How To Find Your Family Tree Online



tree_grow_300_wht_10100As you may have already noticed, a lot of websites these days host millions of family trees: MyHeritage.com, Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, Geni.com, FindMyPast.com, Archives.com and more. There are virtual forests and forests of family trees out there! How can you find a tree that includes your family? How can you be sure it’s yours? How do you know that what you see is accurate?

Get started with these 7 Steps: How to Find Your Family Tree Online:

1. Choose a site from the list above and create a free log in.
Which should you choose?

  • FamilySearch.org is the only one that offers totally free access to all user-submitted family trees as well as the historical records that can help you with your research. However, the other sites offer a variety of free access options, especially to user-submitted trees.
  • MyHeritage is known for its international user base (check out its user map here) and multi-language access.
  • Some sites have different portals that specialize in records from different countries. For example, Ancestry.com (with a U.S. focus) owns Ancestry.ca for Canadian genealogy, Ancestry.co.uk for the United Kingdom and Ancestry.com.au for Australian records. Similarly, FindMyPast.co.uk (U.K. focus) also hosts FindMyPast.com (U.S.), FindMyPast.ie (Ireland) and FindMyPast.com.au (Australia). Check out additional sites for specific countries (including non-English-speaking) here. If your family recently immigrated, look for a site about “the old country.’ If you have pretty deep roots in your current country, or you’re not sure, pick a site that specializes in your current home.

2. Enter the name of one of your relatives in the Search bar.
Each site files its family trees a little differently: some with historical records and some separately. Search trees at FamilySearch here. On Ancestry.com, look under the Search option for Public Member Trees. Enter names of your relatives, along with any other details you know (like a birth date and place or a spouse’s name). Try different combinations, sometimes using the person’s first and middle name, trying a maiden name, entering a nickname, etc. Increase your odds of finding people by entering a range of years (like 1880-1890) for a date and a more general place, like a state, rather than the name of a little town. If you get too many results, enter more specific information.

Which relative(s) should you choose?

  • One who is deceased, if possible. Records about living people may be restricted for some places (but not all).
  • If possible, one with a relatively unusual name. They may be easier to spot.
  • One you know several things about: a full name (including maiden for women), dates and places of birth, marriage and death; burial place; where they lived during their lifetime; names of their spouse(s), sibling(s) and/or child(ren).
  • One who lived as long ago as possible, to increase the chance that someone has posted a tree. But a grandparent is a great starting point, if that’s as far back as you know. If your grandparent is still alive, ask them their parents’ names, and start with your great-grandparent.
  • Need to learn more about your relatives first? Read this article on how to gather information about your family.

3. Click on results labeled as “family trees.” Are they “yours?”
Browse the search results. Do any of these names and details look  familiar? Everything doesn’t have to be a perfect match for a tree to include your roots. Sometimes different information is handed down through different branches of a family. Sometimes people get their information from sources that don’t match yours. Sometimes people just guess or patch together parts of different family trees without looking closely to see if they’re right.

Tech tutorial: What exactly are you looking at when you look at a family tree online? Before the days of internet genealogy, researchers organized family history findings on their home computers in one of several specially-designed software programs. These programs could generate .GED files (often referred to as GEDCOMs) that would allow researchers using different software to share their findings. Many people have now uploaded their GED files to genealogy sites like the ones we’re talking about–or they’ve just built a family tree from scratch right on the site.

4. Evaluate the accuracy of what you find.
The best way to judge the accuracy of a family tree without researching it yourself is to see what proof is offered. Do you see any records mentioned (like footnotes) or attached to the tree? Common records include tombstone images; government or church vital records (birth, marriage or death records) and census listings. Do you see photos attached? Photos may indicate the submitter has access to family records or albums (bonus!).

If a tree mentions lots of sources, it’s more likely to be accurate–at least for the pieces of information that are sourced. If a tree doesn’t have sources, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong, it just means you don’t know if it’s right.

Sometimes you’ll find a “branch” on a tree that goes back many generations without a single source mentioned. Beware! Sometimes these branches are just copied from other trees. This may particularly be true if a branch is connected to a royal line. Royal lines are well-documented in history and some people have created family trees with the hope of running into royal relatives. These connections may not have been thoroughly researched–they might just represent “wishful thinking.” Again, look for sources.

5. Optional step: reach out to the submitter of promising-looking family trees.
Some sites allow you to contact them through confidential email routed through the site (you may have to purchase a subscription first). You might contact a submitter to meet a possible cousin, share information you have or ask for more details about what they posted. If you contact them, be polite–don’t open with “you got my grandfather’s birthday wrong” or you may never hear back. You may not hear back anyway, if the submitter is no  longer researching, their email changed or they have passed away.

6. Google your surname along with the phrase “family tree” or “genealogy.”
See if any personal websites pop up with your family tree (or other family history information) in them. Evaluate the information by looking for accurate details (as far as you know) and lots of sources mentioned. Look for an “About” or “Contact” page to learn more about the submitter of this information.

7. Verify it yourself.
Wandering through forests of online family trees may give you the urge to create your own tree. An accurate, and sourced tree! If so, good for you. Keep reading the articles suggested below to learn how to get started!

Up next, read:

Get Started: How to Find Your Family History for Free. Perfect for the beginner!

Explore the Genealogy Gems website for more tools, tips and resources that can help you put together your family’s “bigger picture.”

Sign up for our free e-newsletter and receive my FREE ebook on using Google to find your family history.

Check out my step-by-step Family History podcast for beginning genealogists.

Post an Online Family Tree. Listen to a podcast episode (or just read the show notes) on how to post your own family tree online.

7 Great Ways to Use Your iPad for Genealogy and Family History

how to use your ipad for genealogyDid you know your iPad or tablet computer can be one of your best genealogy buddies? It makes it easy to access and share family trees, documents, and photos on-the-go. It can even help you gather NEW family history treasures: images, interviews and more.

However, iPads aren’t just miniature laptops.  They work differently and in very specific ways, depending on what apps you have. If your tablet time has been limited to playing Angry Birds and checking your email, then it’s time to check out these 7 great ways to use a mobile device like an iPad for genealogy:

1. Access family trees

Access your online family tree (and even make changes) with apps like those from Ancestry, FamilySearchMyHeritage and RootsMagic. Last we checked, Findmypast doesn’t have a mobile app, but its website is optimized for mobile devices (meaning it’s friendly to iPad users).

2. Take pictures

Snap digital images of old family documents, photos, memorabilia and artifacts when you visit relatives. From the iPad, you can upload and share them via Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, email, or access them from your other computing devices via cloud-based storage such as Dropbox or iCloud. (Genealogy Gems Premium members may access the video tutorial, “A Genealogist’s Guide to Dropbox”).

3. Share your family history

Access old family pictures from your iPad to share with your relatives. You can put them right on your device’s hard drive, which makes them accessible even if you don’t have a wireless signal, but space on iPads is often limited. So make the most of your iPad’s ability to access cloud-based storage by putting your pictures in iCloud or on Dropbox.

4. Image new research finds

When you research your genealogy in libraries, use your iPad to take digital images instead of wasting time and money on photocopies. Image pages from a county or local history or take a snapshot (and a closeup) of a historical map. You can even take digital shots of microfilmed materials! Learn more here, and always get permission at each library before you start taking pictures.

5. Organize on your iPad

Keep track of all your genealogy sources with Evernote–and keep all your sources at your fingertips by using the Evernote app. My new Evernote for Genealogists Quick Research Guides, available both for Windows and Mac users, are cheat sheets that will help you start using Evernote immediately across multiple platforms.

6. Access podcasts, books and magazines on your iPad

Genealogy podcasts are the online equivalent of radio shows–all about family history! You’ll find tons of free, entertaining and informative content in:

Save genealogy and history e-books, magazines and pdfs to your iPad so you can read them anytime, anywhere. Click here for more on how to do this. What kinds of titles might you read? What about:

7. More tasks you can accomplish with your iPad

The best apps for genealogy are the ones that help you accomplish what you need to, not just the ones intended for family history use (like the free family history game Family House). For example, sometimes you need a quick magnifier and flashlight to better see old documents or photos–here’s a great app suggestion for that. Also, many of us find ourselves turning more frequently to YouTube. Well, there’s a YouTube app–click here for ideas on using it for genealogy.

Turn Your iPad into a Genealogy PowerhosueResources

Genealogy Gems FREE e-newsletter. Subscribe to keep up to date with iPad/tablet developments other tech topics for genealogists!

Turn Your iPad into a Genealogy Powerhouse by Lisa Louise Cooke, with an in-depth look at over 65 apps, 32 fabulous tricks and tips to make you a power iPad user (and not just for genealogy!) and “see it for yourself” demos in recommended online videos. It’s available in print and e-book.

Genealogy on the Go with the iPad instructional video, recently updated and re-released for Genealogy Gems Premium members

Find Genealogy Apps with the FamilySearch App Gallery

Mobile Friendly Search Results Come to Google

 

The iPad, PC and Android Phone Can All Play Nicely Together for Genealogy

www.geneaogygems.comThank you for sharing this page with others who may want to use a tablet or iPad for genealogy.

Episode 205

The Genealogy Gems Podcast
Episode #205
with Lisa Louise Cooke

Genealogy Gems Podcast 205

This episode breaks two huge pieces of genealogy news and shares two great conversations:

FamilySearch ends microfilm lending:  how you can get the records you need;

RootsMagic adds Ancestry.com compatibility: sync your Ancestry.com tree to your master RootsMagic file and search Ancestry.com from within the software;

Melissa Barker, the Archive Lady, talks about visiting archives to explore original manuscript record treasures;

Nicole Dyer shares a fun family history activity idea to do with kids?do you have a family gathering coming up that could use this inspiration?

A SURPRISE IN MY MAILBOX!

NEWS

Navigating the end of FamilySearch Microfilm Lending

RootsMagic Adds Ancestry.com Sync and Search

NEW PREMIUM VIDEO!

Lisa Louise Cooke shows you how to use the free Google Earth Pro software to create your own historic map collection customized for your genealogy and family history research. By the end of this class you’ll have a permanent collection of hundreds of gorgeous historic and vintage maps from around the world, organized and ready to use for family history.

Click here to watch a free preview of this full-length video class. Genealogy Gems Premium website members can watch the whole thing: click here to learn more.

The 4th Annual Northwest Genealogy Conference

This episode today is brought to you by the 4rd Annual Northwest Genealogy Conference, hosted by the Stillaguamish Valley Genealogical Society, north of Seattle in Arlington, WA. Centering on the theme, “Where Does Your Story Begin?” it’s four days PACKED full of genealogy.

There will be well-known and respected keynote speakers, including our friend and genetic genealogist Diahan Southard, speaking on DNA; Kenyatta Berry of Genealogy Roadshow fame, speaking on Caribbean research and using slave schedules in research; and Daniel Earl speaking on Putting History in Your Family History.

Starting off with the Free Day Wednesday afternoon, Speaker Peggy Lauritzen will address beginner’s issues in her Genealogy 101 presentation, which is also a good refresher for the more seasoned genealogists.  There will be such great genealogical information for all levels, AND it’ll be lot of fun!

Between classes take a chance to meet a distant cousin with the “Cousin Wall”. Participate in the genealogy-related scavenger hunt, the Wednesday evening meet and greet and the Friday dress-as-your-ancestor day, and much, much more!

Go to www.NwGC.org for details and to register. Check it out now — registrations are limited, so it’s good to get in early. It’s August 16-19, 2017. It’ll be a great show: don’t miss it!

INTERVIEW: MELISSA BARKER, THE ARCHIVE LADY

Melissa Barker is a Certified Archives Records Manager, the Houston http://www.honeytraveler.com/buy-antibiotics/ County, Tennessee Archivist and author of the popular blog A Genealogist in the Archives and bi-weekly advice column The Archive Lady. She has been researching her own family history for the past 27 years.

Preserve your own family archive

Items in danger include original items in attics, basements, etc.

What to preserve first? The most precious and original items you have!

Restoration tips:

  • Clean documents and photos with archival sponges. Lay the item perfectly flat. Gently place a finger or hand to hold it steady. Work with the sponge from the center outward, in small sections.
  • Keep two-dimensional items as flat as possible.
  • Encase fragile items in Mylar sleeves (buy from archival supply companies).

Image courtesy of Melissa Barker and Houston County, TN Archives.

Visiting an archive:

  • Call ahead! Don’t trust the operational hours from the website. Ask about parking ? it’s often very limited. Ask ahead about access to archival items of interest.
  • Archive etiquette: Follow the rules. Be courteous when working with staff.
  • Museums, societies, archives, and libraries may all have collections in back rooms you can’t see?but you can ask for them.
  • Vertical Files – in folders in cabinets
  • Manuscript Collections – underused in genealogy! Ask for finding aid.
  • Loose Records – the working papers of a court case, for example
  • Unprocessed Records – not yet incorporated into the official collection

Tips for using your mobile devices in archives:

  • Ask for procedures for taking photos with your own device. There may be rules against this or a use fee.
  • Capture the source information by photographs: cover page, page number, folder, box number, manuscript collection name, etc.

BONUS CONTENT for Genealogy Gems App Users

Get the app here

If you’re listening through the Genealogy Gems app, your bonus audio content for this episode comes from Melissa Barker, the Archive Lady,  with more about finding and using original manuscript records in your genealogy research. The Genealogy Gems app is FREE in Google Play and is only $2.99 for Windows, iPhone and iPad users.

Lisa Louise Cooke uses and recommends RootsMagic family history software. From within RootsMagic, you can search historical records on FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com and MyHeritage.com. RootsMagic is now fully integrated with Ancestry.com, too: you can sync your RootsMagic trees with your Ancestry.com trees and search records on the site.

Keep your family history research, photos, tree software files, videos and all other computer files safely backed up with Backblaze, the official cloud-based computer backup system for Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems. Learn more at http://www.backblaze.com/lisa.

 

INTERVIEW: NICOLE DYER

Nicole has been researching her ancestors and delighting in their stories for the past 15 years. Nicole volunteers at the Tucson Family History Center teaching a family history story time group for young children.

Read Nicole’s blog post here

Lisa suggested the free program Jing for video screen capturing: https://www.techsmith.com/jing.html

(Full disclosure: this podcast blog contains affiliate links. We will be compensated if you make a purchase through our link. Isn’t that an awesome way to help keep the free podcast free?!)

Visit Animoto here and start a free trial

Start creating fabulous, irresistible videos about your family history with Animoto.com. You don’t need special video-editing skills: just drag and drop your photos and videos, pick a layout and music, add a little text and voila! You’ve got an awesome video! Try this out for yourself at Animoto.com.

 

GENEALOGY GEMS BOOK CLUB: A FAMILY HISTORY MURDER MYSTERY!

Get the book here.

Journalist Helene Stapinski’s new family history memoir:

Murder in Matera: A True Story of Passion, Family, and Forgiveness in Southern Italy

A story of poverty and power, love, tragic decisions, and a courageous and desperate woman’s leap for a new life across the ocean

Murder in Matera continues to unravel a past Helene explored in her fantastic first family history memoir, Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History.

Find a whole list of fabulous family history-inspired reading at the Genealogy Gems Book Club!

Genealogy Gems Newsletter Sign Up

PRODUCTION CREDITS

Lisa Louise Cooke, Host and Producer

Sunny Morton, Editor

Vienna Thomas, Associate Producer

Lacey Cooke, Service “Happiness” Manager

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