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POL 2817 - S. Siler: Tips

Getting Started

I. Stay Organized! 

  • Use Family Group Sheets to track family members. 
  • Keep a Research Log to note what sources you've already searched; who you've already traced; and where you found information.  You don't want to repeat steps. 
  • Maintain a list of unanswered questions on each ancestor so you know what information is still unknown about an individual.

II. Start with what you already know.

Look for documents that show family names, dates (birth, marriage, and death), places, or relationships:

  • Certificates of birth, marriage, or death
  • Family Bibles
  • Journals and diaries
  • Letters and cards
  • Photographs
  • Obituaries and funeral programs
  • Announcements of births & weddings
  • Wills
  • Deeds
  • Military records
  • Passports & citizenship documents
  • School records

    Visit or write your relatives.  Ask them to tell you stories and experiences that are a part of your family history.  Even if they do not know the specific facts, relatives can sometimes give clues.

    III. Work from Known to Unknown

    • Start by connecting known family members in current generations to past generations, i.e. connect your parents to your grandparents before jumping to your great-grandparents. 
    • Compile a list of missing or unverified facts. Start with the event that happened most recently.  For example, find death information first before looking for marriage/birth records. 

    IV. Search for Records

    In addition to a name, know approximately when and where an ancestor lived.  These facts will help you determine your starting point. 

    If you know Great Grandma Helen died in Ohio in 1953, you may or may not find a Social Security Death Index record for her (not everyone had been issued a card back then or drew SS benefits).  You could search the Ohio Death Index and request a copy of the death certificate.  And you could try searching the 1930 U.S. Census, the last pubicly available census (1940 will be released in 2012).


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    Mary Thompson

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