Beginning Genealogy – Get Started Here

If you are new to genealogy and family history, you are in the right place. Here’s a game plan for learning the ropes, getting inspired and making quick progress.

beginner genealogy

The Genealogy Gems Blog

 

READStart by reading 4 Beginning Genealogy Answers to Get You Started

This article comes from a large collection of articles on our website just right for beginners. Our blog post articles are organized by topic.

All you need to do to find all of our past Beginning Genealogy articles is head to our website’s home page  (image right) and use our Select Content by Topic menu.

You’ll find it at the top left just under the main red menu. Click the down arrow and select “Beginner” from the list. This will display all our past Beginner-friendly articles on your screen starting with the most recent. (Or simply click here to go right to the Beginner article search results.)

Our Podcasts

READThe free Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast (like an online radio show) is sort of a “Genealogy 101” class.

Each episode is about 30 minutes long, and it will start you at the beginning and walk you through the genealogy research process.

You’ll find it not only educational but also inspirational. You’ll hear from expert genealogists about research strategies, as well as their own inspirational stories that will help motivate you to succeed in climbing your family tree!

Here’s where you can listen to the Family History podcast:

  •  iTunes
  • Apple’s Podcasts app
  • On this Genealogy Gems website here

There are 45 episodes in the series. By the time you get to the end, you’ll be well on your way and ready to dig into to The Genealogy Gems Podcast. This is an ongoing monthly podcast with hundreds of episodes for your family history listening pleasure!

The Videos

WATCHThe Genealogy Gems YouTube channel is packed with free videos on a wide variety of genealogical topics. We group them by category into “Playlists” for your convenience.

Below you can watch our Beginning Genealogy playlist of videos. Simply click the icon in the upper left corner of the video player and scroll through the list. As we add new videos we will continue to add videos to the playlist.

 

DNA – Genetic Genealogy

dna
New to DNA?
Watch the video below which features our own DNA expert Diahan Southard. She explains DNA testing for genealogy is a wonderful, easy-to-understand way.

Want more from your DNA results?
If you have started your family history journey by getting your DNA tested, you will want to get the most from your results.  Your results can match you with other relatives, but you will need to have a family tree built so that you can capitalize on those connections. Use the resources and suggestions already mentioned above on this page to accomplish that goal. Then get even more from your DNA results with our expert advice. First, watch the video below to be sure you are on the right track.

 

Find Your Ancestors in the Scotland Census Now at FamilySearch

Is that the sound of bagpipes? It might be, because the Scotland 1901 Census is now available at FamilySearch! Learn more about what you’ll find in this collection and get top tips from a Scottish genealogy expert on how to find your ancestors is in Scottish records. Then we head over to Central and South America for exciting new and updated genealogy collections for the Bahamas, Panama, and Brazil.

new genealogy records Scottish Scotland Census

Scotland Census Now at FamilySearch

Does your family tree have roots in Scotland? You’re in luck! You can now search for your tartan-clad ancestors for free at FamilySearch! The Scotland Census, 1901 contains almost 4.5 million records for those living in Scotland on Sunday March 31, 1901.

“These records are comprised of Enumeration forms that were distributed to all households before the census night and the complete forms were collected the next day by the enumerators. Included in this series are returns from ships of the Royal Navy at sea and in ports abroad.

Click here to search these records at FamilySearch now.

This collection is also available on Findmypast. If you have a subscription to Findmypast, you can access the 1901 census that includes Scotland, England, and Wales. Click here to search at Findmypast.

UPDATE: The original FamilySearch press release contained incorrect information about the source of the 1901 census records. Visit the National Records of Scotland website here for more information about the 1901 census.

According to the National Records of Scotland website, they hold records of the census of the population of Scotland for 1841 and every tenth year thereafter (with the exception of the wartime year of 1941 when no census was taken) and of the sample census of 1966.  Census records are closed for 100 years under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.”

3 Strategies for Finding an Ancestor in Scottish Records

If your love of tartan, bagpipes, and kilts equals your love of family history research, you are likely hoping to find an ancestor who was born in Scotland. Or perhaps nothing would surprise you more than to find a Scottish ancestor. In either case, the next step is to find this ancestor in Scottish records.

As with all immigrants, the first step to finding them in their homeland is to research their lives extensively in America before searching for them in Scottish records. Scottish genealogy expert Amanda Epperson, PhD joins us here on Genealogy Gems to share some of her top strategies to help you find your ancestors in Scottish records. Click here to read more!

New Genealogy Records for the Bahamas

Findmypast has been making major strides in expanding its collection to include rare and underrepresented records. The newest addition is the Bahamas Birth Index 1850-1891. Discover your Bahamian ancestors in this online index of registered births from the British Crown Colony of The Bahamas.

Birth records are essential to expanding your family tree. There are tens of thousands of records in this collection, giving information not only about relatives born in the Bahamas but also their parents. Click to search the Bahamas Birth Index 1850-1891.

Panama Records Indexes

Three new indexes containing just under half a million vital records from the Republic of Panama have recently joined Findmypast’s growing collections of international records. There are now four collections for Panama:

These new additions consist of baptisms, marriages and deaths spanning the years 1750 to 1950 and will generate hints on Findmypast family trees. (Learn more about Findmypast’s new tree hinting feature by clicking here.)

Brazil Civil Registrations

FamilySearch has a new genealogy collection for South America: Brazil, São Paulo, Civil Registration, 1925-1995. Boasting nearly 2 million records, this data set includes births, marriages, deaths, and indexes created by various civil registration offices in the state of São Paulo. Some of these records have been indexed and are searchable as part of this collection. Additional images and indexed records will be published as they become available.

These records are in Portuguese so you may want to take a look at these resources for help with these records:

You can search the index or view the images or both. Before using this collection it is helpful to know your ancestor’s given name and surname, identifying information such as residence, and estimated marriage or birth year.

Bring genealogy records to life with Google Earth!

Genealogists love making discoveries in records, but the excitement of documents doesn’t exactly translate to the non-genealogists in your family. Capture your family’s imagination by telling their family history story with Google Earth. See how easy it is to turn the genealogical information you’ve collected into compelling multi-media stories. These tours will help everyone in your family appreciate your genealogical research and protect as a legacy for generations to come. Enjoy!

About the Author: Lisa Louise Cooke is the producer and host of the Genealogy Gems Podcast, an online genealogy audio show and app. She is the author of the books The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Mobile Genealogy, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers, and the Google Earth for Genealogy video series, and an international keynote speaker.

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!

Anabaptist Genealogy Records: Anabaptist Ancestors Revealed Part 2

Anabaptist genealogy records include Amish, German Baptist and Mennonite ancestors. In a past post titled “Amish Genealogy Revealed,” we shared tips for searching out your Amish family tree. Here are more helpful resources submitted by our wonderful readers  that you won’t want to miss.

Anabaptist genealogy records

What is an Anabaptist?

The term Anabaptist refers to those religions who reject infant baptism in favor of a believer’s baptism. Amish, Mennonite, and German Baptists fall into the category of Anabaptists.

Anabaptist religions often subscribe to more conservative views and dress. Their families are very much intertwined with their religion, making the study of their history rich in detail and customs.

Anabaptist Genealogy Records: More Amish and Mennonite Family History Resources

We shared in our “Amish Genealogy Revealed,” the resources of the Amish newspaper, The Budget, the Amish church directories, and newsletters and books on Amish families. Many thanks to reader Loren Johns for sharing yet another amazing resource. Loren shared:

As someone who has a couple of hundred thousand Amish in my genealogical database, I enjoyed reading your focus on Amish genealogy. Somewhat surprised to see it!

You did not mention the most important source for Amish genealogy. It is the Swiss Anabaptist Genealogical Association, of which I am the secretary. This is a rather informal non-profit association of amateur genealogists interested in Amish and Mennonite genealogy who share their research with each other and with others interested in it, and make it available online.
Further, Mr. Johns shares that the Swiss Anabaptist Genealogical Association (SAGA) maintains a large database of un-merged databases that can be searched simultaneously. He gives an example:
If I search for an Amos J. Whetstone (an Amish name,) I get 17 hits, to three separate men. Amos J. Whetstone (1903-1984) appears in 6 different databases; Amos J. Whetstone (1919-2003) appears in 4 databases; and Amos J. Whetstone (1945- ) appears in 7 databases … so the 17 hits actually represent three men.
This amazing SAGA database contains over 5,000,000 names, though many of those are duplicates. You can imagine the value of such a large database for this specific group. If you are interested in joining SAGA and gaining access to the database, see the membership page here.
There are other organizations and libraries that have significant holdings for Anabaptist ancestry, too. The Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society and the Mennonite Historical Library at Goshen College, are just two.
Lastly, Mr. Johns leaves us with this fine tip!
A most important book on Amish genealogy is Amish and Amish Mennonite Genealogies by Hugh Gingerich and Rachel Kreider. It is sometimes called the Amish genealogy “Bible.” It traces all of the Amish immigrant ancestors (144 different surnames) and their families to 1850, where it had to stop lest it explode into an encyclopedia.

Anabaptist Genealogy Records: Resources for the German Baptist or The Old German Baptist Brethren

Anabaptist genealogy records

George Funderburg and family were members of the German Baptist faith.

Another group of Anabaptist’s are the German Baptist, also known as the Old German Baptist Brethren. Here in Ohio, we sometimes refer a particular break-off by their nickname, Dunkards. The Dunkards were given this nickname for their belief in baptism by immersion.

It is my own family ancestors who were among the Dunkards. Luckily, we have a wonderful archive in Brookville, Ohio called Brethren Heritage Center. The Brethren bodies involved with the Brethren Heritage Center are:

  • Church of the Brethren
  • Conservative Grace Brethren International
  • Dunkard Brethren
  • Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches
  • German Baptist Brethren
  • Old Brethren
  • Old Brethren German Baptist
  • Old German Baptist Brethren
  • Old German Baptist Brethren-New Conference
  • Old Order German Baptist
  • The Brethren Church

This heritage center offers many books and collections including family histories, maps, letters, diaries, census records, and birth records. In particular, the heritage center website also has a large list of helpful links to begin researching your Brethren ancestors. To see the list of links, click here.

Anabaptist Genealogy Records – Share Your Knowledge

thanks youre a gemIf you have Anabaptist heritage, you may be aware of additional Anabaptist genealogy records that we have not mentioned. We would be delighted if you would share that information with our Genealogy Gems community in the comments below. We look to you to be an inspiration and teacher to us here at The Genealogy Gems Podcast, and you always come through. Thank you!

 

Missing Census or Missing Family: Legacy Tree Genealogists Answer

So, you think there might be a missing census page? Whether it’s a missing census or a missing family, my special guest, professional genealogist Kate Eakman from Legacy Tree Genealogists has strategies to help you figure it out. She has just the answers you need to find your ‘missing’ family.

missing census

A Genealogy Gems reader doing genealogy research in New Jersey has lost her family! Well not literally, but she can’t find them in the 1940 U.S. Census. Here’s the email I recently received from her:

I am having a problem finding my mother and grandparents in the 1940 census. My grandfather, William Charles Opfer, was born on October 15 1900. I can find him in the 1930 census living in  Glouescter Township, (Unincorporated Grenloch) Camden County, New Jersey. He is living with his wife Kathryn (Katharine) Opfer and three children: William C Jr, Robert, and Nancy (my mother).

When I search the 1940 census on Ancestry nothing shows up. So I went to the government web site and converted the 1930 Enumeration District to the 1940 Enumeration District. The 1940 Enumeration Districts were 4-57, 4-58, and 4-61. I then went through all of the pages for each of the districts looking for William C. Opfer. I did this on Ancestry, Family Search, and NARA.  No William C. Opfer.

I then went back to the 1930 census and looked at his neighbors. I searched for each of the 13 heads-of-household neighbors from the 1930 census. Two had moved 1940 and I found them. I could not find the other neighbors in the 1940 census. I am wondering if a page from the 1940 census did not get scanned? Is there somewhere else I could look?

Missing Census Answers from Kate Eakman, Legacy Tree Genealogists

First, let me say how impressed I am with this Gem’s research and her dedication to finding this census report. She has made some very thorough searches and performed a number of advanced genealogical techniques in her quest for the 1940 U.S. Census page. It hardly seems fair that all that work didn’t yield the success she surely earned.

The government website she referenced is the National Archives 1940 Census page. The use of the page “1930 Records Search” allowed her to simply locate her grandfather in the 1930 U.S. Census. Then, by clicking a few buttons, discover the corresponding enumeration districts (ED) for the 1930 ED in which he and his family lived: 4-57, 4-58, and 4-61.

I, too, have scrolled through page after page searching for that one elusive name and we know how tedious that task can be! Using three different sites was a good strategy and one that we employ ourselves here at Legacy Tree Genealogists. Different images might be easier or more difficult to read, although in the case of these three EDs, the copies seemed to be uniformly easy to read.

The first two EDs were for Blackwood, an unincorporated part of Camden County, New Jersey. The third one was for the Lakeland Tuberculosis Hospital, unlikely to have housed the entire family, but certainly worth looking through in case one Opfer was a patient there.

ED 4-58 had an interesting variation at the end of the report. The last two pages were not 15A and 15B, as would be expected, but were 61A and 61B. This indicates these households were enumerated at a later date than were their neighbors. Because federal law requires every household to be counted, and because not everyone was at home when the enumerator arrived, the enumerator had to return on a different day and attempt to gather the necessary information for those families. They were recorded separately, beginning with page 61A.

People living in hotels, trailer camps, and other places normally designed for single-night stays were enumerated a week after the initial enumeration and those pages are numbered beginning with 81A. Not every ED has a 61 or an 81 page, but if you see one, now you know why the page numbers suddenly changed so dramatically.

The writer’s use of Elizabeth Shown Mills’ FAN Club was an excellent idea, too. FAN, an acronym for Friends, Associates, and Neighbors, takes advantage of the fact that people, in general, tend to remain geographically close to the people they know. [Read more about this in our post, “The Genealogy FAN Club Principle Overcomes Genealogy Brick Walls“] If a portion of a community moves, they tend to move together and relocate in the same general area of their new location. Her instincts to use this tool were excellent, even if they did not produce the desired results. This falls under the heading of “reasonably exhaustive research” and should always be included when someone, or in this case something, can’t be found, but should be there.

The fact that the researcher was able to locate only two of those neighbors could be explained, in part, by the fact that so many were in their 60s, 70s, and even 90s in 1930. They simply may have passed away in the intervening ten years. Another explanation, particularly for the working families, is that the Great Depression caused many families to move in order to find employment.

This may have been true for the Opfers. We noticed in 1930, William was employed as a supervisor for Reading Transportation. While supervisors were important to the operation of any transportation company, it is possible William found himself unemployed, as was true for millions of other Americans. If that happened, he and his family could have moved anywhere in the United States in an effort to find work. Alternatively, William may have left to find work while Kathryn and the children lived by themselves in reduced circumstances, or with family or friends.

To this end, I searched for William and Kathryn, and then each of the three children individually, in the hope of locating one or more family members. Using the “less is more” strategy which is often an important part of genealogical research, I searched with and without the family members’ ages, places of birth, and other family member’s names. Because the surname “Opfer” might have been misheard by the enumerator or grossly misspelled, I even searched for the various members of the family with no surname. Since we did not know where the family may have lived between 1930 and 1944, we included all of New Jersey, Delaware (the home state of Kathryn), as well as neighboring Pennsylvania and New York in our searches. The lack of positive results meant we needed to expand our search to the Eastern seaboard, and then the entire United States.

We also identified the names of William’s and Kathryn’s parents, William and Sallie Opfer and Raymond and Corrine Mason, and searched their households and neighborhoods for William and Kathryn. They were not there. Walter, William’s younger brother, was not hosting the family, either.

The writer had asked if it was possible that a page from the 1940 U.S. Census did not get scanned. Since the 1940 census has only been available for four years, it is still possible, although not probable, that there are one or more pages missing unbeknownst to anyone. Our research revealed only a few pages from a couple EDs in Ohio and South Dakota that were missing from the FamilySearch collection. There is no indication anywhere that there are missing pages from New Jersey. In addition, the pages in the three possible EDs for the Opfers were all included and in the correct numerical order, with no indication of any missing pages at the end. Therefore, I think we must conclude that missing pages do not explain the Opfer family’s disappearance.

Other Databases to Help

There are two other databases which might provide some insight into the location of the Opfer family. The first is the set of 1942 World War II draft registration cards. All men between the ages of 18 and 65 were required to register for this draft. The draft registration cards would have included the address at which William lived in 1942; however, there was no card for a man named William Opfer (or with only the surname “Opfer”) born between 1895 and 1905.

The final search was the database of city directories. A poorly-indexed city directory reported the Opfers lived in Haddonfield, New Jersey in 1943, but there are two directories contained in the same book, and the listing was actually for 1947. It reported William and Katherine lived at 209 Washington Avenue with their children William and his wife, Robert, and Nancy. William’s brother, Walter, and his wife Edith lived nearby. Unfortunately, the search for them in 1940 revealed that 79-year-old widower William Pape lived at that address with his household servants who were not the Opfer’s.

missing census alternative

The William Opfer family in Haddonfield, New Jersey in 1947.Photo courtesy Ancestry.

Although the turmoil and upheaval of the Great Depression meant families were scattered, and it would have been easy to miss enumerating many households in the mid-1930s, by 1940 the U.S. was recovering from the effects of the Depression. Some agencies, such as the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps), were in place to provide work for men. Many war-related industries on both coasts were revived by the Allies’ efforts to stop Hitler.

In other words, there should have been work and stability for the Opfer family by 1940, and they ought to have appeared in a census report. The evidence of the 1930 census and the 1947 city directory strongly suggest they remained in or close to New Jersey, but all of the efforts to locate them have failed to yield positive results.

One Last Scenario

One possible scenario which would explain the Opfers apparent absence from the 1940 census is a simple one: perhaps the family was in the process of moving from one location to another in the month of April when the census was enumerated. Although the census was supposed to be enumerated on 1 April, the reality is that it was simply impossible to knock on every door and obtain the necessary information in one day. Some enumeration districts were fully counted by the 4th of the month. Other places were not completed until the 30th. This was true even in the same town.

If the Opfers had moved across the street from 206 Washington Avenue to 209 Washington Avenue in Haddonfield, for instance, between the 5th and the 14th of April, they would have moved from one enumeration district to another. Because the 209 Washington Avenue address had been enumerated on 4 April, they would not have been counted in that new location. And, because the 206 Washington Avenue address was not enumerated until the 15th of the month, they would not have been included in that EDs census report. We have seen this happen in the reverse and a family was enumerated twice because they moved during the enumeration, so it certainly could have happened the other way around. This is the only explanation we can find to explain the absence of the Opfers from the 1940 U.S. Census.

More About Kate Eakman at Legacy Tree Genealogists and SAVE $100!

Kate Eakman grew up hearing Civil War stories at her father’s knee and fell in love with history and genealogy at an early age. With a master’s degree in history and over 20 years experience as a genealogist, Kate has worked her magic on hundreds of family trees and narratives.

Areas of expertise:

-Native American Genealogy

-U.S. Civil War & Victorian America

-Narrative Biographies

-Irish Genealogy

The team of expert genealogists at Legacy Tree Genealogists can help bust through your brick walls. They do the research and you enjoy the discoveries!

Pin It on Pinterest

MENU