FamHist Blog

Family History Research Hints and Tips

Death Certificates and Other Research Tools

The resources available for family history researchers has never been greater with another 30+ million records added to the FamilySearch.org site in the past few months. Volunteer Indexers like you and I are constantly working to add indexed information and images to the FamilySearch site, so as grand as the number of records are now, wait a few months and the number will drastically increase again and again and again.

familysearchFamilySearch Indexing I hope you are one of the volunteer indexers who are bringing the wealth of the records in the granite vaults to light in the digital world.

Check out the records collections on the FamilySearch Beta site and see how many records you find on your own ancestral families.  Save this link and check back often.findagrave

Find-a-grave An amazing amount of ancestral data and records can be gleaned from the pages of Find-a-grave. Folks are linking the memorials of their ancestral families together on the site with a seemingly frantic pace. I constantly find information about our ancestral families and extended cousins on the site. Missing dates, spouses names and their families are the reward for spending a few minutes on the site.

Births Marriages Deaths Some of you may have ancestors or extended family that lived in Australia and New Zealand. Both countries have great sites that offer indexes to births and marriage as well as very easy to use document ordering pages. I’ve obtained marriage and death certificates from both countries and it couldn’t have been easier.

While on the subject of Death Certificates, be sure to check for family death certificates on the sites of many states that offer them online at no cost. Just copy the image and save it to your hard drive for printing and use in your genealogical sources.

Many folks aren’t familiar with the great Special Collections and Family History records available online from BYU-Idaho. I’m constantly surprised at the records that I find on the site.

Family History records make a great Christmas present for family members. Share the wealth of your work with them this year.

28 November 2010 Posted by | FamilySearch, Genealogy | , , | Leave a comment

FamilySearch and BYU Genealogy Resources

The past few weeks have marked a dramatic interest surge in the LDS Church’s FamilySearch resources and products. The folks at FamilySearch invited a group of genealogy bloggers to Salt Lake where they were given excellent presentations about the projects that are offered to the public free of charge.

While most people had heard of the records Indexing project, few of them were familiar with the user driven and written FamilySearch Wiki that contains literally tens of thousands of excellent articles to help genealogists be successful in their research quests. Even if you have visited the Wiki in the past, you will undoubtedly find new articles on it now that will help you find your ancestral families.

The bloggers came away from the presentations in awe at the size and scope of the projects underway at FamilySearch and have been blogging and posting notes about it on Twitter since that day.

FamilySearch_Beta_90One of the items learned is that the FamilySearch Pilot site is no longer being updated with new records. All of the records on it are now included along with all new updates on the Beta site. Many of us do not like the search field placement on the Beta site as well as it was designed on the Pilot site but the layout is being reviewed and will hopefully see some tweaks in the future. If you have comments about the new FamilySearch sites, don’t hesitate to click on the ‘Feedback’ links and pass on your thoughts. The folks at FamilySearch are listening to the user community like never before and are working hard to make FamilySearch the best genealogy portal on the web.

The design of the new FamilySearch site looks deceptively simple until you start clicking on links that take you to ever expanding lists of their online resources. Writing and talking about it doesn’t paint the picture of the depth and scope of the resources and offerings. You have to sit down and explore to actually understand how massive the resources are. Don’t worry if you become distracted by some interesting records, articles or training along the way. We all do it. Just bookmark the page you are on so you can start from there again later. Family history researchers who visit the site often feel like they’ve wandered in to a magic genealogy candy store.

There are excellent How To” online training courses on the FamilySearch site. I highly recommend taking the time to listen to the video training lessons that will help in your quest.

byu_independent_study_90Additional excellent free training courses are available from BYU’s Independent Study site. I’ve viewed and / or have taken almost every course on these sites and highly recommend them. My wife wouldn’t let me build a bowling alley in our basement so I could ‘ace’ the Bowling course offered on the Independent Study site but other than that, I have a drawer full of ‘Successful Completion” certificates in my office to impress our grandchildren. (Humor is intended here.)

Between FamilySearch and the various family history related offerings at BYU, the LDS Church has made a Herculean effort to help us find our ancestors. Not every record we’ll need in that quest is online or available (yet), but it is being worked on by good folks from all over the world who are donating their time and efforts in the Indexing project of FamilySearch. While many records associated with the Indexing project are on the sites of other entities, those organizations are working with FamilySearch so the records are indexed and links to them are in place allowing researchers to find them after instigating a search on the FamilySearch site.

This truly is a ‘great time to be alive’. The only thing stopping us from being successful in much of our ancestral quest is ourselves – by not using the resources that are now available.

3 November 2010 Posted by | Family History, FamilySearch | , , , | Leave a comment

Premier Membership on FamilySearch

Not everyone is aware that there is a “Premier” membership level on FamilySearch.  Users with the Premier level membership can see all of the document images that are available on the site.  Those without it, can see many, many images but some are reserved due to licensing and other contractual agreements.

Readers of Science Fiction novels will recognize the initials “TANSTAAFL”.  They apply to FamilySearch as well.  

“There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch” 

A great deal of money and time is required to acquire, license, digitize and host family history records.  Someone has to invest up front and in the long term to bring the myriad of resources found on FamilySearch to us. 

The primary investor is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  They along with their partners in the project and folks like you and I who spend time as volunteers indexing records for inclusion on FamilySearch and related sites, round out the group.

A quick search for “Premier” on the Help page of FamilySearch provided a link to the Premier Membership Document that explains the program and the details of how we can obtain a “Premier” membership level ourselves.


The cost is certainly right.  All we have to do is volunteer indexing.  Earning 900 points every quarter gives us premier membership level access.  That certainly makes sense.  Investing about a half-hour of our time a week indexing the records that we use to help in our own ancestral quest is not only a ‘light fee’ but a ‘right fee’.

Indexing is easy and rewarding work.  If you don’t already have login credentials for FamilySearch, you’ll need to create an account.  The credentials extend to the Indexing section of FamilySearch.  

Once you have an account, take 2-minutes to view the Test Drive of the Indexing tool and process.  The site notes that No Special Skills are Required and that is the truth.  Even the young folks in our family can easily run the indexing tool. 

As a family history researcher, you’ll be used to reading the majority of the birth, marriage, death, census, church and other documents that you’ll see as you index. 

The folks at FamilySearch and its partners already have and continue to Pay-It-Forward.  Now it’s our turn.  We all benefit from the Indexing, both now and in the future as Free Searchable Indexes are created that we can access in our PJ’s from home.  The related images online are frosting on the cake.

Scroll to the bottom of the Indexing page to see the lists of Current, Completed and Future projects.  You may also want to scroll through the historical records on the FamilySearch Beta site to get a flavor of how much indexing has already been completed and of the scope of this worldwide project.

Below is the Premier Membership document from FamilySearch that explains the program in detail.

I’m sure that we’ll see each other in the glow of our monitors as we spend a little time Indexing each week, doing the right thing for the right reason.

Document ID: 109840

Premier Membership Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions:

  • What is FamilySearch premier membership?

    • Premier membership gives you access to view information (images and indexes) in some record collections on FamilySearch.org that might otherwise be unavailable or that you might otherwise have to pay to view. While FamilySearch does not charge for viewing this information, sometimes the record owners do.

  • Why does FamilySearch require premier membership to view these images?

    • Since we do not own all of the collections we publish, and some record owners require compensation to maintain their collection, this method enables more collections to be available for research. FamilySearch invests in private archives by preserving records and making these collections searchable.
      FamilySearch and some of these archives have agreed by contract to allow access to those who make a significant contribution to this process. Without premier membership, you can usually search the indexes of these restricted collections; however, the images may not be freely available.
      There are currently (as of June 2010) no collections that should require premier membership to view images. If you see records that require premier membership, please report that through the Feedback link.

  • How do I become a premier member? Are the benefits available to everyone?

    • Yes, they are available to everyone through any of the following methods:
      • Index records and earn 900 points within a calendar quarter.
      • Belong to a sponsoring organization, such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or another company or society that sponsors FamilySearch.
      • Additional methods of contributing to FamilySearch may also qualify you for premier membership in the future.

    • In the future, family history centers located around the world will receive access to these restricted collections as well.

  • Why do members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints receive premier membership status?

    • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the largest sponsoring organization of FamilySearch. Funded by the contributions of its members, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints invests in records and resources for family history research. Access to these resources is extended to the general community whenever possible.

  • What is the difference between being a “member” and being a “premier member?”

    • A member is anyone who has registered for a FamilySearch account. Some collections will require the researcher to at least be a member in order to view the information in the collection. A premier member is someone who has qualified based on the guidelines indicated above.

  • Are there ever collections that a premier member cannot view?
    • Indexes for most collections will be available to premier members; however, some archives require that you view the images on their Web sites, and at times they may charge to view those images.

Indexing Specific Questions:

  • When do I have to earn points to extend my membership?
    • You must earn 900 points during a calendar quarter. The first quarter of the year is January through March; the second quarter is April through June, and so on.
    • Once you earn 900 points, your premier status is immediately given for the rest of the current quarter and the next or following quarter. For example, if you index 900 points during July, you will earn premier membership that will last through December.
    • At the end of every quarter, the qualifying points are reset to zero, much like a cell phone plan that does not carry over minutes between months.

  • Why is my expiration date “Never”?
    • If the expiration date is “Never,” you are a member of a sponsoring organization that does not need to earn points for premier membership.

  • Why don’t the names indexed add up to what the points are?
    • Points are calculated from the number of names indexed, and they are given based on the difficulty of the record. Projects that are easier to index are generally worth fewer points, but at least one point is given for each name indexed.

  • How much do I have to index to earn 900 points?
    • Indexing for approximately a half hour every week would usually earn the qualifying 900 points in a calendar quarter.

  • Where do I find out how many points I currently have?
    • Sign in to the indexing Web site, and click My History on the left to see your statistics. It will inform you how many points you have and how many are required for you to attain premier membership; or if you are already qualified, it will tell you how many points you need to earn during this calendar quarter to retain your premier membership for the following quarter.


Calendar Quarter

Three (3) months of a year; the four quarters are defined as: January-March, April-June, July-September, October-December.


A group of similar records that is searchable on Record Search, such as England birth records, for example.

Restricted Collections

Collections in which either its index or images cannot be viewed without being a FamilySearch member or premier member.


Someone who has registered for a FamilySearch account.

Premier Member

Someone who has qualified to gain additional access to record collections due to indexing 900 points in a calendar quarter or being a member of a sponsoring organization.

8 October 2010 Posted by | FamilySearch | , , , | Leave a comment

Find-a-Grave Gold

Over the years, I’ve spent thousands of hours taking photos of tombstones for my genealogy research and to post on Find-a-grave.   At times, some of the tombstones have turned out to be those of relatives that I’d yet to discover.

The hours spent taking tombstone photos and later cropping and massaging them has been an effort but I’ve been well-paid as I learned a little about the people they memorialized and the communities of their time.   Life was different for them than we enjoy. Repeatedly seeing families with numerous infant deaths witnesses that fact, but the family groupings also witness family strengths as generation after generation are buried within a stones throw of each other.

Posting photos of the tombstones I’ve visited on Find-a-grave has been a great way to Pay-it-forward and thank others for their help in my ancestral quest.  They live in locations I can’t visit and have taken time to post similar photos on find-a-grave, work on indexing for FamilySearch, etc., and I’ve benefitted from their efforts.  Similar activities on my part just add to the reference pool that all of us can freely access.

These resources have become an integral part of my research routine.  Family linkages, photos, documents and data being posted on find-a-grave at an ever increasing rate has turn the site into a ‘must search’ in my research quests. 

Recently, I spent an evening looking through my records specifically searching for extended family members whose existence has been all but impossible to prove. 

Searching find-a-grave for them provided three positive hits in succession.  ‘Hits’ is a mild descriptive compared to the data about that branch of the family that had been posted on the site in recent months by someone paying-it-forward too.

Tombstone photos, person photos, vital record documents and text told the stories of the lives in this family.  Moves eastward rather than westward surfaced as did the shift in spelling of their surname.  No wonder we hadn’t been able to find them for so long.  They had indeed ‘faked’ us out with their jigs and jags.

If you haven’t already included find-a-grave in your research plan, add it.  Don’t hesitate to add information and images to the records of your own family members on the site.  If you didn’t create the memorial, ask the creator to add the data and make the links you send to them.   Sometimes, they will transfer the memorial to you if the record isn’t part of their own family.

Over time, we’ll undoubtedly see a lot of additional data added to the site.  Be sure to check back.  Users of the site almost universally feel a need to take the time to link family records together.  I’ve linked my own ancestors records and families together for many generations to help my cousins in their own ancestral quest even though I have their records on my own websites. 

You’ll find yourself doing the same thing when you work on your own family memorials on find-a-grave.  Bet you can’t link just one… 


20 August 2010 Posted by | FamilySearch, Genealogy | , , , | Leave a comment

FamilySearch – Portal To Many Wonders

Long enamored with the films, books and documents at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, I’ve lived long enough to enjoy the library coming to me.

I first visited the library as a youngster when it was in the office of the LDS Church Historian on 58 East South Temple in Salt Lake City. 

My mother and I used to make regular day trips to search for our ancestors.  At first I enjoyed the photos in the books but was soon filling out family group sheets and pedigree charts with the information I’d gleaned from the books. 

Learning to use the library catalog wasn’t difficult, but I seemed to spend more time looking through it than through the books that referenced my family.

When the library moved into the Church Office Building in 1971, the card catalog was still in existence but the years of training at the old building had made the finger-walking quest much easier.

When a dedicated building for the library was built in 1985, I frequented it constantly.  Eventually, the catalog migrated to a digital format.  The quest for ‘That’ record was shortened dramatically.  Life was good.  Very good.

Then the books and films entered the digital library domain.  I don’t visit Salt Lake very often now.  Increasingly, the Library comes to me on the monitors in my office at home.

FamilySearch has become a portal to all things genealogical.  New titles and record groups seem to arrive to the portal daily.  The Pilot pages of FamilySearch have become a favorite friend.  http://pilot.familysearch.org

This week, I’ve reveled in the Massachusetts Death and Burials pages.  Death information about my ancestral families has emerged from the pages.  I thought I had covered every source document related to this area, but new information is pouring off my screen. 

Decades of microfilming records by the folks from the the Library is now is being followed by the digitization, indexing and publication of the records on FamilySearch. 

Genealogists everywhere benefit from this work. New records are added to the site daily.  If you haven’t visited for a while, do yourself a favor and stop by today.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Life today is not just good -– It’s Great! –- Thanks to FamilySearch!



10 June 2010 Posted by | FamilySearch, Genealogy | , , , , | Leave a comment

FamilySearch – It Just Keeps Getting Better

I stopped by the FamilySearch Pilot site for a ‘week’ yesterday.  The visit was planned for only a few minutes to look for a birth record for one of my ancestors who was born in New Hampshire.

Browsing directly to that collection, success was almost immediate.  That was easy!  While there, why not refine my search and search for the rest of my ancestors who were born in New Hampshire too?  That’s when the ‘week’ started.  Success, success, success, mixed with some failures.

The success continued all the way back to the mid-1600’s.  Thinking the ‘touch’ was with me; I started looking for the children of my direct ancestors.  A lot of their records were there too.

The saved images were added to each source entry in my database as I went along.  A quick preview of family group sheets for the families looked great with the primary sources and their related thumbnail sized images included.

“One more family”. “Just one more family” I murmured as the sun of the new day came over the mountain.  Of course I didn’t need to work all night. The records will still be there for a little while until they are removed when the indexing of them is complete.  Eventually, they’ll be included in the rewritten FamilySearch.org site, but when will that happen – exactly?

It will happen.  The WHEN is the “I Can’t Wait For It” question.

The same is true for most if not all of the records that are being Indexed by volunteers like you and I working on that massive project at FamilySearch.

If you haven’t searched the primary source records on the Pilot site yet, http://pilot.familysearch.org, give it a try this week.

FamilySearch Wiki

The FamilySearch user community is contributing excellent knowledge articles to help all of us in our ancestral quest. See it at:  https://wiki.familysearch.org

If you are having problems in your research, be sure to stop by the site and see if there is a posting to help.  If you have knowledge about any specific location research tools, hints and tips, sign in and add an article.

The wiki grows daily. Don’t forget to add it to your browser bookmarks.

Community Trees

Well documented family and regional family trees have been added as yet another FamilySearch site.  The site uses my favorite web based genealogy software – Darrin Lythgoe’s “The Next Generation.”  Take some time to look through it and see if information about your family has been included in the database. http://histfam.familysearch.org

15 January 2010 Posted by | FamilySearch | , , , , | Leave a comment

Genealogy – Get Them Interested Young

I’ve visited with several young men in our area in the past few months as they were working on their Boy Scout Genealogy Merit Badge. Not all of them were fully ‘infected’ with the genealogy ‘disease’ yet, but they have at least been exposed to this fun and addictive hobby.

Frequently, I see adults buying stamp collecting kits for our youth but seemingly failing to introduce them to the much more rewarding hobby of family history. My mother introduced me to family history research when I was six and I’ve enjoyed it since. There is always another ‘brick wall’ puzzle to solve. I enjoy trading my occupational hat for my ‘Sherlock’ family history hat whenever possible and exercising my mind as a genealogy sleuth.

If you haven’t exposed your children, grandchildren or young friends to genealogy yet, now is the time. Here in the northern hemisphere, it is winter and so inside activities rule the day.

Buy a $4.50 hanging file folder box from Walmart for each of your young folks then create some research, photos and records collection goals and send them on their quest. We all played some form of auto bingo when our parents were trying to keep us entertained on long auto trips when we were young. Perhaps you could create a similar game but have it involve family history items. If you need some ‘How Do I Get Started Help’ ideas, click here.

Don’t forget to include interviews with yourselves as well as grandparents, aunts and uncles on the list, so you will have someone else to not only help entertain them for a while, but give them information that may be new to even you.

Since you are already interested in family history, consider volunteering to be a genealogy merit badge counselor in your area if there isn’t one already.

Here’s a list of items that I ask the scouts in our area to complete as part of their Genealogy merit badge preparation. You can read the current merit badge requirements here.

Genealogy Merit Badge

To Do List – At Home

  • Create a timeline for yourself or one of your parents. Write a short biography for the person that explains the events on the timeline. i.e. Birth, marriage, broken arm, brother / sister born, graduated from school or a grade, etc.
  • Interview someone in your family and write down the information. Mom, Dad, grandparent, etc. Ask them questions about when and where they were born. What is their favorite food? Did they like school? Do they have a nickname? What is their favorite color? Favorite snack food? Etc.
  • Get the full names, birth, marriage and death dates (if they have passed away) and places these things happened for your parents and grandparents. You should know your own birth date and birthplace … Right?
  • Fill out the family group form for your family… parents and your brothers and sisters
  • Fill out the pedigree chart starting with you.
  • Collect the full names, birth dates, birthplaces and marriage information for your parents’ siblings (their brothers and sisters) and for your grandparents (all four grandparents).

There isn’t a similar badge for girl scouts, but meeting the same requirements would certainly qualify for an award from parents, grandparents, mentors or even many church groups.

Teach them young and they will remember the lessons throughout their lives.

24 January 2008 Posted by | FamilySearch, Genealogy, Photos, Research Tips | , | Leave a comment

Georgia Death Certificates Online

Another great announcement for family history researchers came out this week. The State of Georgia and the great folks at FamilySearch have worked to put images of the Georgia Death Certificates from 1919 – 1927 online with free access by researchers.

You have to love the States and FamilySearch who have partnered to put Death and other records online for us. Here’s a hearty ‘Thanks’ to FamilySearch and the states involved in these projects.

Here is the official announcement of the new Georgia Death Certificates posting:

Georgia Death Certificates Now Viewable Online

Some 275,000 certificates from 1919 to 1927 linked with index and images

“SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH—FamilySearch and the Georgia Archives announced today that Georgia’s death index from 1919 to 1927 can be accessed for free online. The online index is linked to digital images of the original death certificates. This free database will open doors to additional information for family historians and genealogists with Georgia ties. The index and images can be searched and viewed at www.GeorgiaArchives.org (Virtual Vault link) or labs.familysearch.org.

The names of Georgia’s deceased from 1919 to 1927 are now very much alive, searchable, and viewable online—and for free. The online index to some 275,000 Georgia deaths is the result of a cooperative effort between FamilySearch Record Services, the Georgia Archives, and the Georgia State Office of Vital Records and Statistics.

FamilySearch digitized the records, and volunteers from both FamilySearch and the Archives used FamilySearch indexing technology to create a searchable online index from the digital images of the original historic documents. “These death records are obviously a gold mine for genealogists and historians. Certificates include age, county of death, parents names, occupation, gender, race and cause of death; these documents open all kinds of possibilities to researchers,” said Georgia Archives director, David Carmicheal.

The deceased person’s name, birth and death dates, sex, spouse and parents’ names and location of death were extracted from each certificate for the searchable database. The linked image of the original death certificate can reveal additional interesting facts and clues for the family historian─like the names and birth places of the deceased person’s parents, place and date of the decedent’s birth, marital status, occupation, permanent residence, and place and date of burial and cause of death.

Before making the certificates viewable online, Carmicheal said patrons had to order copies through the mail for a fee or visit the state archive’s office in person. The new online database will make it quicker and easier for patrons to get the information they are seeking.

“It is always exciting for family historians when they can freely search a vital record index online like the Georgia death records. The link to the original death certificate is an added bonus—it saves you time, money, and provides rich genealogy data,” said Paul Nauta, manager of public affairs for FamilySearch. The users just type in an ancestor’s name that died in Georgia between 1919 and 1927. They will see a brief summary of information from the ancestor’s death certificate with a link to also view the original image. Additional state indexes are currently in production.

The Genealogical Society of Utah, doing business as FamilySearch, is a nonprofit organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. FamilySearch maintains the world’s largest repository of genealogical resources accessed through FamilySearch.org, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, and over 4,500 family history centers in 70 countries.

FamilySearch is a trademark licensed to the Genealogical Society of Utah and is registered in the United States of America and other countries.”

26 October 2007 Posted by | FamilySearch | Leave a comment

Finding Grandma and Grandpa

Some family researchers find that they descend from ancestors that are famous for one reason or another. The ‘fame’ of their ancestors aids researchers who are trying to find information about them, because their names and records are recorded both in numerous histories and in association with the cause of their ‘fame’.Let’s walk through the process of finding some well-known individuals who are famous because of their bad luck.

The Willie and Martin Handcart Companies were comprised of

members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were migrating to Utah in the late summer – fall of 1856. Their ill-fated trek is well documented in numerous historical publications and on websites like this one and this one, as well as on the LDS Church Archives site which includes the members of the Martin Company and the Willie Company. Disaster struck the group when an early winter set in as they were still far from their destination.How can we discover if our ancestors were among this group or another well documented group of immigrants? Let’s use the members of these companies as our examples for this discussion. The discussion will necessarily be brief given the fact that this is a blog and not a study guide. Follow the links in this posting to find indepth guidance and research aids to find your own ancestors.

Start with the most basic family history research step:

Identify the ancestors you know starting with yourself, then your parents, grandparents, etc. Use the steps listed on FamilySearch to aid in your quest. Download a copy of the pedigree and family group charts on the site and print copies of them. Fill in the information you already know.

If you have a computer you’ll probably want to use it to hold and organize your data. If you don’t have family history software on your computer, you may want to download PAF or Legacy Family Tree. Both of these software packages are very good and offer a free version. But remember, you don’t have to have genealogy software or a computer. Believe it or not, family history researchers didn’t have computers until ‘fairly’ recently. However, I recommend using them if at all possible.

Fill out the pedigree chart with the names of your ancestors as far back as you know them. If you don’t know very many generations, call your parents, siblings and extended family and ask if they have information about your ancestors that they will share with you.

Go to FamilySearch and search for the individuals who are in the last generation on the right side of your pedigree charts.

Hopefully, other individuals have submitted information about your lineage. You’ll want to confirm that their information is correct by visiting a library that holds well-sourced records about your family. The library you visit may be located in your city, at a university such as at BYU, at a branch Family History Library or at the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

We are using members of the Willie and Martin handcart companies in our discussion. If you are searching to find a tie to any of them, be sure to review their surnames and see if you recognize any of them when compared to the surnames on your pedigree chart. If there are matches, search for the name of that person(s) in the handcart company on FamilySearch and pay special attention to any listings that appear about them in the Ancestral File section in the results list of your query. Click on their descendants and look through their names and see if you can find any that correspond with your known lineage. (The Ancestral File section won’t appear until you have made your search.)

If you find connections between yourself and a member of the handcart companies…. great! Copy the information and use the libraries near you to find other records such as birth, marriage, death, census and probate records to confirm the information.

If you don’t find information that ties you to a member of the company, don’t immediately give up your search. You’ve only just started an enjoyable quest. Use the tools found in the pages in the above links and those found on the Internet like Rootsweb and on family history related subscription sites to continue your search.

You can also use a search engine like Google or one of the many other engines to search for your information about your ancestors. Remember to put quotes around their names to get more specific hits… like “John Jones”. If you want to add a date or place to the search, it would look like this: “John Jones” + 1846 or “John Jones” + “Cleveland, Ohio”, etc.

Remember to read and include the wonderful Research Guidance publications on FamilySearch as tools in your quiver.

If you didn’t find a link to the members of the handcart company, that is ok. Not many folks in the world descend from them, but we all descend from wonderful individuals. We just need to find them. Each generation of our ancestors is a full set of ‘wonderful’ people, regardless of their fame or entries in historical publications.

If you are of the LDS faith, you’ll want to check any ordinance work for the people in your databases and family group sheets at a branch library or ask your ward family history consultant for assistance.

Remember to document all of the information you find. Without documentation, the data you collect makes a nice story, but that is all that it is — a story. I recommend that you look at the excellent sourcing examples listed on the Legacy Family Tree site. The examples are applicable to both hard copy documents and genealogy software. Review these source formatting examples and implement something similar in your own databases or family group sheets. Whatever method you use, use it consistently so other researchers can follow the method you’ve used to record your sources.
As a quick review… 1

. Look through your home and put all family history related documents, photos, etc. together in one box or two.

2. Ask your family for a copy of any ancestral information they have collected and offer to share your findings with them.

3. Use FamilySearch and other online ancestral data websites to help you research from home or another location with an Internet connected computer.

4. Visit a local library or branch family history library and search their resources for information about your family. Remember to ask the assistants at the branch family history library or those in your local community or church for research assistance and suggestions.LASTLY, believe you are going to find information on your ancestors.

By acting on that belief, miracles often happen in our ancestral quest. Make it happen in your own quest. Family history research doesn’t require advanced education, it just requires action by the researcher and the use of the many tools and guidance publications available to all of us on the Internet and at the branch family history libraries located around the world.

14 September 2007 Posted by | FamilySearch | Leave a comment

Hello Cousin?

There you are, walking down the street and you meet someone you’ve known for years. For some reason you start talking about family history only to find that you have a common ancestor. A smile erupts on two faces, handshakes ensue and there are pats on shoulders. Your old friend, acquaintance, schoolmate, T-ball parent or old girl / boy friend is your cousin! Maybe not a ‘close’ cousin but a cousin none the less. Who knew?

The question today is why didn’t you know? There are so many resources on the Internet now that you should know your extended family. All it takes is a little research on your part to establish your own lineage for a few generations and then search the popular sites such as FamilySearch to fill in the descendant boxes from your 2nd, 3rd or 4th great grandparents. It isn’t hard and very few folks who’ve had ancestors in the U.S. for 100 – 150 years will fail to find the names of deceased cousins that they have known at some point in their lives. And of course, those deceased cousins had children who you can contact. Hey, doesn’t that make the children cousins too?The populace of the country seems to be constantly moving around but the average move is no more than 50 miles in the U.S. according to a report on NPR radio. We have natural reoccurring reasons to ‘run’ into folks from ‘back home’ with some regularity.

Ok, so what if we do have a lot of cousins around us? We don’t talk to them all that often or at all unless they are involved in soccer, little league, PTA, or are the nurse who helps with ‘all’ of the deliveries of our babies. What’s the big deal?

The big deal is that some of them are interested in family history research. This provides several opportunities for both of you. Each of you know the events and family members in your respective branches of the family. Each of you have have research information on your common ancestor(s) that the other doesn’t have and now a research ‘buddy’ has been identified to help in The Quest. Two researchers are better than one, four are better than two, etc., so keep looking for your cousins. Starting today, ask your contacts about their ancestors and see if you can end the conversation by saying, ‘See ya Cuz. I’ll send my research to you this week. I’m looking forward to seeing your data and photos.”

How do you find them? Use the Internet to radically increase the odds of finding each other. Create a free genealogy website from Tribal Pages or a great one like Darrin Lythgoe’s The Next Generation (TNG) that costs a little money but that you own outright. Remember to only post information about deceased family members on it. Join or create a surname research group on FamilySearch, Rootsweb, Genforum and other websites. Post queries about your ‘brick wall’ ancestors on these sites. Tell the group the information you’ve found about your brick wall ancestor and ask for any information that others have found about them. Get your name and e-mail address out on the web tied to your ancestral family. Be sure to use an e-mail address that won’t disappear if you change Internet service providers. I suggest you create a GMail or Yahoo account just for family history research. Of course that means you’ll have to log in frequently and see if others have sent answers and queries, but the account will still exist regardless of how many times you change Internet services providers and folks finding your postings will still be able to contact you.

I hear from ‘cousins’ from all over the world on a daily basis via e-mail and a few snail mails. I love these queries, the “Hello cousin” and “Hey, I have this information about this person / family”… ‘What do you have?”

My ‘cousins’ and I have created numerous family research teams that are seeking the same ancestry and we communicate frequently. (Yes, using the Internet, usually using Skype or one of the Messenger programs). Every member of the group has resources available that are unique to them. I never cease to be surprised at the information that is discovered by these cousins teams. Believe that two researchers are better than one and that four, eight, sixteen significantly more effective than just adding up the numbers. Do you think that is a false statement? Start a cousins research team and prove me wrong! I don’t expect to hear of any failures in these groups, but I’m anxious to hear of your successes.

Remember to Pay It Forward this week when you have a minute of ‘free’ time. Make the choice to take a photo of an old ancestral home, a headstone or scan the photo you have of great grandma Mary and post it on the web so others can find it. The dividends from your acts of kindness will arrive when you most need them or least expect them.

2 September 2007 Posted by | FamilySearch | Leave a comment