10 Tips for finding your family history using MyHeritage Library Edition

MyHeritageLibraryThe golden rule in family history research is to work backwards from what you already know. It is not necessary to have much detail to start, but it does makes sense to log whatever information is readily available and to seek out further details from relatives. From there, you can delve deeper into your research.

Here are 10 practical tips to help you get started or move forward on a family history journey as well as information on some of the many tools that MyHeritage Library Edition offers to enable you to make amazing family history discoveries:

1) Clearly Define Your Goal
Before you begin your family history research, focus on what you want to achieve. Is it solving a family mystery? Learning more about relatives on your father’s side? If you decide to pursue more than one line, be sure to keep your research organized and file the results separately to avoid confusion.

2) Focus on Surnames First
When viewing census records, for example, it’s not uncommon to find a relative listed with their formal birth name in one record, and then listed under a nickname in another. Search for surnames first to yield relevant results. Sometimes the first name is listed as the surname. Also, search for middle names that are often replaced as the given name in records.

3) Be Mindful of Nicknames and other Naming Variations
When looking for an individual, search by initials or shortened versions such as Al or Alex for Alexander. Try alternate name spellings that sound similar, like Aaron and Erin, for more results. If you’re searching for a William, look for other variations such as Bill, Vilhelm, Guillaume and Guglielmo. Don’t have a full name? You can also search by date of birth/death and other details such as relative names you already know.

4) Thoroughly Research Old Family Photographs
Go through old family photographs and see how many people you recognize. Show the photos to older relatives to help jog their memory. Ask them to identify as many faces as possible, so that this information is preserved. If you found new details about unknown relatives in family photos, you can now search records about them and add them to your family tree.

5) Focus Your Search Geographically
Do you know specific places or regions for the records you’re searching? Filter searches by geographic region to narrow results. This is especially beneficial when your family tree contains surnames that are common across multiple countries/regions.

6) Utilize Keywords to Increase the Relevance of your Search Results
When searching, employ as many keywords as you can. The more facts that you know, the more you can leverage them as keywords to help refine your search results. Consider keywords related to facts about weddings, tombstone details, birth dates, etc.

7) Search Specific Collections Individually
If a general search yields too many results, try focusing your search on a specific collection such as a particular census year, collection of marriage records, etc. With MyHeritage Library Edition, you can utilize its helpful Summary mode to explore specific collections individually, such as marriage, death, birth, census or immigration records. This can help you stay focused while digging through larger collections of records.

8) Carefully Investigate Dates
Decipher and record event dates and other important details. Always look at the original context of the event and, ideally, at the document in which it was first recorded to avoid errors in understanding when the event actually occurred.

9) Put Record Detective to Work for You
In MyHeritage Library Edition, you can take full advantage of Record Detective™ while searching, which recommends additional records for each record discovered, helping you discover a lot more in less time. For example, a newspaper article or obituary may lead to more records of relatives. A marriage record will tell information about spouses, and census records will give information of all those living in the same household.

10) Stay Organized
Last, but certainly not least, organize all of your data in alphabetical order, and always cite sources with as much detail as possible in order to make it easier to search through documents later. There’s nothing as frustrating as losing a critical piece of data simply because you didn’t keep it organized.

Start using MyHeritage Library Edition today, it’s free with your LVCCLD Library card!

Tips for Researching Your Family Tree. Start with Heritage Quest Online at the Library.

tips for tracing your family history1)    List what you already know
When you’re getting started, one of the most important things to remember is to work backwards. Many people want to start their research with a family member who was a Civil War soldier, or something similar, but that could lead you down the wrong line of descent. It is even more critical to work backward if your family surname is common. You don’t want to spend a lot of time researching only to find that you were tracing the wrong John Smith. The best approach is to simply start with yourself and work from the present day to the past.

2)    Interview relatives
This step appears to be easy, but can pose a possible setback if you have relatives who aren’t particularly chatty. Be sure to ask your family members whether anybody has already started researching the family history; this can eliminate duplicating work that may already be done.

If you should be so lucky, speak to the family member who started tracing the family history or get a copy of his or her research. This may uncover leads for you to research further. Older generations may know the occupations that family members held, where they are buried, and they may have other stories that you can search for in historical newspapers. This information can provide a place to start.

3)    Get death records
This goes back to working in reverse chronological order. The most recent record of an individual will be the death record. For this reason, death records are much more common than birth records. In the U.S., death records are kept on a state-by-state basis; therefore, some are available online and others require you to mail in a request to receive a copy of the death certificate. There will likely be a fee (which varies by state and/or county), and you may have to provide proof that you are related to the person whose record you are requesting due to privacy laws.

A death record will provide many clues about the individual: the names of parents, spouse, residence and and where they were buried, their occupation, religion, and even cause of death.

4)    Follow death record clues
Once you have the clues from the death record, you can narrow your research! Search birth records by date, in the county of the birth. The birth record will reveal more information to lead you down the right ancestral line.

It is important to keep in mind that while the death certificate can provide plenty of helpful hints, it is not always accurate and reliable. The person that died is not filling out the form, of course, so the information comes from the person who is providing the information on the deceased’s behalf.

5)    Search census records
The purpose of using a census record is to discover and validate where the person lived and who is in the family. Many people start their research with census records. The census lists the individuals living in the household – even relatives, servants, farmhands – and provides their name, age, gender, and birthplace. It may also give their occupation, and whether the head of household rents or own the home, and the value of the property.

Census records are the most popular documents in tracing family history, but sometimes for one reason or another, you may not find your family in census records. If that’s the case, there are other helpful records to try.

Many cities kept their own directories, backed by private enterprises, that listed the residents and their addresses. There are also the state censuses, which are not conducted in the same year as the federal census.

It may also be possible that you’re looking in the wrong county. County boundaries settled around 1920, but throughout the 1800’s and early 1900’s, boundaries often changed. HeritageQuest® Online provides a digital version of the Map Guide to the U.S. – US Federal Census 1790-1920, allowing you to look up county boundaries by both state and year.     For help with printing Census pages view Printing_Enlarged_Census_Images-Acrobat_Reader_8-9.

6)    Search local sources

Once you verify names and locations, you can start looking in the local publications for stories about your family and the area. Historical newspapers are great sources of personal stories, birth notices and obituaries.

Obituaries can offer rich details about the deceased’s life, including the names of other family members. However, not everything is available on the Internet. You may need to do some on-site research, and the local librarian can help.

7)    Don’t forget
Maps can provide many helpful details while tracing your family tree. Resources like Digital Sanborn® Maps and Historic Map Works Library Edition provide the size and type of the family home, business or property, and can reveal other possible ancestors who may be neighbors.

Don’t forget to check immigration records, as most of us have ancestors who immigrated to the United States at one point. Ancestry® Library Edition has passenger lists for all major ports and has digitized these immigration records. Also, don’t automatically assume that your family changed their surname when they immigrated. Instead, it may have been misspelled on the records.

Many of our male ancestors served in the military. Military records, like the service and pension records, are accessible in databases like Fold3, which includes fascinating stories and photos as well.

The more corroborating records you can find, the more genealogical proof you have that you’re following the right ancestral line.
For more help, visit the library’s Hot Topic – Genealogy under subject heading General

With a lot of free resources and advice, your library is a great place to celebrate Family.