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Archive for April, 2010

From the Library of Congress

Have you ever thought about researching your family tree? Not sure where to start? I was in that position a couple of weeks ago when my mom asked me to use my librarian ninja skills to find out more about her mother’s side of the family. My grandmother is still alive, but she has vague recollections of her grandparents. But she and my mother were able to provide me with some small details that I was able to use to start my search.

Genealogy research can be both rewarding and frustrating, but here is some advice on how to make your efforts more worthwhile:

– Talk with your living relatives and ask them what they know about their parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Take notes or record the conversation. Ask them if they have any family records like birth or death certificates, baptismal records, obituaries, military records, etc. so that you have some concrete facts to start with and which you can compare to what you find during your research.

– Visit familysearch.org, and read through the detailed research guidance they have for each foreign country and US state. These will give you an idea of what kind of information you can expect to find (and not find) in your search.

– Come to the library and take advantage of our subscription to the Ancestry Library Edition database. It is free to use – you just need a library card and PIN to log on! Ask a librarian for assistance getting started.

– We also have a collection of genealogy books that are very useful. For instance, the branch of my family that I’m researching is in Canada, so Finding Your Canadian Ancestors: A Beginners Guide by Sherry Irvine offered some great information. And since I don’t want to travel to Canada at the moment to do research in person, I also read up on online research in Genealogy Online by Elizabeth Powell Crowe.

– Stay focused on one or two people at a time. You can overwhelm yourself otherwise.

– If you find yourself getting nowhere in your search and you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a break from searching for a couple of days, or even longer. When you’re ready to get back into it, review what you’ve found to refresh your memory.

Do you have any advice for first-time researchers? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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