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A Beginner’s Guide to Online Genealogy Records

A Beginner’s Guide to Online Genealogy Records
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Charting your family tree can be an exciting and rewarding project. But where do you start?

Begin by formulating a research question. This can be as simple as a name and date or include other information such as a place of birth, spouse, children, parents, occupation, or military service.

Census Records

This massive collection of volunteer-submitted and user-submitted genealogy data includes Bible, obituary, cemetery, census, land records, military files, family trees, and much more. It’s organized by state and county and offers a variety of tools, including maps, transcriptions, and links to external projects.

Particular census schedules list details like ages, occupations, and relationships to the head of household. You can search for these on several commercial websites. If searching for an ancestor’s address fails, try browsing by enumeration district.

Death Records

An extensive collection of transcribed data contributed by volunteers covering family history, general history, and more.

Many experts recommend searching death records first as they often provide information on an ancestor’s birthplace, parents, and siblings. But remember that the information in these records came from an informant, which can introduce errors into a genealogy report.

The Irish genealogy online records offer searchable indexes for various states and scanned images of actual death certificates when available. It also includes links to regional vital records guides.

Military Records

Military records can provide a fuller picture of your ancestors’ lives; many are available online. Often, these records include the branch of service, the person’s rank, and the state.

Among the best research sites for this type are DD 214s and other separation documents, which become “archival” 62 years after a servicemember’s discharge date. Several other military records are also available.

Civil War Records

While the individual details of ancestors’ Civil War service are often obscured by bewildering lists of enlistments, muster rolls, layoffs, and hospital records, they can be found in compiled military service records (CMSRs). Look for these to learn about a man’s assignment to specific units, his battles, and whether he was promoted or demoted.

Immigration Records

Genealogy focuses on researching the lives of your ancestors and building a family tree or pedigree chart. This is different from a people search which helps you find living relatives.

Emigration records are among the wealthiest genealogical record sets. You can find some online.

The volunteer-run site has state pages organized by county, offering guides, records, and projects. You can also browse its collection of historical maps and photographs. The site offers a free genealogy tool. It also has paid membership options. It has more than 11 billion digitized records.

Passenger Lists

Tracing your ancestors’ journeys to and from America is an exciting undertaking. Passenger lists (also called immigration records) are readily available online.

Be aware that these records were transcribed from handwritten forms, so spellings can vary widely and be difficult to read. Try searching for alternate spellings and using soundex/sound-alike searches. You should also check the original images, as they often contain additional information not present in transcripts. Also, consider searching for the name of your ancestors’ ship and departure port. This will help narrow your search.

Birth Records

Genealogists seek birth, death, and marriage records as essential to researching family history.

Some venerable free sites offer how-to articles, surname and US location wikis, mailing lists, and pedigree files. They also host special projects, a narrative tool that helps turn your online family trees into ancestral stories. The site also features tools for enhancing and restoring old photos.

Marriage Records

Often, finding your genealogy information online can feel like assembling a puzzle with only one-third of the pieces. Fortunately, you can find many of the other pieces offline as well.

Online genealogy resources can help you unlock the past to discover relatives who have passed on and even those living today that you never knew about. Some people check their genealogy for health information or to see if they have any hidden wealth. Others enjoy researching their family history. The best genealogy websites will make your job easier regardless of why you do it.

Death Records

Genealogy is all about finding records of your ancestors. This includes death records.

The less privacy-sensitive of the three vital records, death certificates are often available online. They may include the cause of death, birth dates, parents’ names, and other details.

It features digitized images of death certificates, obituaries, and more. It’s also an excellent place to find links to other genealogy sites and resources. You can also search for volunteer genealogists who do lookups on this site.

Land Records

An extensive collection of volunteer-transcribed genealogy data from around the world can be found online. Search the leading site or individual state pages for guides, records, transcriptions, links, etc.

If you need help finding a particular document to prove to look for your ancestry, ask for help at reputable websites or a network of volunteers who perform lookups.

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