar that you accidently put two pieces together that don’t belong together?

This happens all the time in family history and genealogy. Sometimes you will find information that may fit with your puzzle, but isn’t the correct piece. Double check your pieces and double check the pieces that came stuck together (genealogy that has been done by other people). Ask the following questions:

What is the source?
Where did this information come from?

Who gave the information of the source?
Who recorded the information of the source?

Is there another source to confirm this information?
Did I find this information from an index?

Let me give you an example. My main ancestry line of interest is Marberger. When I first started doing genealogy, I remember receiving help searching census records. The ladies helping me suggested looking at some Marburger families. A simple one letter spelling change. NO WAY, I thought! My family’s name is Marberger and there’s no way someone could make that mistake. I know it was very naïve of me. But, some of my naïve thinking came from not knowing how the census was taken. My Marberger family originally came from Prussia (Germany), and settled in German communities within Pennsylvania. The census records were recorded by census takers. The census taker would go from house to house and simply ask for the information of the household. The census taker would just write what they heard. With this information in mind, I’m going to ask the above questions.

What is the source? Census record. (It helps to know about the source, we’ll learn about census records another time)
Where did this information come from? Who gave the information of the source? The person who answered the door, usually the head of the house. My ancestors weren’t always the head of the household. Some were “boarders”. If my ancestor was simple lodging with a family during the census, how well do you think the head of household knew my ancestor?

Who recorded the information of the source? Like I said earlier, my Marberger ancestors settle in German communities. There wasn’t a big need to learn English. If the census taker was not German, then it might have been difficult to understand and interpret a name like Marberger. Remember the census taker wrote what he/she heard.

Is there another source to confirm this information? Census records were taken every 10 years. I could check another census or I could check maybe a little more reliable source such as a birth, marriage, military, or death record.

Did I find this information from an index? If you have ever looked at a census record or any handwritten record, you might understand why you should ask this question. Indexers record what they see.  Handwriting can be difficult to read. An o might look like an e or a r can look like a n. It’s the indexers discretion. With this in mind, try to view the actual record, don’t always believe the index.

Through my research I have found the following variations of Marberger: Marburger, Marbarger, Morberger, Morburger, Morbarger, Merberger, Merburger, Mulberger, Mulbarger, and Mulburger. All these names descend from the same family. I have traced my “Marburger” family back to Prussia near the city of Marburg. Once the family came to America, it all got jumbled. When, where and why the name changed, no idea. The important part, if I hadn’t checked my sources, I wouldn’t have half the information that I have.

One last important, but uncomfortable question needs to be asked about your source: Did your ancestor lie? Here are just a couple of reasons an ancestor may have lied on a record. Age requirements: such as marriage and military. To cover up: by this I mean something like an illegitimate child. Yes, I actually have an ancestor who wrote in his bible that his grandson was actually his son. Although, I don’t know the real reasoning behind the incorrect information, it does appear my ancestor was an illegitimate child.
Here is another helpful article I came across this week about sorting fact from fiction. http://genealogy.about.com/od/family_legends/a/common_myths.htm

Double Check Your Source!!!