IMPROVING YOUR GENEALOGICAL RESEARCH ELECTRONICALLY
July 22, 2012
“How do I find more about my ancestor when I only know this little bit?” “According to the tombstone, his birthday is this date but how do I find where he was born?” “I think he is dead. Can you help me find when he died?” I receive these email questions often over the course of a month. Answering each plea for research help is impossible, but I will try to help you collectively. Additionally, I will try to give you tips for finding places on the internet that might give you answers or clues. Remember, you must apply information that is close to your problem although the clue may be from another state.
Using a search engine is as important as using other sites such as Family Search (free) or Ancestry (subscription). Do not search randomly because these habits will waste your time. However, planning for internet searches can shorten your valuable time considerably and you might find numerous results. Do not stubbornly use only one spelling of the surname. Names did change for various reasons. A family may have chosen a particular spelling for various reasons. A census taker, immigration officer or stone carver may have incorrectly spelled the surname. Some European surnames are long and difficult to spell because they contain more consonants than is custom in this country. I know several people living in this area who have altered their surnames to make them easier for locals to pronounce. If a surname is spelled one way on a tombstone or a date inscribed that does not agree with census records, then which are you going to believe?
Your usual search engine is a useful tool. Always use synonym searches and separate keyword searches in your search engine. Use a tilde (~) for variations such as “~fur traders” because this will include other information as well. By using a date and your ancestor’s name, you can eliminate living people. Example: John Burns, 1765-1841. Alternatively, search for ‘county histories search at Google Books. If this does not help, then put quotation marks around the name and birth and death year.
If I am looking for a history or information, others provided on the internet, the best plan is to search for specifics. Experiment with different ways of searching for people by inserting their place of residence, birth date, death date or census date.
Remember, if you do not have a favorite paid subscription; check the library to see if they offer it as a free on their servers from within the library. Be aware, you probably have to apply for a library card. If you chose to use one of these sites, you will become familiar with the usual search ‘form.’ If this is the case, then select the Advanced Search. It takes more time to fill out and asks more questions, but it always gives me better results.
GENEALOGY LIBRARY TO OPEN REGULAR HOURS: The Plano Genealogy Library will be open the same hours as the main library is open beginning September 4. The staff working the additional hours may be some people who do not know genealogy and may not be able to help you to the fullest, but be grateful for the additional hours. I know I am certainly appreciative. The genealogy staff begins training them shortly and the new staffers are encouraged to work on their family history. As always, Cheryl Smith and Tom Turner will be there much of the time, but not all the time, to help you with anything genealogy related.
CANADA UPDATES ARCHIVES: Library and Archives of Canada, www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/Pages/home.aspx, has a new updated website. The new site meets the new standard for Canada’s official sites.
NEW BABY AT FAMILY SEARCH: Now when you find an inaccurate record on FamilySearch, www.familysearch.org, you have the ability to edit it through the new site, www.New.FamilySearch.org. It says in the announcement that anyone can become a member who is over 13 years of age, unlike the old version, which was only for LDS members. Good luck on entering this site. I was unable to get in because it said it would be open to non-LDS member by invitation in the future.
Brenda Kellow has a bachelor's degree in history, teaches, and lectures on genealogy. Before retiring to publish her family’s histories in 2007, Brenda held certification as a Certified Genealogist and as a certified Genealogical Instructor. Send reunion announcements, books to review, and genealogy queries to: TracingOurRoots@gmail.com.