Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tips From My Genealogy Pals

I thought it might be fun to have my genealogy pals share their favorite tips or hints with you. So take notes, some of these are things I wish I had known when I was just starting out and some of them are tips that I am going to start using today. In other words: I learned something from asking my friends for that is my tip.

From Kim: Ask your genealogy pals what their favorite tip is, or what their favorite web site for genealogy is. Ask them what they wish they had known when they were just starting out.

Tami G.: Slow down - take the time to cite every source for every piece of information you find. It's always easy to get on a roll and figure you'll either remember where you got something, or that you'll go back later to cite things. You won't. Do it now. Your dead ancestors aren't going anywhere.

Share!  Post your family tree (with sources) online in a couple of places. It's so true that you end up getting more than you give. You may have the key to someone else's brickwall, and they may unknowingly have that one piece of information you've been looking for. It's happened to me several times.

Set up and use a free-mail account, such as yahoo or gmail, that isn't tied to your internet provider for your genealogy research. You want someone with the answer to your brickwall to still be able to contact you 10 years from now when they come across your message board posting online.  One woman who helped me solve a major family brickwall, had seen my sister's family info posted online and had been trying to contact her for years -- but my sister had remarried, moved across the country, and changed her email address a few times since her initial postings.

Thomas M.Don't forget that besides the US Federal Census, there are other government projects which created their own record set - like the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Here is a great resource by Barb Snow on how to get started with WPA records. Click Here.

Joan G.: For German research...she recommends "attending" the online classes at to learn to read the old German Script. And for a second tip...write the surname you expect to research in the old German Script 3 times before you look at the film.

Jane H.: Remember to know where the event happened in relation to when it happened. Your ancestor might have died in Rensselaer County, NY in 1807, but when he moved there in 1780 it was Albany County, NY. “The Atlas of Historical County Boundaries” online maps by The Newberry Library and Randy Major’s, Historical U.S. County Boundary Maps tool are great resources.

MyrtMy tip is to add a border to your digital image and put your source citation right there. 

Elyse D.: Find a friend. Hunting for dead people can be a really lonely hobby, especially since your friends and family will probably think you're mental for wanting to go to cemeteries or wanting to spend hours in a library for fun. You need people that share your passion and "get" you - so reach out! Go to society meetings, get involved online, start a blog, start a conversation. With technology and social media, it is easier than ever to find people who "get" you. You will soon find that these people will be your mentors, teachers, and become your best friends. It is so worth it.

Liz T.:  My tip would be to start a blog. It has been the best thing for my genealogy that I have ever done. It's a great way to get your name out there so that "lost" or "unknown" family members can find you. I have been found by at least a half dozen cousins that I did not know I had! Most from different family lines. Having a blog has also introduced me to some of the greatest people in the world - other Geneabloggers!

Linda W-G. Keep a research log and write down the citation of each and every resource (book, microfilm, manuscript, courthouse document, etc.) before you start to look at it. Make brief notes about all findings-including negative results.

Thanks to my pals for some great tips. Now get out there and climb those family trees.


  1. These are great tips. Even though I have been doing genealogy for 17+ years, I can always learn something new!

  2. Thanks! I got some great ideas here!
    Cindy (Genealogy Circle)

  3. Nice post! We can always learn something new, can't we?

  4. Thank you for the great article! Lots of helpful tips.

  5. Great tips and I second the source your information when you find it. I have spent the better part of the month cleaning up my database and getting my sources in order. Happy it is done, which I had done it at the outset!

  6. Fabulous ideas here - I've already written down several to use in future (e.g., the border w. citation for photos was a great simple idea). Thank you for the great blog. Cheers.

  7. Super-useful! Thanks for posting this information.