by | Feb 26, 2014 | 01 What's New, Ancestry, Beginner, FamilySearch, MyHeritage, Trees
As 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.
by Lisa Cooke | Apr 23, 2012 | Census, Records & databases, Research Skills
News Release – For Immediate Release: April 4, 2012
Santa Monica, CA. April 4, 2012: The 1940 Census has finally been released and you can now browse the images online. But the waiting’s not over, since you still won’t be able to search the whole census by person until it’s fully indexed in several months.
Help, however, is at hand. Findmypast.com has come up with a way to make your search quicker and simpler – by offering to do the searching for you.
Findmypast.com is the new U.S. addition to the global network of findmypast family history websites, launched in a limited, early form in time for the 1940 Census. Its unique new, customized feature, created for the 1940 Census, is called “We’ll find them for you” and is now live.
All you have to do is to visit findmypast.com, submit the name of the person you’re searching for, plus some extra clues, and findmypast.com will email you as soon as the person’s records become available.
“We’re taking the hassle and delay out of searching”, says Brian Speckart, marketing manager of findmypast.com. “With this new feature, findmypast.com is going the extra mile to help you find your past as quickly and easily as possible.”
While the whole census won’t be searchable for several months, the records of individual U.S. states will be made searchable earlier, one state at a time. A couple of them are likely to be done by mid-April.
Some genealogy sites are offering to alert users simply when a particular state has been indexed. “But we’re going further and finding the particular individual you’re looking for”, says Speckart.
You have to tell findmypast.com in which state the person was living at the time of the 1940 Census. “As soon as that state is indexed, we run a program against the data to find the individual you’re looking for you and then email you the links we find”, says Speckart.
The job of indexing states one by one is being done by an army of volunteers under the banner of the 1940 Community Project, of which findmypast.com is a proud member.
Visitors to findmypast.com will be able to use the site’s new “We’ll find them for you” feature to submit details of the person they want to find.
Supplying the person’s first and last name and state where they were living in 1940 is all that’s required but providing additional clues will help findmypast.com narrow down the search results. Other helpful information includes approximate year of birth, likely birth city, place of residence in 1940 and names of other household members.
The new service isn’t just limited to family members either. Users can submit details of celebrities or other public figures and ask findmypast.com to find them too.
“So, if you happen to know that Marilyn Monroe’s real name was Norma Jean and which state she called home in 1940, we’ll find her for you too”, says Speckart.
by Lisa Cooke | Nov 18, 2016 | 01 What's New, Adoption, Native American, Records & databases
Adoption of Washington State Native Americans records are now available for genealogical research. Also this week you can fill up on North Carolina school books, California land dockets, Florida newspapers, Canadian Aboriginal Peoples records, Lower Canadian census for 1825, and new additions to historic British newspapers.
United States – Adoption of Washington State Native Americans
Washington, Applications for Enrollment and Adoption of Washington Indians, 1911-1919 is now available at FamilySearch.org. This collection consists of records created during the creation of the Roblin Rolls of Non-Reservation Indians in Western Washington. The enrollment and adoption proceedings of Indian tribes in Western Washington that were not on tribal census records makes this collection unique. It is arranged by tribal name claimed by the applicant, and then by applicant’s name.
Records may contain:
- English name of the primary individual or family members
- Indian name of the primary individual or family members
- Birth, marriage, or death dates
- Birth, marriage, or death places
- Place of residence
- Number of children in the family
- Other biographical details about the family or individuals such as migrations
- Tribal affiliation
- Religious affiliation
- General information about the tribe
United States – North Carolina – School Books
North Carolina Digital Heritage Center features highlights from the collections at DigitalNC, an online library of sources from across North Carolina. This week, the archive has added almost 90 years worth of “BlueBooks” from St. Mary’s School in Raleigh. The years covered are 1911-2000.
St. Mary’s School was both a high school and a college. In particular, the Student Blue Books could be especially useful for genealogists or historians, as they document the names, activities, and some addresses of the students.
United States – California – Land Docket
Ancestry.com has California, Private Land Claim Dockets, 1852-1858
available online. This record collection includes case files regarding private land claims in California. They are based on historical Spanish and Mexican land grants that took place before California became part of the U.S.
California, Private Land Claim Dockets, 1852-1858 for José Abrego at Ancestry.com
The purpose of these records was to show the actions taken regarding the claims after they were confirmed valid. Additional items within these case files include: notices and evidence of claims, certificate or plats of survey, affidavits, deeds, abstracts of titles, testimonies, appeals, and letters.
Each record in the index usually includes the name of the landowner, their docket number, and the record date.
United States – Florida – Newspapers
Do you have ancestors from Florida? Newspapers.com now has the Palm Beach Post. With a basic subscription, you can see issues of the Palm Beach Post from 1916 through 1922; or, with a Publisher Extra subscription, access earlier years and additional issues from 1922 to 2016.
Florida’s Palm Beach Post first began publishing in 1908 with the name Palm Beach County, and in 1916 (by this time called the Palm Beach Post) the paper made the switch from running weekly issues to daily.
Canada – Aboriginal Records
Library and Archives Canada added over 600 documents from the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recently. These records can be viewed at the Library and Archives Canada website.
These records include transcripts of more than 175 days of public hearings, consultations and roundtables; research studies by academics and community experts; and submissions by non-governmental organizations. Until now, patrons could only access this collection in person at LAC’s downtown Ottawa location, or by submitting a reprography request. This is a wonderful asset to the many helpful collections online for Canadian researchers.
Lower Canada – Census
The Lower Canadian Census of 1825 from Findmypast contains over 74,000 records covering modern day Labrador and southern Quebec. Each search result will provide you with an image of the original document and a transcript. Information may include the language your ancestor spoke, where they lived, and with how many people they lived. It does not name each of the inhabitants in the home by name, but they are marked by age.
1.2 million Irish immigrants arrived from 1825 to 1970 according to Wikipedia. The peak period of entry of the Irish to Canada in terms of numbers occurred between 1830 and 1850, when 624,000 arrived. Quebec was a port of entry. So, if you have Irish immigrants who you think may have come to Canada by 1825, this might be a great census for you to look at.
Britain – Newspapers
Over 1.5 million new articles have been added to the military publications available at Findmypast in their historic British Newspapers. The Naval & Military Gazette and Weekly Chronicle of the United Service are two of the new titles added. Additional articles come from the Army and Navy Gazette.
More on Native American Research Collections
This week’s records featured Adoption of Washington State Native Americans. But whether you are searching for your Native heritage in Canada, the Western United States, or the Southeastern United States, we know you want the best in education and helpful tips. We have created a three-part series regarding how to use the Native American collections on Fold3.com here:
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!
by Lisa Cooke | Oct 5, 2015 | 01 What's New, British, History, images, Libraries, Military, Records & databases
Recently I heard about a slew of WWII documents at The National Archives [U.K.], some newly available online. Look closely at the descriptions: they have holdings of records of non-British forces, too!
Battle of Britain air observer. Wikipedia Commons image. Click to view.
Recently The National Archives [UK] promoted some of the WWII documents in its vaults, in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. Below are resources and collections they’ve highlighted.
The National Archives’ guide to researching WWII. This is an overview to researching British government and military records of WWII.
Guide to Royal Air Force Service Records. Use this overview to see what records are available at The National Archives, and learn about related records that have been digitized and indexed at Findmypast.
Royal Air Force combat reports. These are “official reports which pilots or air gunners filed after they had encountered enemy aircraft on operational flights,” says a description on the site. “The reports cover action seen by the squadrons, wings and groups serving with Fighter Command, Bomber Command, Coastal Command and the Fleet Air Arm. Now held at The National Archives in series AIR 50, they include Commonwealth, United States Army Air Force and Allied units based in the United Kingdom during the Second World War.”
Royal Air Force operations record books for squadrons. “Most of them date from the Second World War but there are some from the 1920s and 1930s and a few from the First World War,” says the site. “The ORBs, in series AIR 27, were created to provide a complete record of a unit from the time of its formation. Each book includes an accurate record of operations carried out by the unit. This online collection also includes some operations record books for dominion and Allied Air Force squadrons under British Command.” Part of the series is viewable online.
More Exciting WWII Resources from Genealogy Gems:
10 Maps for Family History at David Rumsey Map Collection
The Ghost Army of WWII Author Interview in the free Genealogy Gems podcast episode 182
The Bombing of London in WWII: Interactive Map of The Blitz
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