Friday, 13 June 2014

Tools for Genealogy Research

There seem to be quite a few beginners to Genealogy reading my articles, so today I am giving MY take on Genealogy and will give you some tools to help you in your research. There may even be some to help the seasoned genealogist.... we are learning something new every day.
Genealogy is like having a sail boat – you have to throw money at it. Eventually.  But first there are lots of ways you can search for free....  enough to get you started and HOOKED!
The first place to check for records is at Family Search.  There is a wealth of information there, not just records. Click on Search and at the bottom left, click on the Country of your ancestors and a list will come up of all the relevant records they hold. Take a tour of the site, especially their Learning Center. They also have Family History Centers all over the world where you can go for help through classes, inter-loan, and internet access to pay sites. I have one down the road from me, and you an go to their site to find one near you. They also have an online chat to assist you.

Search for Online Parish Clerks (OPC).  Many counties in England have sites where the records for the churches in their county have been transcribed and give more information than the indexes.  Once you know you have the right ancestor you can order a certificate if you want, without wondering if you are wasting your money.

You can use Social Media to get further in your research.  There are FaceBook groups for just about every country or place, and more popping up all the time. You don't have to post your latest photos or take about who's doing what etc. Set up an account and post a couple of photos and make a couple of posts about the weather or something, and I'll tell you why.  Administrators of groups get requests to join daily, and some are scam.  You can mostly tell the scammers, because they have little to nothing on their FB page.  I always check what groups they belong to and if they are not apropos, I ignore the person. The members of these groups are quite knowledgeable and love to help, or point you in the right direction. 

And I don't mean going on a Facebook genealogy group and asking people to find all the records for you, because then YOU are not doing genealogy, they are doing it for you. The same holds for trying to “help” people – it is better to give them the resources and let them have that Eureka moment for themselves, rather than say here, I found the records for you. That said, many of these groups have posted files of records to help you search. To me, the thrill is in the hunt, tracking down that bit of information that, when you find it…. the dam breaks and a whole flood of ancestors come pouring through!  It is amazing!
You can download the PDF of Genealogy on Facebook here.
Another helpful tool is Webinars. Knowledgeable people have put together free webinars on all subjects of genealogy to help you in your research.  Did I mention they are free? I have watched many that have helped me, like the one I recently saw on Tax Records that gave me inspiration for yesterday's article. Check out what webinars are coming up and sign up for those that interest you. Some are still free to watch for a week or so after the event, so check their archived webinars too. Also follow free blogs like mine, everyone writes about something different.

There are a plethora of forms available online that are a great way to keep track of who, what and where you are searching so you don’t waste your time and money. I learned that the hard way. Even if you have unlimited searches at pay sites, the forms are a valuable tool. Being organized and having a plan will save you time and money in the long run. The same holds if you are visiting archives, libraries and research centers. Remember to keep track of your Sources.

I can’t travel to different locations at this time (hopefully some day) so I myself have had to rely on people from time to time, at home and abroad. That is frustrating for me, being a do-it-myself kinda person. But you gotta do what you gotta do! I have found most people to be helpful and generous with their time.  I have written to libraries across the country for newspaper obituaries, the Grey Nuns for information on one of my husband’s aunts, the RCMP Archives for service information on my husband’s father, countless cemeteries (one even sent their janitor out to take photos of the graves for me!!)… and all were generous enough to give freely of their time, for which I am forever grateful. Here too, keep track of all the people you write to asking for information, as it may be a while before they can get back to you.

Here below I will give you some links to other tools to help you on your genealogical journey.  They vary from reading ancient handwriting to figuring out relationships, and backtracking to find an approximate birthdate when a death records gives you a precise age, which some do. There is also a place called Books We Own (I think I have mentioned it before).  If you hear about or see reference to your ancestor's name in a book, you can go to this site and ask someone that owns that book to look it up for you. Then decide if you want to borrow it or buy it.

Just because someone else in your family is researching, doesn't mean you can't too.  Two heads are better than one, four eyes are better than two! Remember too, there comes a time when you have to get off the computer and out of your chair and Go There!

May your journey to the past be as revealing and exciting as it can be frustrating.

Relevant links:

Genealogy Numbering System

Old French handwriting and spelling guide

Old Handwriting Styles

Relationship Calculator

Family Tree Explained, video on YouTube

List of Documents/Sources to seek for French Genealogy in North America

Baileys Free Genealogy Forms and Charts

Genealogical Research Forms

Books We Own

Extreme Ancestry - Genealogy Toolkit 

Related Posts:
Keyboard Commands

Help me Search my Google


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