Genealogy Advice & Resources https://www.geneosity.com Genealogy Articles, Guides, Research Advice and Forms Thu, 14 Sep 2017 15:28:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Acadian Genealogy And The Intriguing Story It Tells https://www.geneosity.com/acadian-genealogy-intriguing-story-tells/ Wed, 05 Jul 2017 18:42:25 +0000 http://geneosity.com/?p=2775 Acadian Genealogy has its roots in the small niche of French immigrants across the Atlantic Ocean to the colony of Acadia that began and continued through the early and middle 1600s.  Acadia was comprised of lands that are now referred to as Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Their story is an intriguing one, as the first group ... Read More

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Acadian Genealogy has its roots in the small niche of French immigrants across the Atlantic Ocean to the colony of Acadia that began and continued through the early and middle 1600s.  Acadia was comprised of lands that are now referred to as Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

Their story is an intriguing one, as the first group of immigrants included about two dozen families.  Their population grew from hundreds to thousands quite as organically as you can imagine, but took over 125 years to reach the population and decendency of over 10,000 people.

Being that the Acadian colony and territory was acquired by the British in the 1700s, there became a conflict of interest with such a concentration of French settlers in the area.  By the mid-1700s there was a mass deportation and imprisonment of Acadians believed not to be loyal to the British Crown.

Their history and genealogy is especially interesting.  In history when there’s a population rounded up and deported to another part of the world, their stories are some of the best reading that you can find.  A pair of my own great-great grandparents the victim to a “forced migration” from Germany in the early 1800s and there’s ample evidence of their struggle and embarrassment from being “unwanted” by their home country.   The Acadian story is different in nature, but it’s clear that their lives weren’t easy ones, with the influence of territorial rulers judging and casting them out from their home lands.

You can read a bit more about the Acadians on this page if you would like to learn more general background.

We’ve recently been in contact with a gentleman who’s father and family reign from Acadian ancestry, and it became his father’s passion to research and document all that he could about them.  The result was a body of work that is profound in scope, and has assisted thousands of people in linking their roots to Acadian families.  Below is the story from Denis Cyr of acadian.org

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My Father (late Yvon Cyr) was a successful business man who held numerous high level positions in the appliance industry. He worked for a few different national companies before he was forced to retire at a young age.

At this time, Dad struggled with not knowing what to do with his free time. Having been a busy business man, the free time was too much, and he felt he needed a hobby. When his Uncle Roch began talking to Yvon about their family history Dad became very curious. He started researching his own family history. He sought primary sources like church documents, obituaries, libraries, museums, community census reports, he spoke with people and learned their stories and related with their own searches.

Genealogy is a complex tapestry, as soon as one name is found, it unravels the need to find 2 more, and then 4 more, then 8 more, then 16 more and more and more! Acadian Genealogy became a passion for my Dad more than a past-time. He shared his research with others helping to link them to their family histories. And in the process he created a data-base of over 900,000 lineage linked individual names. OH and he did ALL his research BEFORE the advent of the internet!

Dad dedicated the last 2 decades of his life researching Acadian Genealogy. His research connects centuries worth family lineage, re-connecting cousins, long-lost due to the Great Acadian Expulsion that occurred between 1755-1764. The Acadians were deported to places in America, England and France. Approximately 11,500 Acadians were deported, however some eluded capture and about 2600 remained. Dad saw the 1000’s of shattered families as a challenge he wanted to try to piece back together.

After the data-base was created in 1994, Dad created his first CD called “In Search of our Acadian Roots” as a CD-ROM. This CD-ROM has approx. 400,000 lineage-linked individuals. As the research continued, more and more data was found.   With the introduction of the internet, things were changing fast. Dad wanted to keep up. He felt the need to create a second CD in 1999 called “Acadian-Cajun Family Tree”, and many additional surnames were added on this CD. He made this one accessible for all Window versions and for Mac computers. This CD holds 600,000 lineage-linked individuals. As years passed and more and more research was established, Dad decided that his data-base could be made more user friendly by personalizing data into Family CD’s and created one per family surname. Any surnames that were more than 1000 lineage linked individual were created as a personalized CD.

When Dad passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on September 5, 2012, from an accidental fall, we were all in shock. We were so ill prepared for the loss! As a family, we knew it was important to keep his legacy alive, to keep making his research available to anyone searching for their roots. We knew it was what he would have wanted. It has been an enormous task preserving Dad’s work. But we know he is with us, watching over us and guiding us.

—–

If you want to learn more or might wonder if a French surname in your family tree could be Acadian, please visit www.acadian.org to take advantage of the vast resources there to assist you.   If you’ve had trouble tracing a French ancestor in North America prior to the 19th century this might be the missing link you’ve been looking for.

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The Genealogy Interview and Three Ingredients to Success https://www.geneosity.com/genealogy-interview-three-ingredients-success/ Fri, 19 May 2017 14:57:51 +0000 http://geneosity.com/?p=2762 One of the most rewarding types of ancestry and family tree research is conducting the genealogy interview. If you haven’t added this to your task list, you’re missing out. You’re also in for some really nice surprises! These 3 tips below, will help make this experience a total success. Choosing Who To Interview Elderly relatives are a frequent and the ... Read More

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One of the most rewarding types of ancestry and family tree research is conducting the genealogy interview.

If you haven’t added this to your task list, you’re missing out. You’re also in for some really nice surprises!

These 3 tips below, will help make this experience a total success.

Choosing Who To Interview

Elderly relatives are a frequent and the most obvious choice. Also consider middle-aged relatives who may remember stories from those that have passed.

Additional options are some of the more distant relatives that aren’t often on your radar, in addition to elder family friends, previous neighbors or anyone that may have had a relationship with the family that you’re researching.

For identifying these potential sources we can look to census records and birth, death and other public genealogy records. In these we’ll find the names of individuals that lived nearby and others that were close enough to the family to be included as a witness, sponsor or godparent.

What can make interviewing really fun is interviewing two people at once!

If you have a pair of elder siblings or cousins chatting, almost every time there will be a fragment of a memory brought up by one that the other remembers vividly but would never have thought about the event or story otherwise.

In the “remembering” department you’ll be impressed to discover how well they feed each other tidbits to collaborate on.

Prepare Open Ended Questions

Include a number of open-ended questions that leaves the person being interviewed to ability to elaborate. Factual questions are really important, such as dates and names, etc.., but often you can gain as much value from open ended questions also.

There’s no better way to shake the nuts and fruits out of the family tree than by asking good open-ended questions. Here are some examples of good questions to ask:

  • How would you describe the type of person that a certain family member was?
  • What’s your most vivid memory of a certain family happening or event?
  • Why do you think a certain family event or choice or relationship dynamic happened or existed?
  • Who were the “out of touch” relatives and cousins that you didn’t see or hear about often, and why was that the case?
  • What friends or acquaintances of the family were treated like family and why?
  • Who was the oldest surviving relative that you remember from when you were young, and what do you remember about them?
  • Who else would be useful for me to interview, and what would they be able to share with me?

genealogy interview tipsFamily stories can go hand-in-hand with genealogy and family tree research. If you do enough interviewing you’ll learn the names of connected individuals you’d never have considered or known about. Meanwhile you’ll gain a feel for the lifestyle and disposition of ancestors in your line.

There’s absolutely no doubt that the blood and certain characteristics of these individuals are still present and flowing in your own blood. If you doubt this just ask a seasoned family historian about intriguing parallels in personality and physical attributes passed from one generation to the next, and the next.

Plan Your Documentation and Keep a Record

Family history discussions often fall off track and change subjects that aren’t in line with the goal of the interview. Planning in advance the specific questions to ask, and keeping careful notes as to the responses of these questions is important.

If you don’t have a way to record the interview, then download our free Genealogy Interview Form in Microsoft Word.  This should get you started.

It’s wonderful to hear the stories and other details but we have to remain disciplined at the same time. You should plan your interview carefully and make note of exactly what information you’re seeking ahead of time. Follow this list as a checklist that you fill in and continue to the next topic during the interview.

Be sure to collect the who, what, where, when, why, and how information carefully. Keep in mind that when you’re collecting an oral history that you’re observing what people can remember to the best of their ability. The interview may present some inconsistencies in data. Be careful not to absurdly correct the person you’re interviewing. Just roll with it and be very respectful of them.

When an elder family member is asked to do an interview this is taken as a compliment. In effect, they are the teacher and you are the student, or at least this is often the viewpoint of the person providing the interview. It’s an honor for them to be asked to do this, so do your best to show the deep respect they are looking forward to.

Don’t initiate an interview without a pointed goal as to what information you hope to attain. It can help to communicate in advance what the pertinent details you’ll hope to learn about. If there’s any preparation needed, you’ll get far better results from previewing the goals of the interview ahead of time.

It is also very important for you to be prepared! Make sure that you’re as familiar as possible with the names and events that may make their way into the conversation. Be prepared that the contributor may reference someone as Jack instead of John, use nicknames and other indirect references also.

For best results keep a list, worksheet and/or other supporting documents necessary to collect and organize the data you’ll be accumulating. Keep a notebook handy so that you can take notes continually. Interview discussions often “circle back” to a previous topic. If you make note of the names mentioned and the byline of topics it will be easier to keep the conversation on track and prevent repeating items that were already mentioned for the sake of clarity.

Some Other Thoughts for a Successful Genealogy Interview

Please be respectful of the amount of time that you’re asking the contributor to give you.   That’s where your preparation can help.

Interviewing for genealogy and family tree research is one of my favorite activities. I try to keep an active list of people that I can and should interview, and try to do interviews with new people every few months. Interviews can provide insight and information you’ll never find anywhere else.

If you keep good records and notes of interviews you’ll really be providing future researchers with an invaluable resource and source of interest.

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Genealogy Interview Form https://www.geneosity.com/genealogy-interview-form/ Fri, 19 May 2017 14:21:28 +0000 http://geneosity.com/?p=2755 One of the most effective ways to get genealogy information is by interviewing your family members. Unfortunately, we often chat with them without taking notes. If we take notes, its usually just scribbled on a piece of paper. We created this free two-page Genealogy Interview Form to provide a record for each individual you interview. The table at the top ... Read More

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One of the most effective ways to get genealogy information is by interviewing your family members. Unfortunately, we often chat with them without taking notes. If we take notes, its usually just scribbled on a piece of paper.

We created this free two-page Genealogy Interview Form to provide a record for each individual you interview. The table at the top includes the basic information about the interview then information about their origin and direct family members. Most common information such as education, profession and military background is included on the front page as this data should be asked at every interview.

The front page includes an area to summarize the interview for quick reference. One of the key questions is to ask your family member if there are any other individuals they would suggest interviewing. So we added this question to the bottom of the first page.

Download Genealogy Interview Form – Microsoft Word

Genealogy Interview Form Record

Genealogy Interview Form – Page 1

Genealogy Interview Form Questions

Genealogy Interview Form – Page 2

The second page allows you to add a heading and provides blank spaces for you to add your own interview questions. The file is in Microsoft Word format so you can edit the form and fill in specific questions. You can save different version of the second page and print it multiple times.

Access Genealogy Forms Bundle

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Tidbits: Don’t Neglect The Neighboring Record https://www.geneosity.com/tidbits-dont-neglect-the-neighboring-record/ Wed, 12 Apr 2017 01:00:59 +0000 http://geneosity.com/?p=192 Don’t Neglect The Neighboring Genealogical Record, 2nd edition.  Updated 2017 Something that happens often is that while researching your family tree you find yourself looking at the image records over and over again. That’s something that I do frequently. They are just plain interesting to review, and So Often I eventually discover a hidden nugget of information that I wasn’t ... Read More

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Don’t Neglect The Neighboring Genealogical Record, 2nd edition.  Updated 2017

Something that happens often is that while researching your family tree you find yourself looking at the image records over and over again. That’s something that I do frequently. They are just plain interesting to review, and So Often I eventually discover a hidden nugget of information that I wasn’t originally looking for!  I prefer to review the original record when it’s not too inconvenient. Original image records are one of the greatest things brought to the internet for genealogy research. Things that can be seen with your own eyes are the handwritten records of the census, voter registrations, draft cards, passport applications and more.

By the nature of these records there are hidden details that can be an interesting, promising, and sometimes beneficial links to other information. If you look hard enough you’ll find information about your family on pages that are not indexed or search-able by their name or surname. Let me share.

Searching adjacent records in genealogy research

Any census record located at the top or the bottom of a page warrants checking the neighboring record or page for more relevant data.

Census Records: When you see an ancestor’s family in a census record, you’re viewing the work of the census taker who literally worked his/her way down the street stopping door-to-door to collect the necessary information. Have you ever found just part of your family listed either on the top or at the bottom of the page?  If your family is at the bottom of a page you must click the “next page” or “next image” to see if more family is continued on the next page.

The opposite is true if your ancestors are the first names at the top of the page, where you need to check the “previous page/image” to see if there are any more individuals there. Regardless, even if your genealogical ancestors are in the middle of the page it should be a matter of practice to just scan the previous and then the following page and look through the names. An older sibling may have moved out of the family’s primary residence to rent a room next door or three doors down from a neighbor.

Relatives and friends often lived in the same neighborhoods for long periods through their lives. Keep on the lookout when looking among the neighbors for names that look familiar.

There can be a child’s future spouse’s family; There may be a witness or god-parent to a family member; There may be witnesses on birth or death certificates, participants from weddings and other individuals that over time grew very close to your family and took part in major events good and bad with them. My family had just that. We discovered a recurring name from wedding books, random notes, and even found the name on grave stones NEXT to our family plot at the cemetery. We found one living person from that family, and she was in her nineties. She was the only living person left that personally knew my great grandmother.  They were neighbors when she was growing up and her parents were “best friends” with my great grandparents. As a child she knew and could still describe people that no other remaining, living individual could tell us about.

U.S. Passport Applications: The passport applications found on Ancestry.com contain such good information. They tell where a person was born, their birthdate, where they currently lived, physical description of the person, occupation, and might be one of the only concrete “emigration” data sets you’ll find on a person. Also MANY RECORDS INCLUDED A PICTURE of the individual! Needless to say I love this source. For most people there is more than one page of information but the only page indexed with their name is the application page. There might be letters of authorization for a passport from a state agency, war department or an organization like the Knights of Columbus, birth certificates, naturalization certificates, etc..

One passport application I found has a letter seeking authorization to allow someone to travel oversees to take part in an event in which the “Champion Wrestlers of America” was participating in. This was from 1918. Just funny. Check several pages before and after the “listed page” for your family tree member. There can be lots and lots of different types of information in there but it is easy to overlook because the other pages are not indexed to your individual’s name.

Military and Draft Registrations:  These records can also be viewed in sequential order from an original scanned archive.  Sometimes you’ll see relatives, friends and even co-workers of the registrant (because occupation and employer’s name are usually included) in an adjacent record because they traveled to the registration office together and were literally standing in line together.

From the original post date of this article in 2010 there are literally billions more records online compared to back then.  There are so many types of records available and they are FAR faster and easier to access than they used to be!  Browse neighboring records whenever you can, if even just for fun.  There are so many interesting things to discover by means of pure curiosity.

As a general rule I always take a second look at the neighboring record any time I’m viewing an image archive stored in page-by-page order, or in a numerically-organized record format from the source.

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I’ve Hit a Brick Wall… Now What? https://www.geneosity.com/ive-hit-a-brick-wall-now-what/ Tue, 11 Apr 2017 13:00:50 +0000 http://geneosity.com/?p=2536 Brick Walls in Genealogy and Family Tree research, 2nd edition.  Updated 2017 It happens to everyone. You’re chugging along, having a fantastic time learning about your family tree and sharing with your relatives all of the fascinating facts you’ve discovered. And then it happens. You find that certain someone in your tree that, no matter how hard you try, you ... Read More

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Brick Walls in Genealogy and Family Tree research, 2nd edition.  Updated 2017

It happens to everyone. You’re chugging along, having a fantastic time learning about your family tree and sharing with your relatives all of the fascinating facts you’ve discovered.

And then it happens.

You find that certain someone in your tree that, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to get any further.

Maybe you’re stuck with a “jump across the pond” (i.e. you lose the paper trail at the time of their immigration). It could be that all you have is a name; maybe your great-great-grandmother is listed as living with one of her children in a census record, but you have no other information.

Once you’ve spent hours (or days…or weeks…) trying unsuccessfully to make progress, what can you do to break through that brick wall?

Give it time.

I know that you just want to keep pushing and searching, but quite often the best approach is to wait. With services like Ancestry.com and FamilySearch continually updating their available records, you could very well come back after some time away and find that the one piece of information you needed is now readily accessible.  Often new matches will begin appearing in Ancestry if you take a break from that particular record and move on to something else for a while.

Go lateral.

No, I’m not talking about football! Finding lateral lines — cousins, spouses of siblings, etc. — provides a surprising amount of insights. It’s not uncommon to find a census record showing a brother living with his sister’s family after he was widowed , or an obituary included with a burial record that reveals the names of extended family members.

Reach out on social media.

Are you working with an unusual last name, or a family that tended to live in one specific geographic area? A quick search of Facebook or even LinkedIn might open new avenues.

Be sure that you’re checking all of the available records with a broader and wider search.

Reference our article on using Soundex search results to find misspellings and phonetic equivalents to the proper spellings of names.  Many census and immigration records were created on the verbal account of the subject’s information dictated to the information collector.  These jobs required long days and tolerating lots of redundancy so there are lots of strange and odd entries that don’t seem to match but eventually do.  Thompson written as Thompsen or Smith written as Smyth are good examples.  If a census taker met with a family recently who spelled their name Thompsen it wasn’t out of the norm for the census taker to assume the family four blocks away are related and spell their name the same.

Also if you’re using census data and can’t find your relatives, something that sometimes works is to search for the neighbors of a previous or later census.  Odd tactic for sure, but as streets are re-named and district lines are re-drawn sometimes people seem to have moved but haven’t.  Occasionally neighbors become so close that when a family relocates the close neighbors do too.  If there are strange non-family names present on death records or marriage records or other records they often are neighbors that are so close they are akin to being family.   Another tip: Neighbors in the cemetery may present clues also.  That can be a stretch, but an odd named monument in the family plot is usually a really close friend of the family that had no other family themselves.

Use records of the undertakers.

Using cemetery data for genealogy

Records kept by the cemeteries themselves can contain useful genealogy clues.

Did you know that beyond the physical monuments and the obituaries from cemeteries and newspapers there is often a record kept with the various undertakers?   It can be a challenge to access these records but they definitely can be found if they still exist!  In our post Using Funeral Home Records we explain that most funeral homes keep and maintain long enduring records.  Not all of them do, but it is worth a shot.  We’re often asked “What if the funeral home no longer exists?”.  Sometimes funeral homes change hands or change names.  If the funeral home you’re looking for (because they are usually mentioned in the obituary) doesn’t seem to exist any longer check with other local funeral homes to see what ever happened to the one you’re looking for.  Start with the existing funeral homes nearest to the longest place of residence and the latest place of residence of the deceased, AND the cemetery.

Cemetery records also exist on the “office level”.  Some cemeteries have written and detailed records going way back.  Some even have written journals!  If these records exist you can expect to discover information absolutely unavailable elsewhere.  Some interesting finds might include:

  • Copies of old documents such as death certificates, death notices, and family plot charts or records.
  • Information on who arranged the burial, the original purchaser of the burial plot and any other names of people that may have been involved in the arrangements at the time.
  • Details of the burial itself such as whether the remains have ever been relocated.  If the family member you’re researching has ever had their remains  relocated this can produce a gold mine of new information!

If your family member was moved within the cemetery or to a different cemetery (perhaps a family plot was later purchased) then you’ll check the area of the original burial location for other family members, neighbors and any other detail about the original burial.  I actually have a great-grandmother with two different death certificates because she was moved from a “pauper’s grave” where she was originally buried, into a family plot bought later on.  The deceased’s original death certificate wasn’t accessible at the time they moved her remains so they needed a new certificate issued (by the way the first name was different between the two, with one as Rosina, and the latter certificate calling her Rosa).

Shell out the cash.

It can be quite costly to pay for access to “gated sources” of archived information but in many cases it is necessary.   When you’re really stuck there may be no other place to turn than to pay for official copies of civil documents from a courthouse or the membership fee to a website.  Usually however, a month’s membership to one of these sites usually provides enough time to search and find the records you’re looking for.

For those truly insurmountable obstacles, it may be time to hire a professional, especially if you are unable to physically go to the locale where your ancestor’s records may be located (i.e. you live in Bristol, Wisconsin, and your great-grandmother died in Bristol, England).

No one likes to hit a brick wall. In the meantime, try to take a deep breath, try one or more of the steps above, and gently remind yourself that your ancestors aren’t going anywhere.

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The Best Free Genealogy Sites and Online Resources https://www.geneosity.com/best-free-genealogy-sites/ Mon, 18 Jul 2016 14:43:50 +0000 http://geneosity.com/?p=2646 “Ouch! That genealogy website subscription is really expensive! Do I really want to pay that just to find out where great-grandpa came from?” If you are beginning your search for your ancestors, you may have asked yourself this question. Genealogy websites give researchers access to historical records from all over the world. What you once had to search for in dusty ... Read More

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“Ouch! That genealogy website subscription is really expensive! Do I really want to pay that just to find out where great-grandpa came from?”

If you are beginning your search for your ancestors, you may have asked yourself this question. Genealogy websites give researchers access to historical records from all over the world. What you once had to search for in dusty books and microfilms are now at your fingertips online – for a price.  Don’t give up just yet, however. 

Internet Genealogy Can Be Free if You Know Where to Look

There are some very good genealogy resources online that are absolutely free. This article will discuss a few of the best free genealogy websites and what you can find at each site.

best-cyndislist

Cyndi’s List of Genealogy Websites

You will not find your ancestors on Cyndi’s List. What you will find is a comprehensive list of genealogy websites, alphabetized and indexed according to category. Founded in 1996 by Cyndi Howell of Puyallup, Washington, Cyndi’s list provides a database of over 300,000 genealogy links.

All of the links on the site are categorized and cross referenced, so it is easy to find websites that might have the information you are looking for. Cyndi includes all genealogy websites in her database, so some of the links offer information for free and some require a subscription. Be sure to read the terms of each website you visit.

Cyndi’s List is a great place to start if you are new to genealogy or if you are not sure that the information you need exists online. I have used Cyndi’s List in the past to find obscure websites that have actually helped me break through those genealogy “dead ends”.

To use Cyndi’s List, enter the type of record you are looking for, the country or region you want to research, or the specific record collection you want to locate in the search bar. The results of the search will give you a list of categories. From there you can click the link of the category that best fits your search, then scroll through the list of links that may contain the information you are looking for. If you don’t really know what to search for or if you prefer to browse categories, you can do so from the Cyndi’s List home page. Just click on the first letter of the category you wish to browse.

family search genealogy site

FamilySearch.org Genealogy Database

FamilySearch.org is an online database of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church. Abbreviated LDS, the church’s beliefs and doctrines include requiring members to research their ancestors. As a result, the church founded the Genealogical Society of Utah and began accumulating genealogical records from all over the world in 1938. The collection is now the world’s largest and includes over 3.5 billion images stored on microfilm, microfiche, and in digital files.

The Genealogical Society of Utah is now called FamilySearch and they offer access to historical records, family trees, and many other resources online for free. FamilySearch is the most comprehensive free genealogy site currently on the internet and users can find many records from many different countries here.

FamilySearch is one of the most frequently update free genealogy sites and continues to work to digitize records that are currently stored on microfilm and new records are added periodically, so if you don’t find what you are looking for, check back later.

You do not need to be a member of the LDS Church to use FamilySearch.org. It is helpful to sign up for a free account so that you can utilize all the functions of the site.

Another service that FamilySearch.org offers is access to microfilms that are not viewable on the website, but are available by loan to a local LDS Family History Center. A nominal fee applies here to cover mailing costs, but that fee allows you access to the records contained on the microfilm for a number of weeks. You do need to go to a local LDS Family History Center to view the records, so check for the one closest to you before you order any films.

U.S. GenWeb Project

The GenWeb Projects

The GenWeb Projects were founded in 1996 by volunteers who vowed to keep genealogy free on the internet. These projects are non-profit, non-commercial, and run entirely by volunteers who commit their time and resources to transcribing or uploading records to the internet.  This group of free genealogy sites consist of three main websites:

The US GenWeb Project – this website provides access to records and resources in the United States. The site organized by state and county.

The Canada GenWeb Project – this website includes records and resources in Canada and is organized by province and county.

The World GenWeb Project – access to records from all other countries can be found here. The site is organized by region and country.

Since the GenWeb projects rely on volunteers to maintain the databases, the records available through these websites are not consistent from area to area. The quality and amount of information you can locate is entirely dependent on how much work the volunteers responsible for the area put into the website. Some areas do not have any information, while others have many, many different record transcriptions or images. This will differ from county to county in a single state or province and from country to country on the World GenWeb site. It is worth checking the area you want to search, however, because some volunteers have put literally thousands of hours into adding information to these websites.

The GenWeb projects also include special records transcriptions projects that recruit individuals to submit individual or small groups of records in an effort to compile a larger database. The US and Canada GenWeb sites have compiled large databases of tombstone transcriptions, family bibles, and obituaries through these efforts.

Find a Grave Website for ancestors

Find A Grave Tombstone Transcriptions

Find A Grave offers a huge database of 149 million tombstone transcriptions and photographs from all over the world. The site was founded in 1995 by Jim Tipton of Salt Lake City, Utah, to feed his unusual hobby of visiting the graves of famous people. The database offered on the site has grown to the size it is now through individual contributions of transcriptions and photographs from over a million people. Jim continues to administer and maintain the site with help from a handful of others.

To locate records on Find A Grave, type a specific name in the search function. You can narrow the search by birth and death dates and by cemetery location. If you can’t find who you are looking for, you can also browse cemeteries by name, US county, or country.

ancestry rootsweb genealogy

Rootsweb Free Genealogy Resources & Community

Founded by Brian Leverich and Karen Issacson in 1997, Rootsweb is one of the free genealogy sites that depended on the work of volunteers and donations to operate. The site grew rapidly but could not function without an outside funding source, so the site merged with Ancestry.com in 2000. At the time Ancestry.com promised to keep Rootsweb free and they have upheld this promise to the present day.

Rootsweb is probably best known for its message boards, which claim to be the internet’s largest online genealogy community. Consisting of 198,000 message boards, researchers can post messages to other researchers here by surname, location or topic. You can also use the search function to search over 25 million posts. Some of the posts of the message boards date back to the 1990s, so make sure you check the date of an existing post before replying to a thread, as the person who posted it may no longer be active on the site.

Rootsweb also offers WorldConnect, a database of family trees posted by individual researchers. This database includes over 640 million names. You can search the database by surname or keyword and you can upload your own family tree. Rootsweb does require that you sign up for a free account to use the message board and WorldConnect functions.

Other Free Genealogy Sites

There are many more free websites that allow you to search for specific records. Here are a few more useful sites:

The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. – this site offers a search function that allows you to search the site’s database of passenger lists, including over 51 million passenger records.

The U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management – the bureau offers a searchable database of General Land Office records, including land patents, surveys and field notes, land status records, and control document index records. You can print copies of original records for free. Certified copies can also be ordered through the website for a fee.

Library and Archives Canada – the official archives site for the government of Canada, this website offers information and searchable databases for many Canadian records, including vital, census, military, immigration, and land records, as well as newspapers and other resources.

In addition to these free genealogy sites, many other local libraries and genealogical societies offer online records and resources, and many of these are free. Do an online search of genealogical records in the area where your ancestors lived to find out if any online records are available through local sources.

 

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Interesting Facts About Scottish Marriages https://www.geneosity.com/scottish-marriages/ Thu, 23 Jun 2016 14:06:08 +0000 http://geneosity.com/?p=2565 Unlike the rest of the UK, Scottish marriage laws were much more lenient. Under Scots law, there were three forms of “irregular marriage”. An irregular marriage could result from: mutual agreement, a public promise followed by consummation cohabitation and repute Also unlike English and Irish laws, the main ingredient in making a marriage legal in Scotland was not whether the ... Read More

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Unlike the rest of the UK, Scottish marriage laws were much more lenient. Under Scots law, there were three forms of “irregular marriage”. An irregular marriage could result from:

  • mutual agreement,
  • a public promise followed by consummation
  • cohabitation and repute

Also unlike English and Irish laws, the main ingredient in making a marriage legal in Scotland was not whether the ceremony took place in a Kirk or registrar’s office, but rather, there had to be mutual consent. That’s it. I agree, you agree, let’s get married.

Traditionally, in Scotland, a man and woman over the age of sixteen could be married by declaring themselves husband and wife in front of witnesses. This resulted in many young couples fleeing north of the border to Scotland in order to get married. Gretna Green was the first stagecoach changing post north of the Scottish Border on the main route between London and Edinburgh. This then became a very popular spot to marry.

gretna green

DSCF6451

Another Act of Parliament in 1857 (112 years later) imposed residential qualifications for those who married. By the new law, at least one of the partners need to live in Scotland for 21 days before they could marry. This didn’t pose the level of deterrence that the lawmakers had anticipated.

If you can’t find your ancestor anywhere in the marriage registers or parish registers for the “Proclamation of Banns” they may have had an “irregular” marriage. Naturally, the church disliked irregular marriages for a variety of reasons (morality and finances being the major two). Often, the church would summon the couple before the Kirk session to take their penance and pay their fine. The couple would then go to the local sheriff court, tell the story to them and then receive a warrant to take to the registrar to have the marriage registered.

The Kirk session records have been digitized but at the moment they are only available at the Scotland’s People Centre in Edinburgh. It is anticipated that the Kirk Session records will be made available online early in 2017.

They will make some fascinating reading!

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Citing a Genealogy Source https://www.geneosity.com/citing-genealogy-source/ Fri, 17 Jun 2016 13:07:05 +0000 http://geneosity.com/?p=2627 Now that you know the importance of documenting where you’ve gotten the information used in your family tree, let’s take a look at what goes into a properly-cited source. If you’re using an online service like FamilySearch or Ancestry, your work is mostly done for you as you can attach source documents directly to an individual’s record. It usually looks ... Read More

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Now that you know the importance of documenting where you’ve gotten the information used in your family tree, let’s take a look at what goes into a properly-cited source.

If you’re using an online service like FamilySearch or Ancestry, your work is mostly done for you as you can attach source documents directly to an individual’s record. It usually looks something like this:

HeritageQuestOnline, “Trabert, Mathias (1900 U.S. Census)” (accessed 23 January 2009). T623 Roll:439 Page 115. Iowa, Jefferson, Lockridge Twp. !Original SOURCE: United States. Census Office. 12th census, 1900 population census schedules (Washington, D.C.: Bureau of the Census Micro-Film Laboratory, [197-]).

And, if it’s not automatically entered into your tree, you can always copy-paste and insert into your family tree software or online record. Simple!

Depending on your software, you might even be able to enter a source once (e.g. FindAGrave.com) and then save it to your source list. The next time you need to enter it, you can just click on that source, rather than having to enter the information all over again. Who doesn’t like to save time? 🙂

While there are many opinions out there as to the “correct” way to cite various kinds of sources (e.g. books, conversations, websites, etc.), the most important part is to be as thorough as possible. In this way, you and those who come after you – from your own descendants to fellow researchers – will have an easier time following your trail.

A word to the wise: experienced genealogists will tell you that you should document your sources as you go! If you wait until days, weeks, or even months after you’ve entered a piece of information to enter the source, you may have a difficult time remembering where you found it!

It may seem tedious at first, but citing your sources in as much detail as possible is definitely worth your time.

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Third Cousin Once Removed? How do I know? https://www.geneosity.com/third-cousin-removed-know/ Thu, 09 Jun 2016 12:54:08 +0000 http://geneosity.com/?p=2621 One of the first questions I get asked, when people find out of my interest in genealogy is “what about all that cousins first removed stuff’? Sometimes that is not a simple answer. But for you readers, help is just a click away. The internet has many charts that show family relationships. Below I have links to a few of ... Read More

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One of the first questions I get asked, when people find out of my interest in genealogy is “what about all that cousins first removed stuff’?

Sometimes that is not a simple answer. But for you readers, help is just a click away.

The internet has many charts that show family relationships. Below I have links to a few of my favorites.

To use a family relationship chart, you need to find a common ancestor between two people. The chart will give you directions to follow to find the relationship.

Here are a few notes of interest to help you along this, sometimes confusing, journey.

First cousin is the child of my aunt and uncle or people in my family who have the same grandparents as me.

Second cousins have the same great grandparents as me, but not the same grandparents.

Third cousins have the same great great grandparents, etc…

And so on!

What does “removed” mean?   This indicates the number of generations I am separated from another relative from a common ancestor.  A cousin once removed means a difference of one generation.

Check out these great family relationship charts!
Family Tree Relationship Chart

Cyndi’s List Kinships

It’s All Relative

Genealogy in Time Magazine

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Dig Up Your Past for Free Using FindaGrave.com https://www.geneosity.com/dig-past-using-findagrave-com/ https://www.geneosity.com/dig-past-using-findagrave-com/#comments Tue, 17 May 2016 13:43:05 +0000 http://geneosity.com/?p=2604 One of the best free resources for finding burial records, obituaries, and more is FindAGrave.com. The entries come from predominantly North American cemeteries, but there are a handful of records from around the world: over 132 million total records are currently available. The site allows you to search by name, with the option to include maiden names as well, or ... Read More

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One of the best free resources for finding burial records, obituaries, and more is FindAGrave.com. The entries come from predominantly North American cemeteries, but there are a handful of records from around the world: over 132 million total records are currently available.

The site allows you to search by name, with the option to include maiden names as well, or by cemetery. You can also choose to do a partial name search using the last name. For instance, if you know that the person you’re researching had a last name that was something like “Johanson”, you can look for names that contain all or part of that spelling.

One of the truly remarkable resources available through FindAGrave.com is the ability to request the help of a researcher located near a cemetery that interests you – at no cost to you. Some of the entries on the site are text-only, so you can request that a local volunteer take a photo of the headstone or other memorial at the actual location of the burial site. You will need to register for a free account in order to make the request, but the sign-up process is very simple.

Many of the entries are submitted by volunteers as well; they may enter obituaries from their local newspapers as part of the record, leaving you with a wealth of information that goes far beyond a birthdate, death date, and cemetery location.

Who knows? You could even decide you want to become a volunteer yourself!

If you do receive requests for photographs of a cemetery in your area, you are always welcome to decline. In our experience, however, most of the requests received have been “claimed” by another volunteer before having a chance to read the email!

However you choose to use it, FindAGrave.comcould become the next valuable tool in your research toolbox.

Happy hunting!

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Do You Have Canadian Roots? Plan to Attend the Great Canadian Genealogy Summit https://www.geneosity.com/do-you-have-canadian-roots-plan-to-attend-the-great-canadian-genealogy-summit/ Fri, 06 May 2016 11:35:11 +0000 http://geneosity.com/?p=2442 MARK YOUR CALENDARS!! The Great Canadian Genealogy Summit will be held at the Courtyard Marriott, Brampton from Oct 21-23 2016. On October 21, we have arranged a day at the Ontario Archives. And better still, for those with United Empire Loyalist ancestors we are offering a workshop with the Dominion Genealogist at the Archives. She will share her expertise on what ... Read More

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MARK YOUR CALENDARS!!

The Great Canadian Genealogy Summit will be held at the Courtyard Marriott, Brampton from Oct 21-23 2016.

On October 21, we have arranged a day at the Ontario Archives. And better still, for those with United Empire Loyalist ancestors we are offering a workshop with the Dominion Genealogist at the Archives. She will share her expertise on what documentation is required and how to access the documents at the Archives.

Friday evening is our Keynote Speaker, author Jennifer Debruin. Jennifer will share with us some of the struggles of our early Canadian ancestors. This energetic talk will be followed by a social time. A time to get to know fellow Canadian genealogists, to get to know the speakers better, or to browse in the marketplace.

On Saturday, there is a full day of learning. We have five streams for you to choose from (yes! You can mix and match). On offer:

Ruth Blair – who will talk on researching Irish ancestors

Mike Quackenbush – who will talk on researching English ancestors

Louise St Denis – who will talk on researching French Canadian ancestors

Kathryn Lake Hogan – who will talk on researching Canadian ancestors

Christine Woodcock who will talk on researching Scottish ancestors

Sunday starts with Louise St Denis, Director of the National Institute for Genealogical Studies sharing her extensive knowledge on Methodology.

And we wrap up an intense weekend with Lynn Palermo who will help us to get a better handle on writing our family stories so that our work can be preserved for future generations.

Breakfast and lunch are provided on Saturday.

All registrants get a free course from the NIGS

The hotel will be providing a discounted rate from Thursday to Sunday for anyone attending the Summit.

The hotel has free WiFi and Find My Past is providing FREE access for all registrants for the entire weekend!!

Full weekend registration is $159 cdn ($115 usd). Saturday only registration is $119 cdn ($91 usd). Saturday only registration includes breakfast and lunch!

Check out the topics, sponsors and programme: http://www.cangensummit.ca/

 

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Using Search Engines and Social Media for Family Research https://www.geneosity.com/search-social/ https://www.geneosity.com/search-social/#comments Mon, 02 May 2016 13:39:52 +0000 http://geneosity.com/?p=2587 When you think, “I’d really like to do some genealogy research today,” what comes to mind first? If you’re like most people, you probably thought of a website like

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When you think, “I’d really like to do some genealogy research today,” what comes to mind first? If you’re like most people, you probably thought of a website like Ancestry.com, or maybe even of a trip to the courthouse to look for documents.

Facebook and Google were not likely at the top of your list — but they should be, especially if you’re hitting a roadblock in your research. In this connected day and age, not only are people online almost constantly, but they are also much easier to find.

If you’re “lucky” enough to be researching an unusual name, you’re even more likely to locate a relative by doing a search on social media or using a search engine like Google.

Particularly on Google, you’ll want to play around with using names in quotation marks — which will look for only that exact name — and leaving them out, or searching only by surname. Your results may differ using both methods. What are you likely to find? Phone numbers, addresses, and newspaper articles are just a few of the pieces of information that may give you useful leads about your family members, both living and deceased. You might even find a relative has been published in a scientific journal, or (*gulp*) on a registry of incarcerated individuals.

Of course, on Facebook, your finds will probably be more in the “living” category: distant cousins who never knew you existed, people who married into your family, and so forth. Keep in mind that if you send them a Facebook message, it may go into their “Other” folder and not be seen right away. Don’t discount the value of being in contact with relatives who aren’t necessarily in your direct line; they may have details you’ve been hoping to learn, scanned photos to share or stories about your common ancestors that you’ve never heard.

Happy searching!

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Scottish Emigration Schemes https://www.geneosity.com/scottish-emigration-schemes/ Fri, 15 Apr 2016 10:48:04 +0000 http://geneosity.com/?p=2560 Following the Highland Clearances, many of these families took advantage of emigration schemes which saw them transported to Canada, the Colonies of America and Australia. Young Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk was instrumental in assisting many of these displaced highlanders in obtaining land in Canada. Douglas first became aware of these displaced families when he visited the highlands as a ... Read More

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Following the Highland Clearances, many of these families took advantage of emigration schemes which saw them transported to Canada, the Colonies of America and Australia.

Young Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk was instrumental in assisting many of these displaced highlanders in obtaining land in Canada. Douglas first became aware of these displaced families when he visited the highlands as a young lad. He later ran into even more of them when he was studying law in Edinburgh. Thomas used his inheritance to assist these former highlanders in emigrating to Canada, initially to Prince Edward Island and later further west to Manitoba where he sold them parcels of land for very nominal costs.

In 1802, Lord Selkirk approached the Colonial Office for a subsidized settlement grant in Sault-Ste Marie, Upper Canada, with the hopes of establishing a settlement where the displaced Highlanders could once again farm their own land. The Colonial Secretary instead offered a land grant in Prince Edward Island, in the Belfast area, on the southwest shore. Upon receipt of this notice, Selkirk wasted no time in recruiting highland emigrants or in contracting ships and supplies. An advertisement, run in the Glasgow Courier for such ships can be seen here:

Wanted a shipping vessel

Selkirk provided assisted passage and a grant of land to those who traveled with him  in 1803. A list of the land grants can be found here:

http://www.islandregister.com/landrecords/landdata.html

In 1804, Lord Selkirk was granted 1200 acres on the north shore of the western end of Lake Erie. Again, this land had been granted as a military strategy, being at the southern most part of the St Lawrence Seaway.

copyright free image from Nova Scotia Archives

This was an arduous trip for the highland families. They had to winter at Selkirk’s estate in Kirkcudbright as the passage was not viable over the winter months. They spent two gruelling months at sea and another onerous month crossing the land and forging rivers until they finally landed at their new settlement. The fifteen families were from the inner Hebridean islands (Mull, Tiree, Coll). At the time, the area was named Baldoon, after Selkirk’s home in Scotland. A list of the individual land grants can be found at:

http://www.windsorscottish.com/docs/doc-baldoonlandtable.pdf

Much of the success of Selkirk’s scheme was that he allowed entire families to travel together, and gave them permission to bring their highland culture with them. This was an intriguing draw given that the English government had essentially outlawed the highland way of life, forbidding the wearing of tartan and the speaking of Gaelic. Having families together meant less chance that the new immigrants would want to return due to homesickness or missing family. They came with a built-in support system.

Further to their success, these former highlanders wrote to family, friends and former neighbours back home and encouraged them to also seek passage to Canada, where they could be very prosperous and make a new life for themselves and their families.

Other Settlement Schemes:

In the period of 1815 to 1818, the Rideau Scheme was developed. This was a military settlement, organized again by the British government along the area of the Rideau lakes, south west of the Glengarry Settlement, which by this time had no further room for expansion. Many lowlanders from Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire were assisted to colonize in this new settlement. The place names that remain today, attest to these early settlers (Lanark County; Renfrew County).

Between 1819 & 1820, over 900 highlanders came through the port of Quebec  and made their way to the north shores of Lake Erie, in what is now Elgin County. This was a settlement that was managed by Thomas Talbot.

Colonial Societies

 

poster advertising emigration to the colonies scotlandsimages.com AAAOO476

poster advertising emigration to the colonies
scotlandsimages.com AAAOO476

As a way to assist with the transition of emigrants going to the colonies, a number of local Colonial Societies were founded. And a number of assisted emigration schemes

were formed. Regardless of where they were located, these Societies were similar in that they provided assisted passage for families willing to emigrate to the colonies. Here is an example of their objectives regarding the people they would provide assistance to:

  • Entire families would be together.
  • If they were able-bodied men or women of good character
  • They could not exceed a specified age or have families exceeding a specified number of children.
  • The potential emigrants must possess a specified quantify and description of clothing.
  • Families were required to pay a deposit of from 1 pound to 2 pounds, for adults, and 10 shillings for children.
  • People exceeding a certain age would pay more.
  • Only after all means of meeting the expenses was made would a family be allowed “aid”. (they needed to prove they had attempted to raise the full funds themselves and had not been successful in doing so)
  • The trustees or owners of the properties from which the emigrants departed would be expected to pay one third of the sum given.
  • Any sum advanced to emigrants would have to be repaid.

Perhaps YOUR Scottish ancestor came over as part of a settlement scheme.

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Researching Scottish Death, Burial and Lair Records https://www.geneosity.com/researching-scottish-death-burial-and-lair-records/ https://www.geneosity.com/researching-scottish-death-burial-and-lair-records/#comments Mon, 21 Mar 2016 14:01:54 +0000 http://geneosity.com/?p=2353 Some of the best resources for genealogy research are death records. This isn’t limited to statutory records, but included burial records, cemetery records, and lair records as well. While we all learn to use monumental inscriptions, we have to bear in mind that until the 1700s, very few people in Scotland had headstones, and in fact, few cemeteries existed. Many rural ... Read More

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Some of the best resources for genealogy research are death records. This isn’t limited to statutory records, but included burial records, cemetery records, and lair records as well.

While we all learn to use monumental inscriptions, we have to bear in mind that until the 1700s, very few people in Scotland had headstones, and in fact, few cemeteries existed. Many rural and more remote areas had a segregated place in community for the burial of the dead. These were not what we know today as cemeteries. There are neither headstones nor burial records for many of the people interred in these places. Sometimes there will be notations in family bibles. Sometimes Kirk records will make mention, but for the most part, these early burials were undocumented unless the deceased had some money or status within the community.

By the turn of the 18th century, we start to see burial grounds specifically attached to the Kirks, and many with headstones marking graves/lairs for those interred. However, not everyone could afford their lair. Any many more were unable to afford a headstone. We often see common ground burials where large numbers of people are interred. This also extended to the majority of those who died during times of epidemic illnesses, such as typhoid or the plague. In these instances, bodies were rounded up en masse and buried together in one  grave. Few names, if any, were recorded. Often the deaths themselves were not registered either during periods of epidemic illnesses.

monumental inscription

During the 18th century, we also start to see documentation in the Kirk records, either in the parish registers or in the Kirk Session records with regards to burials. This is often in the financial records for the Kirk or parish and includes items such as:

  • rental of candles
  • rental of mortcloth
  • payment for lair
  • rental or use of the Kirk’s bier
  • sometimes there are references to meals for the funeral

Mortcloths were used for the dressing of the body in cases where no coffin was used. Pauper burials, for example, did not include a coffin.

In cases where coffins were used, the mortcloth was draped over the casket.

There were three types of Mortcloth:

  • Best mortcloth – this was generally made of velvet, cost more to rent and was saved for the better heeled of the community. Well to do families often had their own mortcloth and had no need to rent one from the kirk. Rental fees for Best mortcloth may have averaged between 6-11/
  • Regular mortcloth – this was plush but not as elegant as velvet. Rental fees for Regular mortcloth was often between 3-5/
  • Child’s mortcloth – this was a smaller version of the Regular mortcloth.  Rental fees for a Child’s mortcloth was generally 2/ or less

The parish registers and Kirk session records are available at the National Archives in Edinburgh. The OPRs are available online. (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk) The Kirk Session records are not. In some instances, local family history societies will have copies or transcribed copies of the parish records for their area.

If there was a headstone, this often provides an incredible amount of information not only on the deceased, but also on the descendants. The local family history societies in Scotland have transcribed the headstones in the cemeteries in their region. A listing of the family history societies can be found here: http://www.safhs.org.uk/.

DSCF6594

Many are also available online at: https://www.scottish-monumental-inscriptions.com/

Another website, which includes burial records, headstone inscriptions and cremation records is https://www.deceasedonline.com/. This website covers the whole of the UK and is a work in progress in that new records are constantly being added.

Death certificates became mandatory in 1854 requiring ALL deaths to be registered. This was ahead of the statutory documentation which started in 1855. The death certificates have a wealth of information including name of spouse (and any previous spouses), names of each parent, date, place and cause of death and the name of the informant, as well as the informant’s relationship to the deceased. Often this is a family member. The statutory death registrations are available on ScotlandsPeople at: http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk

Quite often the local crematorium will have the records for the cemeteries in their jurisdiction. If they don’t then the local archives will have them. These records usually have the information on the burial plot (lair) and a list of all people interred within. This may well include other family members and in-laws.

DSCF6578

Best of luck with your Scottish genealogy research!

 

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Next-level Hints for Using Census Records https://www.geneosity.com/next-level-hints-for-census-records/ Tue, 01 Mar 2016 13:10:16 +0000 http://geneosity.com/?p=2539 You’re pretty well-versed in the basics of using census records to help you in your genealogy research. You are ready to take it to the next level! Here are three tricks you might not yet have in your ancestor-finding toolbox, and they might help you find that one person you’ve been searching for. 1. If your family is at the ... Read More

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You’re pretty well-versed in the basics of using census records to help you in your genealogy research. You are ready to take it to the next level!

Here are three tricks you might not yet have in your ancestor-finding toolbox, and they might help you find that one person you’ve been searching for.

1. If your family is at the bottom of an image or page, make sure to click the arrow to view the next page.

I can’t tell you how many times I thought I had everyone, only to look on the following page in the record and find the mother-in-law I had always wondered about, or a child I didn’t previously know was a member of the family.

2. Look for your family based on the address of an earlier or later census, not just by searching for their names.

Unfortunately, names can be indexed incorrectly; even a surname as common as Smith can be typed in as Smythe, South, or even Sith. Sometimes that’s due to difficulties in reading the printed image, or in deciphering older forms of cursive writing used in various locations.

Using a soundex search can help, but if you really want to work like a professional, take note of your ancestors’ address in a census record. You can then search in the previous years’ census records by location.

3. Search using the names of a neighbor.

Again, this may give you a way around misspellings that stymie your best efforts to find the person you’re seeking. In the past, people were much less mobile than they are today; they often lived in the same home from birth until death.

There’s a good chance that you can find your great-great-grandparents living next to the same family for several consecutive decades.

Did you experience a breakthrough using one of these hints? We’d love to hear about it.

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Census Records: A Wealth of Information https://www.geneosity.com/census-records-a-wealth-of-information/ Tue, 17 Nov 2015 15:33:48 +0000 http://geneosity.com/?p=2458 Census records can really be a great source of information.  If you’ve never reviewed a census record, here is what you should know: Names of all people and their relationship to the head of household This is the purpose of the census at its core: to enumerate, or list, everyone living at a particular address at that time.  As you ... Read More

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Census records can really be a great source of information.  If you’ve never reviewed a census record, here is what you should know:

Names of all people and their relationship to the head of household

This is the purpose of the census at its core: to enumerate, or list, everyone living at a particular address at that time.  As you find your family members, you may also find a child in the family that you never knew existed, because he died early in childhood.

(Pro tip:  check the next census, generally ten years later, to see if that child is still listed.  Another important clue to find “missing” children: some census records show how many children were born to the mother, as well as how many were living at that time.)

Or, maybe your great-grandmother’s mother is living with the family and you finally learn your great-grandmother’s maiden name.

Pay attention to the relationship given for each person in the household.  It can often reveal connections that were previously unknown, such as “stepson” or “nephew” for someone who was thought to be a biological sibling.  And, before people had the internet to find a spouse, they usually married someone who lived in the same town — or even the young man who shows up in one census as “hired hand” and ten years later is “head of household” with one of the daughters in the family listed as his wife!  ☺

Ages of each person enumerated

While all of the information recorded in the census is self-reported, and thus open to error or misinformation, having an approximate age for an individual can help you determine the accuracy of other records you may find.  With the exception of the 1900 U.S. Census, which offers the birth month and year, most records provide the age on the date the census taker made the record.

(Pro tip:  when you then enter such information into your family tree, you will want to use “About” or “abt” and then the calculated approximate year of birth, until you can confirm an exact year or date.)

Address of the household

If you look carefully, you can find the actual address where your ancestors lived.  You may need to go back by a page or two in order to find the street name listed, usually handwritten along the left-hand side of the page.  The house number can be found under the column “Location”.  Try using Google Maps to search for the address; you can even use “street view” to see exactly what it looks like today.  (And, if not, it sounds like it’s time for a research road trip!)

Birthplace

Generally, this is recorded either by state, if inside the U.S., or by country.  Again, bear in mind that there is room for error: it’s not uncommon to find a relative who is listed as having been born in England in the 1910 Census and in Scotland in the 190 Census.  Use your best judgment when recording the information in your tree: list your source, and take it only as a possible location until you have documentation that proves it.

Occupation and Workplace

Yes, it’s true:  you’re likely to find quite a few records that say “Farmer” and “Hired Hand” or “Servant”.  It goes with the times.  But, you never know; your great-grandfather could surprise you with an occupation of “ferryman”, “man of pleasure” (!), or even “in jail” (*gasp*).  Imagine all of the occupations that your descendants will find in the census records from your day!

As you become more familiar with using the census, you’ll find that they often become the bread-and-butter source for documentation and can even be worth a laugh or two.  Happy searching!

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Beginners Tips for Creating an Online Family Tree https://www.geneosity.com/beginners-tips-for-creating-an-online-family-tree/ Tue, 27 Oct 2015 11:31:54 +0000 http://geneosity.com/?p=2452 Once you’ve started your research process, you’ll find that you want a way to keep everything together and nicely organized. You may even find that your family members are curious – even excited! – and want to see all the hard work you’ve been doing. Here are some beginners tips for creating a website or online family tree that all of your ... Read More

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Once you’ve started your research process, you’ll find that you want a way to keep everything together and nicely organized. You may even find that your family members are curious – even excited! – and want to see all the hard work you’ve been doing.

Here are some beginners tips for creating a website or online family tree that all of your family members can enjoy.

Use a dedicated genealogy website

Before plunging into scripting out your own website, consider the huge marketplace of online genealogy – there are hundreds of different web services to chose from, each offering different price packages and services to match any genealogists needs. Ancestry.com provides a service for this, even allowing you to make prints of your tree. Gini is comparable to Ancestry, providing searching as well as saving power. Finally, tools like FamilyEcho are a much more visually simplistic creator, and doesn’t have the searching power of Ancestry.com.

Make it secure

However you decide to host your online family tree, make it secure. It should be password protected, and only accessible by those in your family. Be sure that only yourself and a few select people have administrative or editing capabilities. Because family trees often contain so much personal information – dates of birth, locations of birth, full names – that are today used in digital security questions, this information should be kept under lock and key.

Add a blog feature

If you’re interested in letting your family know how your searches are going and what kinds of interesting information you’re coming across (as well as what kinds of roadblocks you’re hitting) consider adding a blog. You can always set up a separate blog through a service like WordPress or Blogger, both of which are powerful blogging groups that allow for easy insertion of photos and scanned documents, allowing for a nicely fleshed out view of your family history search.

Back up your digital source

Nothing stings quite so much in the digital age like loosing all your hard work to a power surge or misplaced flash drive. Services like Dropbox or Google Drive offer quick methods of accessing your files from any desktop you want, meaning you can do your genealogical searching at home or in a library and still have access to your saved work. You can also look into hardware resources like external hard drives, many of which are quite slim and easy to carry in a briefcase or messenger bag.

 

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Are You Using Soundex for Ancestry Name Search? https://www.geneosity.com/are-you-using-soundex-for-ancestry-name-search/ Thu, 15 Oct 2015 12:50:51 +0000 http://geneosity.com/?p=2434 Do you use soundex? *crickets chirping* If utter silence and some amount of confusion were your reaction when you read that, you’re not alone. Many people who are interested in learning more about their family tree may be missing out on one small search tool that could help in big ways: namely, soundex. What, exactly, IS soundex? According to the ... Read More

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Do you use soundex?

*crickets chirping*

If utter silence and some amount of confusion were your reaction when you read that, you’re not alone. Many people who are interested in learning more about their family tree may be missing out on one small search tool that could help in big ways: namely, soundex.

What, exactly, IS soundex?

According to the fine folks at Wikipedia, soundex is:

a phonetic algorithm for indexing names by sound, as pronounced in English. The goal is for homophones to be encoded to the same representation so that they can be matched despite minor differences in spelling.

Are you scratching your head again? Let’s try and explain it using an example:

You’re talking with your mom about the family tree, and you’re hoping to find out more about your great-grandmother, Sara Johnson.

But wait.

Is it Sarah or Sara? Johnson, Johnsen, Jonnsen, or maybe even Johansen?

You could type in and search for each and every one of those combinations.

Or, you could click the little box in the search feature you happen to be using that says “soundex” and let a computer do the work in a fraction of the time.

soundex ancestry

Soundex search (h/t genealogy library slideshare)

In other words, soundex allows a search to consider similar-sounding names and return a list of multiple possibilities. Even if you know exactly how your relative’s name is spelled, there’s always the chance that the indexer or the census taker did not.

Now, you’ll notice that using soundex will sometimes return many more results than an exact search. If you’re short on time, you may want to start with an exact search and use the soundex feature when you have more time (and patience ☺) for sorting through the list. You can use any other identifying information you have, such as birth year or marriage date, to filter the results more precisely.

Soundex: the tool in your toolbox you never even knew you had.

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The Unsung Genealogy Heroes https://www.geneosity.com/the-unsung-genealogy-heroes/ https://www.geneosity.com/the-unsung-genealogy-heroes/#comments Mon, 12 Oct 2015 13:10:39 +0000 http://geneosity.com/?p=2426 Last month, we learned of the Genealogy Rock Stars. This is an annual event hosted by blogger John Reid of Anglo-Celtic Connections. This year, the announcement of the Rock Star winners in various areas caused a lot of chatter. More Americans than Canadians on the Canada list. Only a handful of the nearly 200 nominees made the top 10 lists. ... Read More

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Last month, we learned of the Genealogy Rock Stars. This is an annual event hosted by blogger John Reid of Anglo-Celtic Connections. This year, the announcement of the Rock Star winners in various areas caused a lot of chatter. More Americans than Canadians on the Canada list. Only a handful of the nearly 200 nominees made the top 10 lists. Really, it’s been a lot of fun and I thank John for his efforts to bring some recognition to the field.

Since the awards were named, other bloggers have posted their top 10 lists – calling them Genealogy Heroes. Many of the heroes are people in the field who work away quietly and never made it to the original nomination lists. But all of them are deserving of recognition.

But what of the Unsung Heroes? Those who never get recognition, but who we rely on every.single.day. in order to be able to conduct our research? I am talking, of course, about the Archivists and Librarians. These are the true family history heroes. The real rock stars. And they rarely every get to see the limelight. These are the people that preserve and conserve the documents that make research even possible. They work tirelessly to catalogue the documents for both storage and for easy retrieval.

Archivists and librarians in the genealogy world work tirelessly, diligently and behind the scenes to make the work of family historians and genealogists possible. Many of them are as passionate about what they do as the Rock Stars and Heroes. But they rarely get acknowledged. For anyone traveling to an archival repository or to a genealogy library,  the most important part of their research experience is not just the interaction with the documents, but the interaction with the Archivists or Librarians.

The Archivists and Librarians provide the road map to the the records. It is the Archivist  or Librarian who helps the researcher  to truly understand the information that can be gleaned from the records. The Archivists and Librarians can put the documents  and the stories they tell into perspective. The Archivists and Librarians can help researchers know where to look next. And it is their enthusiasm and passion for what they do that puts the passion and enthusiasm into the researcher themselves.

So to the all of the Archivists and Librarians in the genealogy world, I say a huge THANK YOU.

YOU are the Unsung Heroes in our field and yet we couldn’t do our jobs if it weren’t for you. And for that, we truly, truly thank you.

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What About Ancestry DNA Tests? https://www.geneosity.com/what-about-ancestry-dna-tests/ Wed, 07 Oct 2015 15:23:17 +0000 http://geneosity.com/?p=2421 I think everyone in the genealogy community has wondered about ancestry DNA tests. Should you get one? Do they help? How accurate is DNA testing for genealogy? Can the DNA test tell us exactly where we came from? Can it help us trace back accurately through generations to every single line of descent? There are many reasons to want to ... Read More

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I think everyone in the genealogy community has wondered about ancestry DNA tests. Should you get one? Do they help? How accurate is DNA testing for genealogy? Can the DNA test tell us exactly where we came from? Can it help us trace back accurately through generations to every single line of descent?

There are many reasons to want to know more. Some people have grown up their whole lives uncertain of their ethnicity, their origins uknown. They are searching for their identity. Others are merely curious and want to get to the root of the problem with a test. The test seems an easier route, especially if you’ve already spent countless hours digging through research.

Before you dive into a DNA test, there are few things to consider:

Do genealogy tests work?

The short answer to that question is… sort of. Genealogy tests have an error rate of about 5%. This seems pretty small, but it can make a big difference the farther in your family tree that you’re trying to trace. A genealogy test would be able to accurately tell you your grandmother’s ethnicity, or even your great-grandmother, but going farther back than that, the results start to get murky.

Another issue with DNA testing is that it might confuse you in terms of your origin. A DNA test could say you have Native American ancestry, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a Native American ancestor. This could mean that you have an ancestor from another part of the world that shares some key genetic similarities to Native Americans.

Is the test helpful? Is the test worth it then?

Some people are going to get information that they generally already know. They might find the information 100% useless. There are certainly more complex issues with DNA testing. Here are a few links critical reviews of DNA testing. They are worth a read even if you want to take the test.

My Ancestry DNA Review: A Cautionary Tale

Can Your DNA Tell You Your Ancestry?

Others might get one simple clue and that information could be invaluable. There are positives stories where the DNA tests have really helped people that were adopted or had adoptions in their line of ancestors.

It’s ultimately up to you if you use a DNA test to trace ancestry. If you use the test in conjunction with your own genealogy research it might be able to provide some interesting avenues for you to search.

Some people get the test just because the results are fascinating. The test can be a good conversation starter with friends and family. As long as you have realistic expectations, then you might still find the test to be worth the price.

Here are some other links about DNA testing that provide useful information.

The Rise and Rise of Family History DNA Tests

Autosomal DNA 2015 – Which Test is the Best?

Comparing DNA Results

My DNA Results from 4 Companies

Ancestry.com Ancestry DNA FAQ

If you decide to use Ancestry’s DNA Service, here’s a discount code for free shipping:

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