Find Your Ancestors
Posted by Grace Mitchell
on December 6th 2011 under Trace Your Heritage
Almost every genealogist has got one: that elusive ancestor that seems to have avoided documenting any part of his or her life, as if he or she was a phantom that is now void of any real and tangible record of his or her existence. But sneaky or ghostlike as your ancestors may be, following a few simple searching guidelines may lead you to your coveted breakthrough. In this article, we will briefly touch possible ways to shed light on the dark corners of your family history.
While these aren’t certain to help you find anyone – nothing is certain in genealogy – they are a great place to start for the lost and the weary. Keep in mind that searching for ancestry can be a long and eventful process, requiring many inquiries and tracing many leads back to their source to find vital information. Here are the tips:
Write newspapers and periodicals: sometimes, when you’ve exhausted all your leads and information sources, the best way to find your ancestors is to go public. Most genealogy publications have a section in which people share their findings and post questions and trails for anyone to pick up and continue. It not unlikely that another genealogist has the exact information you have been looking for so diligently!
Genealogy societies & forums: similar to periodicals and newspapers, online and offline societies are the home of many expert beginning genealogists alike. You are more likely to find relevant information should you join forces with others. Remember to help others and post as much information as you can, and perhaps someday you will find that others help you as well. When posting requests, be as specific as possible. Posting a “looking for John Smith” message in the forum will likely result in a raised eyebrow rather than a genealogical find.
Check your local library: Even though not every library has specific genealogy books, they will likely have traditional reference books pertaining to your search. Check the reference section and look under any type of books that might be useful or relevant.
Alumni records: Look for college alumni records in your library’s reference shelves or go to the school itself (the address appears on their website.) You may find they keep alumni records complete with addresses.
Try different spellings. Be creative and use surname search engines. Remember that until recently, last name spelling was all over the place: one family could spell Smith, and another Smyth. Hence it was possible that two households of the same family had effectively different family names. Some family names even have three or more different spellings.
Other sources: telephone directories, city directories, internet directories, living descendants (cousins, aunts and uncles), genealogical experts, family associations, etc.
As you may have noticed, these tips are only the beginning; as you make your way through the world of genealogy, you will find that your toolbox and reach steadily grows, as well as your understanding of all the available resources at your disposal.