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Computer Users’ Group

February 16, 2011


How you go about your genealogical research may depend on how far along you are. If just getting started, an organized, planned approach will derive the most benefits. One with a large amount of research already completed and a large collection of ancestors, data and sources may do reserch sporatically as new leads are thought of. Whatever the approach is, there are two things you need to keep in mind; names and places.


If you’re just starting out, a short list of people that you know and where they were born, married, lived and died should be at hand. As you accumulate data and enter it into an genealogical program such as FamilyTreeMaker, you can create a list of names and a list of places and the events that occurred there. In FTM 2010, click on Publish and in the left column, select Person Reports and then on Custom Report. Then, in the right column, click on Create Report and then on All Individuals. Next, click the left Icon at he top of the right column that says Items to Include when you point to it. From the drop down box, check the items that you want and then select name and click on Name Options and select Last, First Middle to get a list by surname. Then click on Generate Report in the right column, Now you have a list of people in alphabetical order by surname. However, Family Tree Maker does not offer an option to print or save the report but you can right click somewhere in the report and select an export option such as RTF to export the file. It may be rather long but you can select items that you want to research and either save or print them to use for research guidance.


Then, click on Collection at the top of the page and in the left column click on Place and then click on the resulting Icon labeled Place Usage Reports. In the right hand column, make sure All Individuals is checked and then click on Create Report. It may be very long, but you can select sections and copy them to a word processor and print them if you want.


If you really want a challenge, create an Error Report and use that as a guide as to what to research. It will show missing data and other errors that need to be addressed. To get this report, click on Publish and then on Person Reports and then double click on Data Errors Report. Tell it what errors to include nad create the report. Be sure to check All Individuals in the right column.


While visiting places that may have pertinent records, especially when on vacation is a valid approach, it’s impractical to visit them all and using the Internet becomes the best option. In the following sections, we’ll try to point out where to start and what’s out there.


Before you start an Internet search, it’s useful to have a word processor available into which you can type notes or paste data that you find. Open Notepad and type .LOG (a period and LOG) and save the file as Gen Notes. Close it and every time you re-open it, it will enter the date and time. When you do research, open the file and then go about your search and notepad will sit in the sytem tray waiting for you to open it to take notes. Continue your search and it will stay ready in the background.


You can start a search by seeing if anyone else has already found some of your ancestors by going to and clicking on Search Family Trees in the left column. If you are an Ancestry member or are at the library, you can search for your ancestors on . Ancestry includes what’s on Rootsweb so you don’t have to search both. But don’t assume that you’re done: everything that you found needs to be verified.


Once you have a family tree or you have a list of subjects, you can choose a surname or place to concentrate on. Each new fact that you uncover may lead you to a new name or place. You can follow that chain until you exhaust it or you can remain with the surname or place that you started with and then move to follow the new leads when you finish with the subject you started with. Keep track of where you are, document any facts that you uncover and record the sources that provided them.


Whether you are just starting out or have been at it a while, using the census to track back generations is a useful way to get a look at where you came from. The best approach is to follow a male, finding him as a child with his parents and then going back 10 or 20 years to find his father with his parents. On the way through this routine, you should keep track of all of the wives and where you saw them so that you can go back and take the more difficult route to find the female line. In either case, you can’t follow the child parent route before the 1850 census but you can find families with that surname in the last location and follow them up by other means.

On April 20, 2005 we covered How to Find Your Family History Without Ever Leaving Home and that can be found here: . While Ancestry was available through the library at your home when that was written, it is no longer and to follow the regimen there, one needs to leave home and go to the library. But HeritageQuest is available from home and has census data for all but 1830, 1840 and 1850. You can get it here: . You have to enter your library card number without spaces to gain access. The Mormon site has many census records, mostly after1850. You can get it here: .


Both HeritageQuest and FamilySearch are good for much more than the census. HeritageQuest has documents that fall into these categories: Census, Books (Downloadable books on people, and places), Revolutionary War Pension Records, Persi, Freedmans Bank and the U.S. Serial Set.


FamilySearch has a wealth of records gathered from people traveling the world microfilming records. There are also many tutorials especially useful to those just getting started but there’s alsways something for everyone. For more on FamilySearch, go here but note that the website has changed since then but has the same or more information: There is a great deal if information available through microfilm that you can order through the local Family History Center. You can scroll down he page and either select Go to the Previous Site in the right hand column or All Record Collections in the left hand column. Find microfilm covering what you are researching and take the list of microfilm numbers to the Family History Center at the Mormon Church just off of Rt 50 by the Green Valley Golf Course. You pay the transportation cost and you can look at the microfilm there for a month. Note that the microfilm records cover records of very many countries so you may find overseas birth, marriage or death records. You can go here to see what we covered about the FamilySearch Site on April 21, 2010.


The most detailed list of information available on the Internet is Cyndi’s List, compiled by Cyndi Howells. Cyndi’s list is approaching 300,000 links to other sites with brief descriptions of them. It can be reached here .The list presented when you open Cyndi is in alphabetical order and the first time visitor would do well to browse the list to see what’s available that one might not otherwise think about.


Note the large number of foreign countries where you can get information on your ancestor before he or she emigrated to America. Then see the list of states and the counties within them. Choose a state to see the level of information available.


There is an all volunteer project called USGenweb . Some of the state information from Cyndi may include information from USGenweb but here you can see all that the volunteers have compiled and, if interested, become a volunteer yourself. Lake County, Florida is available for adoption. The site is somewhat uneven as some states have done more than others. Most of my experience has been with the extremely well done Vermont site. One of the items posted is the 5 volume Vermont Gazetteer with the history of all of the towns with details on many of the founders and citizens. Look for town histories, cemeteries or tombstone inscriptions, church members, voter or taxpayers lists to learn more about your ancestors. You may also find land purchase and sale records, probate records and other court records. Our neighbor to the north also has a Gen Web project, and there’s also the World Gen Web Project that you can get here .


If your ancestor came from overseas (didn’t they all at one time or another?),you may be able to find when and what ship and where that ship came from at the Immigrant Ship Transcribers’ Guild . This is a volunteer site trying to find and publish details on every person who came on every ship into the new world. Enter a name in the search box and see if your ancestor shows up.


You can also search for arrivals at Ellis Island:

You can search by name and see when he or she arrived and where they came from but to see the full record, you must register. It’s free.


If you had ancestors who came to America on the Mayflower then this is a very good site covering history and genealogy . Here you can find a complete list of passengers, their history and decedents as well as other items of that period.


An indispensable source for books about your ancestors is Google Books that you can find here: Search by name or place or both to find whether there’s anything printed about your ancestor. You can search in any book you find to see if the data is relevant. In some cases, you can download the book; in others you get a limited preview or no view at all. In all cases, though, you can find where to buy it or where to find it in a library.


The Library of Congress may not provide much direct genealogical information but you may find something hidden it what it does have. This is especially true of the American Memories section. Look for Folk Interviews conducted by the WPA in the 1930s. There is a comprehensive list of searchable catalogues from other libraries around the country. Many are college catalogues and finding one in the area of your search may yield the information that you seek.


The library of Congress no longer maintains a list of State Library web sites but the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction does and it’s here: .Many state libraries have information posted on their web sites that may include historic or genealogical information in which you may find relevant information. Also look there for puiblic records or links to them that may provide birth, marriage and death records or court records and for links to other sites such as historical or genealogical societies.


Your state library may have a listing of city libraries within the state but it may not be as detailed as this list which places all community libraries within a state in alphabetical order. The library in the town where your ancestor lived may hold the most significant records. You can click on a state here to see the libraries listed: .


For research in Canada, you can start here at the Collections and Archives of Canada . From the initial page, you can select Genealogy and Family History and then click on Genealogy Center and start your search. If you don’t find what you want, you can try checking some of the links provided.


Records for Northern Ireland are held at the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland and their web site is here: . You can enter a surname in the search box and see what they come up with. Many family records were deposited there.


The National Archives of Ireland has many online records with detailed descriptions and can be found here It also includes many records that are held by PRONI.


Free UKGEN is a volunteer organization consisting of FreeBMD , FreeCEN and FreeReg which, respectively provide information of civil registered births, marriages and deaths; census data and parish register data for England and Wales. Civil registration of births, marriages and deaths started in the UK in 1837. The BMD site has nearly 200 million distinct records and nearly 254 million total records.


Your ancestor may have been a member of a fraternal organization or society. Rootsweb has a list of links to the most popular of them:

Note that the link to the Masons no longer works but this is a list of sites worldwide: Some may have records or a place where you can write. You can get some Massachusetts records here (surnames A through H)


Sometimes what you want is not posted on the Internet and you have to do it the old fashioned way: write a letter and pay money. This site, lists all of the places in each state to write for vital records (birth, marriage, death and divorce) and lists what the records will cost. It also lists how to find passport applications. Note that many states will not accept personal checks so you will have to get a money order.


Your ancestor owned land in the west but how did he get it? To see if he got bought land from the Government, go here: and click on Land Patents, choose a state or scroll down to Any State, enter at least a last name and search. You can download a copy of the original patent. It may tell where he came from.