New Page 1
Searching Your Roots
The following document was initially created for a workshop on
Genealogy for a group of teachers and not knowing their background in doing
genealogy research this was added to the workshop as supplementary information.
Many people who now contact me via email are beginners or mid-range researchers
and to help, I refer them to this page for steps to use in doing genealogy
research. For those who are experienced genealogy researchers don't be offended,
just use the back button and escape from this info. I don't mean to offend
anyone. However, you may find some of the information important to you as well.
Many people are trying to search their Roots and are finding it
difficult because of lack of knowledge about how to go about searching in an
orderly fashion. This web-page is an attempt to give a few pointers for those
who are starting their search or need a few pointers on where they might look.
The most important thing to remember when searching for your
roots or doing any kind of research is to try and work from the known towards the
unknown. This approach will help you tremendously and keep your efforts
productive. Another very important rule is to document your findings.
This is a must both for yourself and others who need to know where you
obtained the information. Sources should be of a primary nature so that others
can verify your findings. This does not mean that you just use a source that is
known to only you or a very limited number of people. Sources do not mean where
you have filed your information as "Left drawer of file cabinet, file #23" means
absolutely nothing to anyone else but you. If that is where you have filed your
information then the source would be where you obtained the information from;
again, this does not mean from somebody else's undocumented information. Many
people think that using a source of xxxxxx.FTM (someone else's
Family Tree Maker file or other GED file) is a valid source. This is very poor as nobody can
verify this data and maybe it is completely FALSE and based only on what
that person wanted their tree to look like. You would be surprised at the amount
of bad information that exists where people have tried to force the data to fit
what they desire. Another item that you must be aware of in todays electronic
distribution of data is the fact that if you try to use data that the majority
have and leave the single entry that seems out of place, you might just be lead
astray as many people just copy information from each other and false
information spreads rapidly. Look at both sets of data and you may find that the
single entry with sources is the correct one and the others that show no or very
poor sources are the ones that are wrong.
The following segment has some linked items to show examples of
documents that I have used in my family research and also from others that I
have searched. Many of these are from scanned
documents that are shown as photographs in Unknown
Steps to follow:
- Consider joining a local Genealogy Society and/or Special Purpose
- Determine how you are going to record your data.
- Using paper (Family Group Sheets)[FGS]. This method is fine for those
with no computer. I don't use FGS as it would be impossible with over
112,000 persons. Modern day genealogy programs do exactly the same thing
as the older methods of using paper.
- Computer Genealogy Program. Many ask which program is the best? That
depends! What I have found is that whatever a person is used to is the
best for them. I have my own preferences and they are based on
functionality of the program and can it produce reports that can be
emailed to others. If you are limited to only paper reports then mailing
costs can become a factor when sharing your data with others.
- Start with yourself or one of your children or grandchildren if you wish
to produce a larger tree or even a small one. Don't try to jump over
generations and try to find where your ancestor came from across the waters
when you don't even know their descendants and when they arrived in the area
where you might think they lived. You must find proof for this information.
- Enter the known data for each generation starting with the first
generation. Full Names, dates of Birth and Location of Birth, Marriage date
and Location, and Deaths (full dates and locations), Place of burial
(Cemetery etc.) Enter the source of your information and what proof
you have that the data is correct. Primary Sources of data are the best.
These include Gov't/Archive Documents of records for Birth, Marriage, or
Death. Make sure you record all information from the document if you don't
have a copy for your records.
When you have exhausted the information on one generation (Parents and
children of that family) proceed to the grand-parents of first family.
Record all information on their children. Full names are important as the
middle name of a child may give you an indication of the names of ancestors from
either the mother or father's side of the family. Try to follow the
descendants of siblings for at least one or two generations as this may
contain very valuable information on the ancestral line that you are
- Look for information in Public Libraries, Provincial/State Genealogy
Libraries, Family Bibles. Try to find the person(s) who are the "Keeper
of the Notes" on family history as they may also have old Photographs.
Personal examples of this are at the following
- Use Cemetery Tombstone information to determine dates of death and birth.
If the date of death is given as just the year then obtain the internment
records to find the date of burial. Using the burial date and local
newspapers for the area to find an obituary or notice of death for that person. This should give
the date and location of death, surviving relatives as well as deceased
- Use Birth/Marriage/Death Indexes, if available, to determine the actual
dates and locations of the events. The parents are often given in the actual
Marriage Record recorded in the Index. The actual record must be ordered
from the necessary Archive location. This is often a Local Library that has
inter-library loan privileges with the Library. Birth Indexes are used to
order the actual Birth Record using the same method.
- Once you have the data for a family back to an early enough date to find
them in a Census or other document then you should try and follow that
family through each earlier census to determine the names of children, their
age as reported, and place of birth. This is very useful as it may give an
indication of where the family has resided over time. If the early children
were born in a different country then you have the first generation that
came to the country you are searching in. The locations of birth for the
other children will indicate if the family has moved from one state/province
- Use Birth Records, Marriage Records(#1,
#2), and Death Records to determine the
correct dates and locations for the information found from any Census.
Census data is known for many errors in dates and spelling of names. No
proof that the person shown as the mother is the actual mother of the
children as she may be a second wife. However, census data might be more
accurate than information obtained from tombstones. The living person was
the most knowledgeable about the ages of themselves and their children.
Tombstone information might only be a best guesstimate of the birth year of
a person who people want to honor. I have seen cases where the tombstone
says died at age 104 when by the person's own declarations they would have
been 94 when they died.
- Use the microfilm or fiche available from your local LDS FHL (Chrurch of
Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints Family History Center Library). These are
primary records that have been microfilmed by the Mormon Church and can be
ordered by your local FHL (Family History Center Library). Look in
your local telephone book for "Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints"
then in their list see if an entry for "Family History Center" is shown. You
don't have to be a Mormon or connected to the church in any way to use their
facilities. Rental is paid on microfilm ordered and you must use the
microfilm at their facilities. Local Public Libraries may also have
microfilm or be able to order it on inter-library loan at little or no cost
to the user.
- If your ancestor came from over-seas, find the date that they arrived and
the country they came from. Once you have this data traced back through as
much documentation that you can possibly find then try and find a
Index that will provide information about the Ship
List Departure information for that
family. Names, ages, and relationship to the family and where they were
in that country.
- Don't rush to find the data in the foreign country as most of what you
want is most likely located in the country where you are searching. Death
records will often indicate the place of birth of the person. Marriage
records will give place of birth and may include names of parents. Other
sources of this data may be from special documents that were required when
- Other sources of data that are a must for searching your ancestors
includes the following:
- Probate Records/Wills
- Land Titles Office Records
- Provincial/State Archives
- Cemetery Records
- Internment Records
- School Records
- Community History books
- Tax Records
- Military Records
- American Civil War Records. See example
of Discharge Record for Julius Krueger.
- Special Reports and Documents produced for a local area. Usually
available at a Library in the area. Some are a real gem of information
Notes for Calais Maine).
- Special Purpose Records:
- Border Crossing Records (#1)
- Land Grand Applications
- Homestead Records and Applications
- Muster Rolls
- Loyalist lists if your ancestor is a Loyalist.
- Use of Mail, Email, and other methods of connection to others that are
searching the same families.
- Join special email or mailing groups where you can inform the group of the
names and locations of the families that you are searching. You will most
likely find that others have done a lot of searching already and have data
that can be shared. Don't just use their data as it must be checked for
accuracy and verified. Share your data with them and work as a team or
- If you are using the Internet then use large databases like WorldConnect
and Ancestry.com to try and find members of your early ancestors that are
already in the database of others. Email these people to determine if what
they have is from reputable sources or you may end up with incorrect data
that someone has not researched and just made an assumption with no
documentation to show that it is a very weak proof.
- Consider Publishing your results to WorldConnect or a similar Genealogy
Database. Set the options so that you don't publish information on
living persons. You will be surprised by the contacts that you will have
from people who have the same ancestors and it also helps you to find many
of your distant relatives. When you publish, using this method, always put
the disclaimer "This is a work in Progress and may have errors
and/or missing Data. Anyone with updates is requested to contact the
contributor". You should not worry about not having your tree complete
before publishing as I know of a person who only had about 10 members of
his ancestors who were deceased and when he published the data, a person in
another country contacted him by email and he was able to help them with a
chapter in their book and they helped him to fill in data on different
branches. Families became separated and one branch went to a place unknown
to the others. If you are on that unknown branch then you can help others
who may be looking for that person who had unknown descendants. He is now a
firm believer in publishing his data and it keeps yielding results for him.
- Don't make assumptions about connections to families that you would like
to be related to as that will make your data very suspect and will not
standup to scrutiny by others. Remember to be correct and thorough!!
- Remember to always record the full data about a source. If you have found
a family in a census then the appropriate source record should include the
following as an example: 1850 Census, Calais Twp., Washington Co., ME, Ward
4, ED#78, page 125, frame 24/136 (this last item is for online census data
available at Ancestry.com. This may change but the actual page number on the
original document will exist even on different ordering of the frames.) You
might also consider recording the Microfilm Number. Remember that this
number differs depending on the source of the Microfilm. LDS use their own
numbering system and it differs from the Archives in the
- Verify your data and make sure that it is correct. Many people who have
data published in papers, books, and other sources have made mistakes and it
is your responsibility to check to see that it is accurate.
Good Luck in your searching.
A. E. Krause
Last updated 2 Feb. 2005