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Top Tips For Finding Ancestors

Posted by Grace Mitchell on January 10th 2012 under Family History

Finding AncestorsMany genealogists spend sleepless nights trying to figure out the answers to life’s big questions: Why am I here? What is the meaning of life? What’s the maiden name of my great-great-grandma? Am I related to Davy Crockett?

While these haunting questions might not trouble your sleep, they undoubtedly take a large portion of your waking time if you’re a committed genealogist. As I’ve written before, just a few years ago, finding information about your ancestors and their exploits was a gruesome, time consuming process, whether online or offline. Yet today, with the help of the genius of the internet and sophisticated information technology, digging deep is simpler (yet not necessarily easier) than ever – if you have the stamina and know where to look.

So, without any further ado, here are my top tops for finding your ancestors online:

  • Find what works for you: During your online genealogical escapades you will undoubtedly find that not all websites were created equal; they vary greatly both in terms of the amount of information and it’s quality. So the first thing I always do is find sites that I love working with. Take a few minutes to see what they’re all about and if they work for you.
  • Use many sources: The dream of an online genealogist is to find a site that has all the information they ever wanted to know about their family and ancestry. You can stop drooling, because that site does not exist. However, with the thousands of available sites, you can surely paint a vivid picture of your past and find the information you’re after.
  • Categorize: Before you dig deep into your research, it’s a good idea to look at the type of sites that you’ll encounter. The majority of websites are personal genealogical sites, who are run by individuals and families who have specific research interests in a certain ancestry or particular branches of several different families (naturally, the information pertains to the family of the website owner.) You’ll commonly find list of surnames, an online genealogical database, family photographs on these websites. One-name study sites are good if you’re looking for a wide array of information on a particular surname. Family association sites are similar to one-name study sites in terms of content, but they usually have an organizational structure (such as a formal association, society, or club) backing them. Another sort of website a compiled resource website, which, as their name imply, compile resources from many different strands of genealogy. The scope of the information on these websites is wider, yet their depth is not as deep.
  • Document: As with everything else in Genealogy, it’s important to document which websites you use so you can reference back to them when needed and so you can use them again. Some websites – even really good ones – are hard to find. So always keep them handy either in a notebook or in your book mark – or both!
  • Be patient: This seems rudimentary, but it is one of the most important tips I can offer. If you really want to find the “golden ticket,” you are most likely going to have to dig deep and research your way in. Only when you are willing to thoroughly seep through the myriad of websites and the information in the websites you will find the information you need.
  • So there you have it! Now all that’s left is to put words to action and start researching. You didn’t think your ancestors would find themselves, did you?

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