Where to begin???

Where to begin??? By Bobak Ha’Eri (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Welcome new readers! I hope you enjoyed my interview on Geneabloggers yesterday and enjoy the content I present here! 

As a teacher, I learned very quickly that reinventing the wheel was a waste of time and effort. After trying that a few times (yes, sometimes I can be a slow learner!), I decided to always look to see if what I had in mind had been done before. Often I’d be able to find what I was looking for or something very similar that required only small modifications. This was a lot less work and headache for me!

This same principle applies to genealogy as well. You may be searching for an ancestor that has already had some of your questions answered! The question then is how do you find this out?

  1. Check the library – libraries are one of the best places to start depending on your question. It’s best to use the library in your ancestor’s locality as well since they will have access/knowledge about records specific to that area, not to mention that if the family was prominent in the area there could be one or more books about the family too.
  2. Contact the local genealogy group – I’ve talked about this here and what a great resource this is for people! They can have many unknown to you resources that could be possibly help smash that brick wall of yours.
  3. PERSI – libraries will often have access to PERSI which means you can search historical and genealogical journals for your ancestor. Check out the PERSI link for more information on how to do that!
  4. Internet Resources: Here are some examples of what I mean
    1. State Library – MANY states have a section on their website dedicated to genealogy. Sometimes you can even find a great treasure like SeekingMichigan.org, which is founded by the Library of Michigan and the Archives of Michigan. Their death records have saved me MANY trips!
    2. State Archives – Same thing as above – some great resources/documents are already available online and may point you in the right direction!
    3. USGenWeb Project – This volunteer run website has something for every state (although some more detailed than others). A lot of these has some historical tidbits that could possibly mention an ancestor or something that can give you clues as to what is available in that county/state.
    4. Cyndi’s List – a great place to look for some ideas and other resources
    5. FamilySearch Wiki – probably one of my favorite places to go to for some preliminary research. Not every state/county will have the same amount of information but these are still wonderful places to search through. They will usually tell you about boundary changes, any record loss, the county seat, nearby counties, and resources available, at least on FamilySearch, for that county/state. Such great information!
    6. Google – of course, you can always google the name you’re looking for. Sometimes websites can be brought up that mention them (I’ve been contacted by cousins who found my blog this way). There are many tips and tricks out there for using Google as well. EOGN has discussed this many times, there is a Cyndi’s List for it, and even FindMyPast has discussed it. It’s a great place to look!
    7. Google Books/Archive.org/Genealogy Gophers – there are several ways to search through old books without leaving your home. I discussed Genealogy Gophers here. There is also archive.org which, among other things, is a library of free books that you can read (and search!). And there is Google Books – which can be free to read as well. Getting the book depends on the copyright, of course, but these are all places to check out before you really dive into that brick wall of yours.

One thing to remember though is that this is just the beginning of your search. It doesn’t end there! Many times you’ll still need to verify the information you find with documentation since many old books won’t tell you what source the information came from. Preliminary searches are simply to see what has already been done or who else is looking for them. Searching this way can give you insights on what records to search, what records still exist, if there are any cousins out there looking for them, if the ancestor has already been a subject of someone’s research, etc.


Are there any websites or places I left out for preliminary searches? Comment below!


Happy hunting!


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