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Genealogy Research Tips

Begin with What You Know

Before launching your search for what you don't know, first gather all the information you do know. A rule-of-thumb in genealogy is to begin with the present and work your way backward. By being a detective, you can follow the path from one relative to another.

Ask Questions

Start the ball rolling by asking your parents, grandparents, and other relatives about their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents, and so on. Jot down as many details as you can, even the seemingly unimportant information like an occupation or hobby.

Specifically seek out full names, dates, and places to aid in your search. If your relatives immigrated to the United States, find out what country or, better yet, what city they came from. The more explicit information you have, the better.

Look for Hidden Treasures

Hunt through your grandmother's attic for old photo albums and trunks. Scour the backs of photos for names and dates and any other information you can glean. Search out old letters, newspaper clippings, house deeds, marriage licenses, birth certificates, military records, and more to find specific names and dates.

Search Immigration Records

If your family members immigrated to the United States from Europe between 1892 and 1924, chances are they arrived at Ellis Island in New York. You can search for these relatives and view copies of passenger records and original ship manifests (with the option to purchase copies at $25 each) at www.ellisisland.org.

Go Online

Online genealogy sites provide census records, vital records such as births, marriages, deaths, and immigrations, including passenger lists and/or naturalization records. In addition, some have newspaper and periodical databases and court, land, and probate records. Some basic information is free, but most genealogy sites charge a fee to obtain more detailed information.

For genealogy guidance from getting started to in-depth research, along with forms and online message boards, check out:

Piece It Together

With the information you gather, you can start putting the related pieces together. Consider keeping track of the details by creating a list or chart with the data you already have. This way, as you locate more information, you can simply drop the missing names into place. Most genealogy sites have online forms you fill out as you search for and find family members.

For links, helpful tips, and resources, try: