Tips & Tricks

Where do you begin?

Begin with yourself. Always proceed from the present to the past. Record your name, place and date of birth, marriage and residence.

Now search out and record the same information about your parents, then your grandparents and so on through as many generations as possible.

The next step is to visit your parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins. If they are married, give each a family group sheet to fill out on themselves and ask them to include any stories or family legends. Ask them to help you fill out the family group sheets of your common ancestors.

If you are lucky enough to have grandparents and great aunts and uncles, allow plenty of time to visit. They are a treasure box of memories and facts. Remember to ask about the whereabouts of old letters, wills. deeds, christening and Sunday school records, etc. Make a photocopy of these as they should be included in your history.

When interviewing by mail, always include a stamped, self addressed envelope with your first letter to insure a reply.

Don’t forget pictures! Ask everyone if they know of any and ask permission to copy them. This can be done at a photo shop or by yourself with a digital camera and close-up lens.After you have exhausted your relatives knowledge and patience, you can start with public records and libraries. The library will have some of the following sources: family genealogies, municipal and county histories, census records, directories, biographies and military records​.

Other places to look:
  • Vital Records – birth records, marriage records, death certificates. Vital records should be checked first, including those you already know. Death records often but not always show the birth date and place, the parents names (including maiden) and birth places, and the name of the person supplying the information. Marriage and birth records may show some of the same information.
  • Probate Records – wills, letter of administration, executor and administrator bonds, inventories and appraisals, adoption proceedings change of names, secret marriages. Wills may have a list of children and sometimes grandchildren. Check for the administration of the estate.
  • Land Records – deeds, mortgages, leases, recorded wills, power of attorney, maps and plats.
  • Civil Records – partition of property, divorces, foreclosures. Miscellaneous records, voter registration, tax and assessment rolls, naturalization records.
  • Federal Records – censuses,. military records, passenger lists, passport records, immigration records, homestead application, pension applications.
  • Census Records are available from 1790 to 1920. The 1850 census is the first one that lists everyone in the household by name. Previous years broke the family into age brackets and can be useful in roughly estimating ages and sex. The 1880 census lists birth place of parents.
  • Church Records – membership rolls, baptisms, marriages, burial and cemetery records.