Earlier this year I wrote a post about Family History Tools I had been using in my research. Since then I have found some other useful tools that I would like to share with you.
Ancestry.com is a wonderful site. I have signed up for their e-mail list. Sometimes they have free access week to some records (recently it was immigration records. Other times it is war records). While that hasn’t really helped me, it may help you! So I suggest signing up for their email, plus the emails are chocked full of advice on how to do research and has so many useful hints and helps. Many hints are also on their website under “Learning Center.”
However, without full access to ancestry.com it is difficult to do much on the site at all. BUT, what they do offer for free that can be very helpful is under the Collaborate tab at the top of their website – Ancesty.com Message Boards.
Message boards are available to everyone (for free!) and are searchable on search engines! I have made several posts on the message boards. What I have found most helpful is using the surname message boards. Then you can type in your ancestor’s name and see if anyone else has posted information or is looking for information on your common ancestor. This has helped me a lot in finding some families. But, another great tool of the surname message boards is that you can post a new message about your ancestor and hope (and pray) someone out there will be related to you and have more information than you have and reply to your board! The message boards stay up indefinitely. I once came across a board my mother had written years ago!
When I write on a message board I try to make it as helpful and as clear as possible (because some posts are so vague and it is impossible to know who they are talking about) so no one has any doubt who I am referring to. I put in full names, birth dates, death dates, spouses, marriage dates and places for each of them, if I know them. I try to make it easy to read. CLICK HERE to see one of my posts.
Another helpful tool – Google. Seriously, just try googling your ancestor. I have been surprised by the goodies I have found. Some people have entire family trees and websites dedicated to a family line available to everyone for free and all you have to do is search for it! While there’s no guarantee you will find anything, you might be surprised to find something.
When using google to search for ancestors, I try various ways to find my relatives. Entering just a first and last name might work, but you’ll probably have to go through lists of contemporary/famous/living people first. Not so helpful. You can try entering their name with the country or state they are from, or the year they were born, or along with their spouse/father/mother/relative’s name. Or you can simply type their name with the words “Ancestors”, “Genealogy,” “Lineage,” “Family,” “Descendants”, etc. I have found that the eldest person’s name in the line you’re looking for is the most likely to be found somewhere.
I still use FamilySearch.org as my primary search engine and they have made some wonderful changes to make it easier to use. However, I have found that when looking for a certain relative, I might find him/her but the census record I am looking at does not list any other people on the same page, which doesn’t help me find out more about his/her family.
However, there is a way to work around the system! If you find someone who is, so you think, a relative but the census they are listed on doesn’t include who he was living with, write down on a piece of paper, the exact residence, family number, page number, parish, or any other distinguishing information on the census record that is recorded there. Then, clear out the first name of your ancestor, leaving only the last name, set the event to residence, put in the year of the census, and the exact location you just wrote down, plus/minus 0 years, and search! Look for the one you know you are related to and very often you will see his family listed before/after him! You can be certain it’s still the same family because you wrote down the family number, page number, line number, etc.
Using that “cheat” I have found many relatives that I otherwise would not have been able to find because the records were not combined.
I hope these helpful hints will help you in your searches, and please feel free to leave me some helpful hints too!