Discovery Your Family History

Eight Simple Tips For Your Family History Research

An LDS family search starts out simple for most genealogists, while it can be complicated for others. You begin by interviewing your elder relatives for family stories, look up information from the relative’s family bible, or one that your parents had when you were a child; you search through old records at one of many libraries to find your ancestors with the same surname as that of your family, etc. However, as you dig further into your past history, people’s memories start to dim, meaning that they don’t remember what happened back beyond a certain point in their childhood, and the records you have seam to contradict each other, not to mention, some records may be missing or not available. at this point, it is important to plan the next step of your genealogical research. Here are eight suggestions for continuing your research with satisfactory results.

 Expect the Unexpected

 Expect to find some interesting surprises along the way. Creating a research plan that contains many pages never seems to work, because the next step of your search strategy may change, depending on the information you find during the first phase of your research. This is the reason it is important to only outline the first phase of your genealogical research, based on the documents you have access to at the start of your LDS family search. If you try to plan anything further than that, you will have wasted valuable time that could be used for research. Most of your search preparation involves working from the information that is known about your family history, such as oral accounts, vital records, and even records from your family bible and then searching for the unknown records, knowing what questions to ask, and being ready for the unexpected surprises along the way.

 Know the Laws Of The Time Period

 One of the most important aspects of your research is to know the records, and the laws of the time period for which you are searching. If you are looking for a birth record in Illinois from 1866, or a marriage record in South Carolina from 1909, your search will be fruitless, because these records are non-existent, since they were never created. It will help you save time, if you check a standard ancestry reference like Ancestry’s Red book. Knowing the legal basis for the existence of historical records can help them become less confusing, and easier to understand. You can find the laws that applied to these historical records on many different web sites. This is similar to getting a behind-the-scenes look at the way a movie or play was produced. You are more likely to see what an average spectator or viewing audience doesn’t, when you look behind the scenes, or go back stage, so to speak. For example, The Indiana Legislature of 1838, passed a law that declared that no clerk could issue a marriage license, accept in the county where a female lives, and has previously lived for a period of at least one month. In other words, whether the Indiana marriage records list the residence of the bride or not, after 1838, it’s possible that the bride was a local resident of Indiana.

 Start With Known Family First

 Start with a known ancestor, and work from there to your unknown family history. Although this can be a tricky process, the point is very straight forward. Start your LDS family search with original records containing information about a well-known ancestor, then work your way from there to his or her lesser known relatives. After you find your known ancestor’s record from a certain time period or place of residence then search for records from periods in history or locations that were near that of your ancestor. However, I don’t recommend that you use a search engine to find this information, because you could end up finding tons of information about someone with the same name as your ancestor, who is totally unrelated to your family lineage. However, researching for information near the ancestor that we already know can increase our knowledge of that person, which we might need later on to help us identify that person after he or she has moved. It is important to use your research experience and your good judgement to look for and identify a relation to the known ancestor, such as a parent. It may be difficult to identify whether the unknown ancestor is the parent of your well-known ancestor, but the rule of thumb is that you don’t go digging for gold, unless you know where the gold mines are located.

 Ask Plenty of Questions

 Ask specific questions to obtain the important information you need for your family tree. Asking your elder relatives for everything they can tell you about a certain family member is too vague. However, if you ask specific questions, such as when was your grandparents married, who were their parents or siblings, or even how or when did they meet, will give you more information to use for your search through public records. If you ask for everything, you may only get a person’s name, which often times will lead you down the wrong path, because you will find the wrong people, and you will completely miss the records that aren’t indexed by name. These records include newspapers, tax records, and articles that mention the names of other people related to the particular ancestor, but not his or her name directly.

 Track Your Research

 Keep track of the research you have already done. Tracking your research is a wonderful way to cite sources, because it helps you understand the source’s strengths and weaknesses, and whether the source is original, or a copy of the original record itself. Tracking the source is a great way to go back to the source later in your research. You may not necessarily forget the source or make a mistake in obtaining the information, but you will want to go back to the source, because you may have learned more about this particular ancestor through other records. Tracking the original source is a great way to show others that you are serious about your research, and your information bears reviewing, no matter whether it surprises your family or makes them feel a little uncomfortable.

 Record you’re Dead Ends

 Make note of any negative results you find. This is a much more difficult means of citing your sources than tracking them, but it is still important. When you record the sources you searched through and found no information about your family history, and look back on these sources later in the future, you will look back at your notes to see how you found them and learn more about your ancestors in the process.

 Try new methods

 Find new research strategies. With time and experience, you will discover when to research new records, and when it’s best to revisit the old ones in a different manner. Land deeds, and property mortgage records may not be the ideal place to begin your Genealogical research, but once you have obtained all the information you can from vital records, census schedules, and other probate court records, then you can effectively tackle these records. Take some time to figure out which records will help you move forward in your search, instead of getting yourself in a rut, by viewing the same records numerous times.

 Take Your Time

 My final suggestion for you is to take time to process the new information you have obtained. Instead of doing a lot of research at one time, take the time to process each small portion of information you have found, and document it. This is especially important for genealogists, because the first impression you get when you find a record bearing information about a particular ancestor can be deceiving. It is important to review the work you have completed for the day, to help you prepare for the next day’s LDS family search task.

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