Genealogy on a Budget


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Genealogy on a Budget

  1. 1. Genealogy on a Budget: Tips for Beginning Research Presented by Martin Fischer , a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists Copyright © Martin Fischer 2010
  2. 2. First steps <ul><li>Interview your older relatives—grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles—to find out what they know about your family history. </li></ul><ul><li>Take very good notes and, if possible, make an audio or video recording of what they say. Remember, they won’t be around forever, so do it now! </li></ul>
  3. 3. Questions to ask <ul><li>Do your elders have any family trees they or someone else in the family prepared in the past? </li></ul><ul><li>Do they have any documents about family history, such as a family bible; birth, marriage and death certificates; old wills or letters? </li></ul>
  4. 4. Questions to ask <ul><li>Do they have any photos of ancestors? Have they been labeled properly? If not, ask them to help you identify the people in the photos. </li></ul><ul><li>Are there any family stories that they might be able to recall for you? Have any ancestors been involved in any historically significant events, such as wars, politics, immigration? </li></ul>
  5. 5. Questions to ask <ul><li>What did your ancestors do for a living? Did any of them have unusual occupations? </li></ul><ul><li>What did they do for pleasure? Did they have any unique or interesting hobbies or interests? </li></ul><ul><li>Did any of your ancestors have a creative side? Were any of them writers, composers, entertainers, artists, intellectuals, inventors? </li></ul>
  6. 6. Questions to ask <ul><li>If you suspect there may be a ‘black sheep’ in the family, broach the topic cautiously and sensitively, and only after you have already had most of your questions answered by the relative you are interviewing. </li></ul><ul><li>If your relative expresses reluctance to discuss a sensitive issue, move on to other subjects and try to come back to it later at a more opportune time. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Questions to ask <ul><li>Be sure to ask your older relatives whether there could be any cousins or other relatives that you may not have heard about. </li></ul><ul><li>Are there any branches of the family that your relatives have lost contact with? If so, when and where was the last contact? </li></ul><ul><li>Before finishing your interview, ask an open-ended question, such as, whether there is anything else you should know about the family’s history. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Tips <ul><li>Get as much detailed information and documentation as possible about: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Names, dates and places </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Immigration and naturalization </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Births, marriages, deaths, divorces </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Wills and probate records </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Military discharge papers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Family relationships </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Occupations </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Free online sources <ul><li>After talking with your relatives, one of the first no-fee web sites to continue your search for family history information is operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at </li></ul><ul><li>Search results may provide links to documents about your ancestors. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Free online sources <ul><li>If you are interested in focusing on a specific geographical area, such as a city, state or nation; or a specific race, ethnicity or religion, then the Cyndi’s List site offers a wealth of links to help target your search at </li></ul><ul><li>If you create a family history web site, it can be added to Cyndi’s List. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Free online sources <ul><li>Stephen P. Morse, an award-winning genealogist, has created a special compilation of links with built-in search tools that improve on the search options that many genealogy web sites offer at </li></ul><ul><li>Some of the links on this site are fee-based, but many are free. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Free online sources <ul><li>If your ancestors ever lived in New York City, then this web site developed by the Italian Genealogy Group is certain to be of value: </li></ul><ul><li>One need not be Italian to benefit from such features as the NYC groom, bride and death indexes, and the naturalization databases. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Free online sources <ul><li>If your ancestors arrived in the United States in New York, then you may find their ship’s arrival records in the Ellis Island database at or the Castle Garden database at </li></ul>
  14. 14. Free online sources <ul><li>If your ancestors lived in Illinois, this page on the secretary of state’s web site will be useful: </li></ul><ul><li>The vital records databases may help focus research by providing key information, such as date and place of death. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Free online sources <ul><li>If your ancestors lived in Missouri, this page on the secretary of state’s web site will be useful: </li></ul><ul><li>Especially valuable is the death certificates database at: </li></ul>
  16. 16. Free online sources <ul><li>The Library of Congress is building a free online, searchable database of American newspapers that may contain death notices, obituaries, news articles and other information about ancestors at: </li></ul>
  17. 17. Free online sources <ul><li>People whose ancestors lived in Eastern Europe, particularly Poland, Galicia and Romania, may find them listed in an online searchable compendium of business directories and other databases from the late 19th and early 20th Centuries at: </li></ul>
  18. 18. Free online sources <ul><li>Before telephones (and telephone books) were invented, there were city directories often listing names, home addresses, occupations and business addresses. Some free directories are available through this site: </li></ul>
  19. 19. Free online sources <ul><li>If your ancestors were Jewish, the best place to start is the JewishGen web site at: </li></ul><ul><li>Features include a Jewish communities town finder and a family finder that can put you in touch with people already researching your Jewish ancestors. </li></ul>
  20. 20. Free online sources <ul><li>Use your local public library card to log in to your library’s web site to search free databases that may contain genealogical information, such as ProQuest historical newspapers, Ancestry Library Edition, HeritageQuest Online, LexiNexis, and much more. Available databases vary by library. </li></ul>
  21. 21. Contact information <ul><li>Martin Fischer </li></ul><ul><li>1032 N. Lombard Ave. </li></ul><ul><li>Oak Park, IL 60302-1435 </li></ul><ul><li>E-mail: [email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>Home phone: 708-386-0173 </li></ul><ul><li>Cell phone: 708-204-5100 </li></ul><ul><li>Web site: </li></ul>
  22. 22. <ul><li>Copyright © Martin Fischer 2010 </li></ul>