Find Your Family: Helpful Tips for Genealogical Research


Genealogy research offers tons of information on deceased and living relatives. Most people can locate long lost ancestry by using some or all of the following tools. Oral history from living relatives enables researchers to collect basic information while more advanced tools like county records often contain in depth information and records. All of these tools and techniques can be combined to give the most in depth and factual genealogy. 

Oral History

Oral history is one of the easiest ways for a person to get started with genealogy. A simple interview with living relatives can provide genealogy seekers with tons of information. Living relatives can provide date of birth estimates, past residences, and names that are immensely important in any genealogy search. 

Family Archives

Family archives are sometimes available and offer tremendous clues. Old photos, diaries, and wills are just a few of the things that lots of families have saved as heirlooms. Family archives can give great clues to other family members, siblings, spouses, as well as very important dates and time lines. Many family archives are also readily available online.

Federal Census of Population

Federal Census of Population reports offer tons of information. These reports detail household members, ages of family members, as well as spouses, and location lived. These reports are very valuable for determining fact and fiction. A common problem with genealogy research is that often there are a lot of people with common names. The census reports allow a user to compare and contrast previously obtained data in order to make sure the correct person is being put into a family tree.

  • This U.S. Census Website offers free access to census data gathered by the Federal government.

Passenger Arrival Lists

Passenger arrival lists are effective for finding ancestry outside of the United States. Most United States citizens immigrated at some point and arrival lists provide information on origin. The name of the ship, place of arrival, and departure are readily accessible through these lists. Many relatives can be found using a simple search. Some may be more difficult to locate due to surname changes. Many immigrants changed their last names to some degree in order to more effectively assimilate. 

Naturalization Records

Naturalization records offer additional information that is not provided by the passenger arrival lists. These records give more detailed information such as distinguishing marks, hair color, etc. They also offer dates of birth and other important information to make genealogy searches more effective and accurate. The more detailed the information-the better.

Newspaper Directories

Newspaper directories offer a wealth of information. Commonly obituaries are saved and recorded in large databases. Surviving relatives are usually listed and can even provide additional clues into ancestry. Often, spouses and past residences are listed. Military backgrounds are usually given recognition that provides even more clues.

City Directories

City directories can provide information on living relatives. Phone book searches are readily done online and many times addresses are even listed. City directories compile data annually and offer occupation information, yearly income, and even ethnic background data. This is a very useful tool for locating living relatives.

Voter Registration Cards

Voter registration cards are somewhat effective at verifying information and adding additional residences. Sometimes these offer small pieces of information that can be useful. Most of the information will also be found on Federal Census reports, but this tool can be used as a fact checker. Not everyone was registered to vote, so these reports may not be extremely useful.

Church Records

Church records are a great way to find information on ancestor’s lineage. Most baptismal and marriage records contain parental information. Discovering parent’s names and dates of birth are an important aspect in genealogy searches. This can also provide religious backgrounds and additional family ties.

Cemetery Records

Cemetery records contain information on year and place of death. They also provide an excellent resource for determining additional surviving family members. Many families have plots designated for kin and have a lot of data on even deceased relatives. Place of death is important because it can be readily cross-referenced to the social security death index.

Family Histories

Family histories are oftentimes compiled by professional genealogists and researchers. Historically famous family members often have detailed family histories. Most historical societies have access to volumes of family histories and provide great tools for organization. Historical societies are a great resource for tracing lineage and gaining access to restricted historical data. Copies of family histories are often difficult to locate without the help of professional historical societies.

  • The  National Historical Society offers a great example of what types of collection and assistance that may be available to individuals seeking ancestry information.

County Records

County records may contain information on locally famous citizens within that particular county. Often county records will contain property deeds, wills, and other difficult-to-locate documents. The majority of people will not be found in county records making this a tough tool to use. An additional problem with county records is that a person seeking information may need to visit that county. Certain documents may be available online, but most are stored in archives. 

Organizational Records

Organizational records such as social clubs may have some information on deceased relatives. The difficulty is that many clubs did not hold on to records and locating them may be difficult. Tracing social club affiliation is also difficult to learn about, unless family diaries or extensive documents have been passed down. Most of the records are not housed in libraries or other archives and will be nearly impossible to locate.

Internet Sources

Internet sources are the most effective way to find basic genealogy information. Much work and research has been put into compiling data and making it accessible to more people. Lots of data has been scanned and compiled into photo documents. Most resources are now readily available online. A simple search engine search can locate living and deceased relatives with the click of a button. 

  • The U.S. Gen Web site is determined to keeping genealogy free and offers tons of information and collections.