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Growing and Sharing Your Family Tree shows how rewarding and informative building a family history can be. Genealogy instructor Jeff Sengstack teaches how to find lost ancestors, connect with living relatives, and collaborate with others to grow a family tree. He explains how to use the Family Tree Maker application along with Ancestry.com and other internet sites to track down census data, immigration records, and other important documents, and then organize family tree data. Jeff also presents tips on how to scan old photos, create video slideshows, and build family web sites. Exercise files accompany this course.
Download Jeff's free genealogy tips from the Exercise Files tab.
If you been working on ancestry.com, at some point you're probably going to start thinking like "I've exhausted the possibilities for one or more of my family lines. I am going to want to venture outside of ancestry.com." But what I want to do here is give you a basic approach, a strategy on how to broaden your search, plus I want to tell you about a few major websites that are definitely worth visiting. First up, let me tell you about a few types of websites that you can find on the Internet. Topping the list is a website aggregator. Now you know there are about 250,000 or more genealogical related websites on the Internet, which is an insane number and so you need to try to narrow that down.
Well the website aggregator has links to those kinds of websites and topping the list is a site called Cyndi's List, and I'll explain Cyndi's List to you in a separate video. But for now, just be aware that there are several aggregators and Cyndi's List is probably the main one you want to go to. There are major records repositories. You've seen ancestry.com. There are a couple of others you might want to visit. So again, think about the types of websites you want to go to is aggregator, repository and then newspaper archives. If you're looking for things like obituaries or articles about somebody or a business listing, you go to the newspaper archives. If you are looking for someone's family tree that might somehow dovetail with yours, you go to a family tree website.
There are message boards where you can talk about surnames that you're researching. You can find immigration records as you've seen in ancestory.com. So if you are looking for specifically immigration records you can go to sites that have those like Ellis Island. You can go to library websites that can help you with card catalogs for specific libraries, but there are also card catalogs for thousands of libraries in one place that can help you track down books that you can either check out using an interlibrary loan or you can go to those libraries to view them if they are reference copies. You can track down cemetery information online at a couple of large sites that track cemeteries and headstones and then you can use the search engines online if you're going to use that as part of your strategy.
So here is the research checklist that I've created for you. I'd say first of all, look for the easy ones: census, military, Social Security Death Index, immigration and citizenship. Those are pretty easy to find at sites like ancestry.com and you're probably going to exhaust those at some point and move on from there. Then you are going to want to go to vital records and legal documents. Those are not so easy to find online. They're generally not online usually because of privacy issues and also because of just the cost of putting them online. In those cases you probably have to go to the courthouses or to the county offices to get these.
You'll probably have to pay to get these records. Newspapers are online in kind of a spotty fashion. One newspaper might have some stuff online, another one might not, but there are big aggregate websites out there that have archives of old newspapers that go back oh, let's say a hundred years or so and might have thousands of newspapers online. So, if you're looking for something like obituary or like maybe your family member's business might be advertised there or there might be an article that includes somebody, then you want to go to those newspaper sites. There are books online and frequently people write entire books about a particular family tree and so for example, I know that the Hendershot family has been documented very well and I could go online and track down the Hendershot family and find whether there is a book available for that.
Now it may not be something I can view online. At least I know where it is and I might be able to do an interlibrary loan, where I could go to my library locally and then they can work out a deal to get the book come from the library in which it resides. Many times though these books are reference books and they won't be let out of the libraries, so you need to have somebody go to that library where it is and make copies of the salient pages. But anyway, at least you can track down these books. You can get help online. There are websites out there that give all sorts of research tips. Even tips about how to search online, so you can find things about how to research particular countries or how to track down the history for the area of where your ancestors came from.
And finally there are places where you can share your family tree and those message board sites where you can look at your surnames. Internet searching tips, I'd just suggest you go right to Google.com, www.google.com. It is the best search site. There are other ones out there that compete with it for sure, but I suggest you go there and do your searches for things like a surnames. You might say something like a surname and then put the word genealogy after it or family tree after it and you'll be amazed at what you can track down that way. To narrow your search, I suggest you use quotes. You put a quote around a phrase that you want to find inside a website, a very exact phrase.
So for example, if you put quotes around George Washington, you'll find sites that have the phrase George Washington. If you don't put quotes around it, you'll get sites that have the word George and sites that have the word Washington and sites that have both words. So you want to narrow it down to just the sites with George Washington. You can use a hyphen or the word NOT in uppercase in front of a word to exclude sites that have that word. So for example, you might want to go to sites that say Washington but you don't want the ones that say George Washington. So let's say a family member's name John Washington, you'd search on John Washington but exclude sites that have the word George in it.
It's a way to narrow down your search. Finally, when you get to a website that has a let's say a long, long webpage with all kinds of words on it, you can't find the spot in the webpage where your family member's name is listed, you can find that word by simply going to the Edit > Find In/Find On This Page feature inside your browser. If you've got Internet Explorer or Firefox or some other browser, you just go to the top of the browser to the menu line there and click on the word Edit to get a drop-down menu and select Find In or Find On and then type in the word or the phrase that you need to find and click Enter and you'll find that word on the page and can find other instances as well.
So that's the basic collection or types of Internet sites that you can look for and the strategy you can take to narrow down your search at those sites.
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