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Helpful Tips for Family History

Helpful Tips for Family History

1. Interview family members. Don’t be nervous to ask family members for important information about their family, or to ask for copies of documents and photos. Once the information is lost, it is lost forever, so gather it while you can and store it somewhere safely. The interview process can also be a great way to learn new things about your family.

1. Interview family members.

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2. Make sure that every detail in your tree has a reliable source. Take the time to learn about what sources you can use for accurate data and what sources should always be questioned. No matter what the source, always try to back up your findings. It only takes one incorrect fact to send you on the wrong path.

2. Make sure that every detail in your tree has a reliable source.

3. Share your information with others and ask for help when needed. Family history research is challenging, but it can be nearly impossible at times if researchers are not willing to reach out for help or share what they have. Connecting with other family historians can be a great way to make new friends, discover “lost” family members and advance your research.

3. Share your information with others and ask for help when needed.

4. Understand how to use search engines to find what you need. You’ll miss a great deal of online information if you simply type in a search and hit go. There are many tips and tricks that can help you uncover buried information and sift through the many possible results you’ll encounter. Try these Google search tricks.

4. Understand how to use search engines to find what you need.

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5. Be flexible when searching databases. One of the biggest mistakes made by family history researchers  is searching only for exact names and dates. Often this  information was recorded incorrectly – so always be flexible when using online databases that rely on your search terms to retrieve the correct document. Try name variations and broad date ranges to increase your chances of finding a match. When searches fail, be willing to browse for the information you need. You’ll often be surprised by how much you missed.

5. Be flexible when searching databases.

6. Educate yourself about the location your ancestors lived in. What records are available online and offline? What churches, schools and employers were active during your ancestors’ lives? Were there changes to the location’s name that you should know about? What major events happened that could have influenced people’s movements and life choices? Understanding your ancestors’ communities will open new doors in your research.

6. Educate yourself about the location your ancestors lived in.

7. Don’t store all of your information in one place.  Years of research can be lost when a computer crashes. Find a secure way to back up your data and do it regularly. Online cloud storage services, such as Amazon Cloud or Google Drive, are great options, or you can purchase an external hard drive or memory card. Another great way to safely store your information and share it with others is by starting a family history blog. 

7. Don’t store all of your information in one place.

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8. Don’t copy other people’s family trees. Not only are online trees often inaccurate and poorly sourced, but doing your own research will lead you to discover more information and will help you build a larger and more accurate tree. Use the information you find in other trees for reference only and spend your time looking for records. Consider joining a local or online research group or emailing others who are researching the same people you are.

8. Don’t copy other people’s family trees.

9. Don’t limit yourself to just a few websites. It may be easy to head over to Ancestry or FamilySearch every time you want to look for a new record, and these big sites have a lot to offer, but there are literally hundreds of high quality research sites online and many of them are free of charge. You’ll make many new discoveries by taking the time to explore all of your options. Find 50 free genealogy sites here.

9. Don’t limit yourself to just a few websites.

10. Don’t limit yourself to online records. A trip to a local historical society, library or family history centre — or even a simple online order of an offline record — can often provide you with the information you need to climb a new branch of your family tree or tear down walls that are standing in your way. Don’t be afraid to explore the important offline resources available to you. Local volunteers are usually eager to help.

10. Don’t limit yourself to online records.

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11. Don’t get side-tracked. It is easy to jump from one task to another in family history research.  Focus on one family, person or event to build a solid tree and make consistent progress.  We do need to step back sometimes when we get stuck, but don’t be afraid to record (in detail) where you left off and come back again to finish the job.

11. Don’t get side-tracked.

12. Don’t give up. There will certainly be times when the task of locating a specific piece of information seems impossible — but prayer, creativity, education and persistence can help you overcome most obstacles.

12. Don’t give up.

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