Sunday, May 4, 2014

Why can't I find the records listing my ... ?

Sorry for the almost two month long absence from posting here. I had to step away from genealogy research since I was getting a little frustrated and tired doing my research. So ... back to the blog.

One of the common questions I see from beginners is, "Why can't I find the records listing my ... ?"

It is a reasonable question with an answer that many new researchers don't like to hear, that most of the information of genealogical concern is still not online. The well-known sites like FamilySearch, Ancestry, MyHeritage, etc. are trying to make a dent but even with their efforts in digitizing the records that they can negotiate to gain access to (some places just say no) there will still be the challenge and time delay of indexing the images.

So where do you start then if you can't find the record you want?

Step 1: Always look for the answers at home first. If possible, ask for copies of birth and marriage certificates. Don't forget about those newspaper clippings (birth announcement, weddings, obituaries) that are held that often talk about family members. Call up or write to (e-mail or otherwise) the other living family members and ask them questions about what they might have in their possession or even recall (take dates from their memories with a large grain of salt).

Step 2: Find out what libraries and archives exist in the areas that the people you are looking for resided in. Contact those places to find out if they have any details on the family lines. Some of the archives and libraries have placed name indexes on-line that can aid in your searches.

Step 3: Reach out to other researchers for help. Attend genealogy and historical society meetings to learn more about the time period and additional research techniques and resources. If you are a Facebook user, take a look at the "Genealogy Links on Facebook" PDF pulled together by Katherine R. Willson for a list of Genealogy related groups. Before asking a question in those groups you may want to read my two part post on "When Asking for Help ... Part 1 and Part 2"

Step 4: Look in those other resources other than birth, marriage, death and census records. Have you looked into wills & probates, military service records, immigration and passenger lists, and newspaper articles? Many of those documents aren't readily available on-line and you may need to ask or hire someone to get copies of the files for you.

Finally, don't give up in your searching. Documents and resources are appearing all the time.

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