Family Matters
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Researching family history

I want to start researching my family history but not sure where to start. I know there are a ton of websites out there... anyone recommend any of them? I understand most require a financial membership, which is ok. I understand that I could probably find information at libraries but my family lives in the south and I live in the northeast so I'm not sure that I could utilize a library here?

Recommendations/Suggestions/Thoughts great appreciated!

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Re: Researching family history

  • I did some research using ancestry.com. I got very very far back, into the 1600s. But another family member had done alot of research before me back into the early 1800s which helped greatly.

    This particular branch of my family were Pennsylvania Dutch so they have been in the US for a lot longer than most peoples ancestors. Its a lot harder to find out information about my Italian family members. it depends on which cities they were from. If they are from a small town in Italy its virtually impossible.

    Good luck!

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  • I also use ancestry.com and have had some success.  My family is from Italy, and with the internet I was able to trace things back to the 1700's.  Just keep googling everything you are trying to research.  You never know what is going to come up - trust me!  I think ancestry is worth the money. 
  • check with the state(s) you are researching in to see if they have a website to help.

    Most of my family is from wv/va (actually we immigrated back in the 1650's to VA). But WV has an awesome search at

    http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_select.aspx

    it has tons of info- birth, death, marriage records. however not complete and does have errors- errors mostly from whoever entered the data not being able to decipher the handwritten records.

    So think outside of the box when searching names.

    Also check out the local library. my local library has free access to census records and also there is a library edition of ancestery.com- see if your library has that.

    Also bear in mind the literacy rates weren't always good. I have found an ancestor in the census records named 'Uin'- suppose to be 'Ewan'. Also check for different spellings of last names. If have scottish/irish links- when they came over to US they might have dropped the Mc/Mac, O', part of the names.

    And don't underestimate google- if you know your great-grandparents names- plug them in google  with " " around each name- others may also be looking for same people on messege boards, or they could have something just up randomly on the web about them.

    And be mindful of info just from 'non-officia' sources on the internet- plenty of people can make up or embellish family trees. Check sources!

    Hope that helps! I've been researchign my family for a little more than a decade! Found some interesting stuff!

  • You have gotten really great suggestions already. I am a librarian and I get this question a lot.

    I would say that you should check into whether your local library offers Ancestry or Heritage Quest--most have at least one of those. With us, you can access them from home as long as you can enter a local library card number. Also, I agree about Googling everything--you never know what can come up. 

    There may come a point where you really need information specific to where your ancestors lived. I do get a lot of people coming to Rhode Island from Texas or Nevada or wherever because they are at that point in their research. However, if it isn't too extensive, I will try my best to do research for them and mail/scan and email them the results. So when you get to the point of knowing specific towns where your ancestors were, email the local library and the local historical society if one exists. You might be surprised how helpful these people are.  

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  • image Emiliana7:

    it has tons of info- birth, death, marriage records. however not complete and does have errors- errors mostly from whoever entered the data not being able to decipher the handwritten records.

    So think outside of the box when searching names.

    Also bear in mind the literacy rates weren't always good. I have found an ancestor in the census records named 'Uin'- suppose to be 'Ewan'. Also check for different spellings of last names. If have scottish/irish links- when they came over to US they might have dropped the Mc/Mac, O', part of the names.

    This is so true!  I have found Census records in which one of my ancestors was listed as Emma. I know for sure her name was Emily since I am named for her, but I imagine that some Census worker was standing in a doorway and heard the name incorrectly and that is now how it is recorded. Doing research for others, I have found the last name spelling thing a LOT. So think about how the name sounds and would be written phonetically. Even for the name Smith, I have seen it with an "e" on the end, with a "y" instead of an "I", etc.

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  • If you know that someone went through Ellis Island between 1897 (I think) and 1924, you can search for them on ellisisland.org.  It requires free registration to see the actual records, but it's pretty darn cool.  I found the ships' manifests for the four trips my great-grandfather made over here, including the one where he finally emigrated from Italy with my great-grandmother and my grandfather's oldest brother.
    "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." Lilypie Fourth Birthday tickers Lilypie Third Birthday tickers
  • I know the names of my 25th Great Grandparents off the top of my head.  Give me a few minutes and I can go back even more, all thanks to my mom.  She used family records, Ancestry.com, and census records.  Also, try contacting any Mormon temples in the areas your family lived in.  The Mormons are known for keeping very good records for the areas they are in. 

     If you manage to find a link to nobility it gets very easy because they have kept very good records to follow the blood lines.   Especially if you can find a historical figure who you can follow back through public records (or wikipedia). 

     Good luck and have fun.

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  • image mysticl:

    I know the names of my 25th Great Grandparents off the top of my head.  Give me a few minutes and I can go back even more, all thanks to my mom.  She used family records, Ancestry.com, and census records.  Also, try contacting any Mormon temples in the areas your family lived in.  The Mormons are known for keeping very good records for the areas they are in. 

     If you manage to find a link to nobility it gets very easy because they have kept very good records to follow the blood lines.   Especially if you can find a historical figure who you can follow back through public records (or wikipedia). 

     Good luck and have fun.

    This does make it easy and lucky too! I found my link to the Windsors! Prince Charles is my 22nd cousin!

  • I have been doing my family tree for awhile now and have found Familysearch.org to be a great site. (and it's free!) Google is also very useful, just put in your family members name and something like "family tree" or a date of birth etc. and see what comes up! 

    Good luck! 

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