Genealogy From Home
Updated 13 July 2011
The availability of
online databases makes it possible to perform a structured search for
your ancestors from your home. There may be some things that you can't
find and some may need a look at primary sources for verification for
which you may have to venture out. But the online databases available
to you offer a great way to get started or continue a line of search.
We'll use databases available through our library, databases available
to everyone on the Internet and online books for our research. The
library databases include Ancestry Plus
databases include Familysearch
and Rootsweb; a list of
presented below. For a comprehensive list see Cyndi's List.
Census records are available on Ancestry, HeritageQuest and FamilySearch.
Ancestry is available only at the library. HeritageQuest is available
through the library online databases and you can get it here:
http://22.214.171.124:81/rpa/webauth.exe?rs=her . You will have to enter
your library card number without spaces or dashes. The Mormon site,
FamilySearch can be reached here:
There are several approaches to finding your roots on the Internet. The
simplest is to enter the name of an ancestor that you know and from
whom you want to
start your search into either Rootsweb or Ancestry and see if
someone has already done the "heavy lifting" for you. You may find your
ancestors' complete history online. If you do, use it as a guide to
steer you through finding your ancestors through more reliable sources.
We'll demonstrate a search that tries to use the most reliable data
available. It follows this general procedure:
Starting with our "start" ancestor, we'll try to find him or her in the
first census after the year of their birth.
should lead you to the parents of that child and should indicate the
parents' age and birthplaces. You get that information by viewing the
census image. Print it out for your records. My choice is to follow
that surname until I exhaust all avenues. From the father's age,
determine in what census you would find him as a child. There should be
more than one. Look at them all to see if a mother or father is missing
or changed. If that census is 1860 or later, you'll find him with his
parents and you'll find out their ages and where they and their parents
were born. When the father would appear as a child on
censuses before 1860, other approaches are required. Try finding
him by searching the Mormon site, FamilySearch and see if there is a
birth, marriage and/or death record for him in the IGI. You can search
that site by surname only if you don't provide any other information or
you can search by given and surname and also limit the search to a
state, county and township. Use Heritage Quest to see if you can find a
genealogy or town history or gazetteer that lists him. Use Ancestry
to see what records that name appears in and see if those offer any
information on your ancestor. Also try a search engine like Google.
Enter the person's full name in quotes. You can add a space and
the word "genealogy" or the state name to limit the search if you get
results. Note that by putting the name in quotes, you may miss
like "Jim Davis' son, Brad" if you put Brad Davis in quotes. If you
know the bride's name, try searching Google with the man in quotes and
the woman's maiden name. You can
search the State
Library in your state of interest and you might find
links to records or to other sites with records. You can search your
Archives and see what they have available. You may find that they
don't have the records you seek online but will send you copies if they
find any for a fee. You can sometimes do this by email, by fax or by
mail; but you haven't left home yet.
Unless you are descended from a Native American, you will eventually
ancestor that was not born in this country. You can search Ancestry
Plus or Rootsweb or the Ellis Island Site to find the ship your
ancestor came on and where he or she came from. Cyndi's List and the
Internet Public Library have links to foreign databases. The National
Archives has ship's passenger lists and naturalization records; the
passenger list records can be ordered online.
Military records can be ordered online in some cases. Records since
1917 require Form 180 that can be printed online. Prior records can be
online. There were many conflicts; the Revolutionary War, War
of 1812, Civil War, Mexican War, Spanish American War, WWI, WWII as
well as many smaller conflicts so there's a chance that your ancestor
served. The Pension Files offer the most information, especially if a
widow applied for her pension and named all of her children. Not
available at the Archives but in many local histories are fighters in
the early Indian Wars, King Philip's War and the French and Indian War.
When you've exhausted that surname, go back to the
first census that
you did and concentrate on finding the maiden name of the mother of
your start person. Use any or all of the above databases to find it and
then pursue that surname as you did her husband's. Each wife that you
find will eventually require this treatment. Start with the closest-in
generations and work back. Put the surname that you exhausted on the
back burner and come back to it when you've researched everyone else.
Keep a list of all of your "dead ends". Try some different databases
and start with specifics (first and last name, etc) and gradually
broaden your search (last name only; county, not city; then state, not
and if that doesn't work you may actually have to leave home.
Now the cautions: treat everything that you find with skepticism.
Census data is generally reliable but people's ages and birthplaces may
be in error. Data submitted by others is usually the least
This link will take you to a brief list of genealogical
web sites. The
sites listed will link you to many thousands of other sites. The ones
we'll rely on mostly for our demonstration are summarized here. Note
that the links provided here take you directly to the Heritage Quest login page, bypassing the several Lake County pages
Ancestry Plus. Available
at the Lake County Library System. To use it, we have to leave home so we'll
generally exhaust the other sites first in the comfort of our living room. We'll use the
census data to find the family structure and we'll use other records as
appropriate. The census data here is nearly complete for all censuses
from 1790 to 1930 except for 1890 and you
can see and print the original image. The
1890 census was mostly lost to fire in 1912.
through the Lake County Library System through the link above or through the
online database list on the library web site
http://www.mylakelibrary.org/pac/cml.aspx . Follow the instructions above
but instead of Biography Resource Center, choose HeritageQuest. Again,
you'll need your library card number. There
options for searching: Census, Books, PERSI and Revolutionary War. We'll find that in addition to original
there are 25,000 books of genealogies, town
histories with biographical data and indexes to biographical data that
you can search all at once. You'll want to try the Revolutionary
War Records if your ancestors served there.
Family Search. The Latter Day
site has the 1880 US census and the 1881 Canadian and British
censuses. It also has data from the International Genealogical Index
which includes data from many original records but it's less than
perfect. Also included is genealogical data submitted by users in the
older Ancestral File and the newer Pedigree Resource File. Perhaps
more important is the index of all of the holdings of the Family
History Library that you can order through the local Family History
Center (SR 50 at Green Valley).
National Archives and Records
Administration. NARA is the keeper of most government
documents. The nearest regional office is in Atlanta. Few records are
online but more are becoming available. Some records can be ordered
online by providing a credit card; forms can be ordered online for
requesting documents by mail. Most important to us are the Military
Pension Records and the Ships Passenger List Records. Response time may
be 8 to 16 weeks.