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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.
Visiting ancestral locales, be they in the US or other countries, almost always yields positive results. Check out government offices for birth, marriage and death records, property deeds, wills, and other legal papers. Frequently, records at this level have not been posted to the Internet. I duplicated my paternal grandfather's birth certificate from microfilm in a city record's office in New York. Many churches have birth, marriage and death records. It wasn't until the late 1800s that government agency started tracking such records. A church in Brooklyn provided this notarized typewritten note about my great grandparent's marriage there.
Visit cemeteries. Headstones and burial records can be revealing. Here is the headstone for a great aunt and three of her children. Local libraries frequently have books about the region that are loaded with valuable information. In addition, many libraries have genealogy sections with experts on hand. Some libraries offer free access to ancestry.com. You can download and save images and documents without having to pay a subscription fee. Some libraries give you access to the ProQuest Historical Newspapers website. This is huge archive of major newspapers available to the public only through libraries.
Finally, seek out living relatives. I stood at the main intersection of a small village in Germany, shouted out my ancestor's last name and a passerby told me the mayor, the Bergmeister, of the neighboring village had that last name. It turns out he's my second cousin. We ended up having tea with his family. His mother gave us a copy of their family tree and we have since swapped letters and photographs. I'll say it again, visiting an ancestral locale can open up all sorts of possibilities.
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