Category: Genealogy

June 25th, 2013

The Ultimate Resource Collection for Tracing Irish Genealogy Online

If you are looking to trace your Irish genealogy online, it’s important to know where to look. There are lots of websites that promise a lot but deliver little in the way of genuine Irish genealogical databases and info. One could waste hours of valuable time pursuing leads from a search engine that end up nowhere. You however need not worry about that. You have arrived at the ultimate collection of resources for pursuing Irish genealogy online.

All of the websites listed below have bona-fide databases of valuable Irish genealogy records or other useful tools that can help you find your ancestors. Some of them may charge a fee if you wish to order a copy of a record, but most of the databases are completely free to search.

Irish Family History Foundation
The Irish Family History Foundation consists of a network of county oriented genealogical research bases in Ireland. They possess millions of digitized Irish genealogy records, including of church records, census returns, and gravestone inscriptions. The website contains information on every county’s IFHF center.

Cavan Genealogy Database
Part of the Irish Genealogical Online Record Search System, they have the largest collection ofIreland’s Parish records that can be searched online. Search is free (subject to certain conditions).

Clare County Library
The website of the Clare County Library has a searchable online database which includes Griffith’s Valuation for County Clare, the 1901 census report, and many other records and directories.

Donegal Ancestry Centre
The Donegal Ancestry Centre was set up with the primary purpose of helping family history researchers trace their Donegal ancestors. It is the official family history research center forCountyDonegal.

Ask About Ireland
This is an initiative of public libraries, local museums, and archives that have combined to encourage the digitization and online publication of Griffith’s Valuation and other resources that may be useful to genealogists tracing their Irish family line.

Irish Times Digital Archive
Contains exact reproductions of every article published in the Irish Times from 1859 to present.

Irish Genealogical Research Society
The Irish Genealogical Society was established inLondonin 1936 in order to encourage and promote the study of Irish genealogy and to amass a collection of books and manuscripts of genealogical value. This is a private organization with membership dues.

Irelands Gravestone Index
Here you can search almost half a million gravestone inscriptions from every county in Ireland.

These are the most valuable Irish ancestry records databases and resources we could find online. If you know of another site that has a database or collections of Irish ancestry records that are useful for tracing Irish genealogy online, please let us know by leaving a comment or posting a link in the Comments section.

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June 18th, 2013

How to Use Facebook for Genealogy

Do you know how to use Facebook for genealogy? Many of us spend hours everyday either logged in or being active on the world’s largest online community, but how many of us take advantage of its genealogical potential? It should really be a no-brainer. Facebook has massive potential for connecting with relatives and other researchers. The potential for sharing information is incredible, yet many of us don’t know how to effectively use it to expand our genealogical horizons. It’s really as simple as searching, and you’d be amazed at the wealth of genealogical information and contacts that are out there just waiting to connect with you.

I am by no means an expert on Facebook, but I have come across some very valuable genealogical resources there. For one thing, there are lots of genealogical groups that have Facebook pages. I have found the National Genealogical Society, the Daughters of the American Revolution, JewishGen, the Genealogy Society of Ireland, and many other well-known and respected genealogy groups and societies. If there is a specific society or organization that you like or want to follow, simply type their name in the search window in the Facebook toolbar at the top of their page and you’ll know instantly if they have a Facebook presence.

Many of the society and genealogical group pages on Facebook allow you to post on their wall, so it’s easy to leave a message as you would on a message board. Other members or fans can view your post, and will be able to reply to any queries you might have. Another benefit of these pages are the photos and links to valuable information they post. Some pages such as the Pennsylvania Genealogy Research group have a section just for research resources, and many have an Events tab where you can view upcoming events form around the world such as seminars and conventions, or even events happening online such as webinars and tutorials.

Create a Facebook Page to Share Youth Own Story and Resources

If you want to build your own Facebook page you can easily do so. This is especially useful if you have a genealogical product you wish to sell, or even if you just want to share your family tree and genealogical data. The procedure to begin creating a page is;

  1. Click More at the bottom of the right column on your Facebook homepage. (Underneath the ads.)
  2. Click Create a Page
  3. Click one of the boxes to choose a category for your Page
  4. Choose a subcategory and enter the required information

All you have to do after that is to agree to the Facebook terms of use policy and you’re on your way to creating your own Facebook Genealogy page. Once you create your page you can use the Notes option to share stories, research notes, or anything else you wish to! Your page can also be a great place to share your family photos and announce any events you might be planning such as a family reunion.

If you are researching a specific surname, look for other Facebook genealogy pages that are doing the same. It’s also a great idea to like as many other genealogy pages on Facebook as possible. Don’t do too many at once however, as Facebook might consider you as spammer. Pick 5 or 6 pages everyday and Like them by clicking their Like button. Whenever you like a page, make a short comment on their wall, and invite others to visit your page. This will give you more exposure, and increase your chances of connecting with other researchers or even family members searching the same surname as you.

There are also many Apps on Facebook such as I Remember, which allows you to create a memorial page for a family member or friend. Live Roots features a specialized index listing well over 200,000 resources, though some you have to pay for. Mundia is’s app designed to help genealogists find ancestors who are listed in existing family trees or message boards. We’re Related and Family Links help individuals to find family members who are on Facebook and to share information with them.

As you can see, Facebook has great genealogical potential. Next time you log-on, spend some time investigating the many different genealogical aspects and applications. You never know, you might bump into someone you’re related to!

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June 11th, 2013

How to Search for Native American Genealogy Records

Knowledge of general history is crucial if you want to search for Native American genealogy records. One of the primary benefits of gaining such knowledge is that it will guide you to search in the correct time period for your ancestor’s records. An added benefit is that you will be able to nail down a specific geographical location in which to conduct your research. Having these skills will maximize your potential to discover that valuable documentation.

History can also shed light on Native North American culture; their naming patterns, tribal affiliations, and kinship terminology are quite different to those of European cultures. Only when placing them in proper historical context, without added assumptions and stereotypes, will a researcher accomplish true success in their search for Native American genealogy records.

Bibliographies and Native American Genealogy Records

Those researching their Native American heritage will do well to consult the vast array of bibliographies of Native American historical works that are available. Many have been composed by both individuals and institutions who are experts in the field of Native American history. They include works that are cultural and archaeological in nature, and frequently include comprehensive listings of sources and methods for deciphering the information they contain. One such bibliography is The Cheyenne and Arapaho Ordeal: Reservation and Agency Life in the Indian Territory, 1875-1907 by Donald J. Berthrong.

The research value of these publications is immense, and anyone who seriously wants to search Native American genealogy records should consider them necessary research aids. They can also be found in college and state libraries, large public libraries, and in the possession of selected genealogical and historical societies.

Search for Native American Genealogy Records Using General Histories 

Some of the most useful documentation for tracing Native American ancestors is general and tribal histories. They can tell you the location of tribal villages, hunting and gathering areas, and insight into settlement and migration patterns. Several such histories have been published in recent years, one being North American Indians in Historical Perspective. This book contains nearly five hundred pages of detailed histories of Native American tribes and clans.

Using such publications helps to place your Native American ancestors into a historical context. Once you know the era to research, and the location, you will inevitably find the ancestry records. As a bonus, many footnote sections, reference sections, and biographical notes can link you directly to primary and secondary source materials.

Local histories can help to establish tribal affiliations, another important aspect of how to search Native American genealogy records. Nearly all tribes have some sort of history of their earliest times, and city and county histories may also refer to the earliest Native American inhabitants of the area. Although they might not contain vast amounts of documented data, they can help to identify the original native inhabitants, and therefore must not be overlooked as valuable resources for tracing Native American ancestors.

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April 2nd, 2013

Want More Free Genealogy Resources? Join a Genealogical Society

One of the best ways to access quality free genealogy resources is to join a genealogical society. Besides their wealth of historical documents and reading material, they are at the forefront of genealogical research. One of the best genealogical resources these organizations offer is their free journals. Their journals are well-respected for their quality genealogical continent, which consists of family histories, case studies, new research methodology updates, and generally helpful instructional material. If you would really like to expand your knowledge of genealogy and hone your research skills, you won’t find a better modem than these precious free genealogy resources.

The best way to decide on a genealogical society to join is to first have a look at their journal. They will all be of high quality, but there may be one that has content more relevant to your own project than the others. You can generally access information about the journal on any society’s website; normally they feature sample issues and extracts, as well as general information on the journal and how to subscribe. Following is a list of genealogical societies that offer free genealogical resources to their members, and a summary of their focus and journal content.

The Irish Genealogical Research Society

The Irish Genealogical Research Society was established in 1936 in the Office of the York Herald, London. The founding members were genealogists concerned at the loss of valuable genealogical material and their aim was to collect and preserve copies of documentation produced before the destruction of the Public Record Office in Dublin in 1922.  Their mission remains much as envisioned in 1936 and they are actively involved in the acquisition of manuscripts and other printed works of genealogical consequence.

Their present focus is on the collection of copies of wills and the acquisition of documentation regarding Irish births, marriages, and deaths up to 1864. Their journal is produced annually and is free to members. It is of a very high standard and can be found in many libraries around the world. It contains genealogical data such as abstracts of Irish Wills, periodicals, Baptismal registers, instructions on how to find and decipher Irish records, and much more. Membership for non-residents ofIreland is £20, or around $30 per year.

New England Historic Genealogical Society

The Journal of the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS), the New England Historical and Genealogical Register is the oldest in the field, and is considered the mother journal of American genealogy. The journal focuses on compiling authoritative genealogies from theNew England area. It features many articles of genealogical instruction, such as identifying immigrant origins, and is published quarterly.

Membership in the society not only gives you access to their journal and online archive, but to over 3,000 more online databases. The authenticity of the NEHGS and the degree to which it is respected in genealogical circles is reflected in their past and current membership. Some notables who have been, and currently are, members of the NEHGS include; Ulysses S. Grant, Washington Irving, Woodrow Wilson, Albert 1, King of Belgium,  Bill Clinton, Gerald and Betty Ford, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, Julia Childs, and Charlton Heston. If you want to rub shoulders (even virtually) with the rich and famous while availing yourself of some incredible free genealogy resources, you can apply via email on their website.

National Genealogical Society

The National Genealogical Society (NGS) was established in 1903. Their aim is to “To serve and grow the genealogical community by providing education and training, fostering increased quality and standards, and promoting access to and preservation of genealogical records.” One of the ways the NGS accomplishes their mission is through the publication of their journal, National Genealogical Society Quarterly, which was first published in 1912.

The “Quarterly” contains a wealth of instructional material, covering topics such as; how to interpret records that do not mean what they seem to say; how to cope with name changes, illegitimacies, destroyed records, and other genealogical roadblocks. Specific articles address topics such as; how to research different ethnic groups; how to tell the difference between individuals of the same name; how to conduct research in specific states; and how to identify the origins of immigrant ancestors.

Membership in the NGS costs $65 per year, but you get much more than just access to their journal. They also publish a quarterly magazine which features genealogical instruction and articles. Typical topics include courthouse records, immigration, migration, case studies and more.  They also offer genealogy courses to members, some of which are; American Genealogy, Genetic Genealogy, Introduction to Religious Records, Transcribing, Extracting, and Abstracting in Genealogical Records, and Special Federal Census Schedules.

Genealogical societies provide a wealth of free genealogical resources to their members. An investment in a membership is an investment in your past, and in your future. One of the greatest benefits is the access to large libraries and online databases that contain hundreds of millions of names and many historical and genealogical records that can’t be found elsewhere. If you are serious about genealogy, you should serious consider joining a genealogical society; they offer much more than just free genealogy resources!

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March 19th, 2013

The Expert Guide to German Ancestry

Finding German ancestors can be quite the genealogical challenge.Germanyhas been through many political and geographical changes over the years that can make relatives hard to find.Germanyas we know it today however did not come into existence until 1871, and as such it is a younger country than many of its European neighbors. Though you might think this would make it easier to finds ancestors, it’s really not the case. The key to understanding this complexity lies in understanding a bit of the history ofGermany.

Before 1871

The initial unification ofGermanytook place in 1871, but prior to that it was an association of small kingdoms (Saxony,Württemberg,Bavaria, andPrussia), free (self-governing) cities such asBremen,HamburgandLubeck, and even the personal estates of various prominent and wealthy families. Each of these entities in turn had its own system of record keeping.

Germanyremained unified until after the Second World War when it was divided into East andWest Germany, while parts of it were awarded toPoland,Czechoslovakia, and theUSSR. Even while it was unified between 1871 and 1945 however, parts of it were given toFrance,Belgium, andDenmarkin 1919 following the First World War.

What this means for family historians is that the records for the German ancestors they are searching might not be found inGermany. You may need to search the records of the countries that received portions of German territory (France,Belgium,Poland,Denmark,Czechoslovakiaand theUSSR), or if researching prior to 1871 in the records of the original states such asPrussia, or even in personal estate records. As you can imagine, this presents some unique challenges for genealogists, but they can be overcome by following some basic steps.

How to Find Your German Ancestors

Begin With You

As with every genealogical search, one for your German ancestors begins in your own home. Your more recent ancestors can provide you with links to the past, so speak with your family members and ask them to share any information they have. This can include photos, family bibles, and vital documents. If you need to brush up on your interviewing skills or refresh your genealogical knowledge, consult our Basics of Tracing Family Genealogy Insiders Guide.

Locate Your Immigrant Ancestor’s Birthplace

Once you have traced your family history back to your German ancestor, you’ll want to find out the name of the city or village they were born in. This is a crucial step, as most German records are not held in a central location. You may be able to find this information in passenger lists if they immigrated toAmerica after 1892. A record of them may also be held by the city or port from which they departed, so if you have that information you should check out German passenger departure lists. Other records that may contain their city of birth are naturalization records, church records from the area around the port they entered, census records, and BDM records.

Find Their Birthplace on a Map

Once you have found the name of the town or city where your ancestor was born, look for it ion a modern map to make sure it still exists. You can use online German gazetteers for this. If you can’t locate their birthplace on a modern map, consult historic maps or records to find out where it used to be and where those records might now be held.

German Birth, Death, and Marriage Records

Some German vital records date back to 1792 as many German states had their own civil registration systems. These records are held in the area that the event took place, as there is no central repository inGermany. You can find them in government archives and the local civil registrar’s office. Some are held on microfilm by the LDS Family History Library.

German Census Records

Censuses have been conducted inGermanyon a regular basis since the unification in 1871. Though they are deemed as national censuses, they were and are still carried out by each state or province, where the records can be found. You can get original returns from the Civil Register Office (Standesamt)in each area, or from the municipal archives (Stadtarchiv). Unfortunately,East Germanydestroyed all of the census returns for that area, and some records were destroyed by bombings during the war.

You may be able to locate some records from individual regions, as occasionally some cities and provinces conducted their own censuses between the national ones. The information you’ll find in German census reports varies according to the time period, and earlier ones may only record how many people occupied a household, though usually the name of the head of the household id given.

German Parish Registers

Some parish registers inGermanydate back as far as the 1500’s, and they can be a valuable source of ancestral information. Baptisms, marriages, burials, confirmations, and other events are recorded in them, and sometimes a complete family record is written containing information about an entire family.

Registers are generally kept by local parish offices, though some smaller churches may send their records to a larger central register. If you find that the parish no longer exists, the parish which took over may still hold those records. Some hand copied registers were sent to the district court, and they can sometimes serve as a substitute if the original records can’t be located. Keep in mind however that they are hand copied, and so may contain errors.

As with any genealogical search in any geographical location, research can sometimes be painstaking. Sticking to the task though will generally see you reap the fruit of your labors.

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March 12th, 2013

More Free Genealogy Resources – Historical Books Online

Historical books are among the best free genealogy resources you can find online. During my genealogy research I have often found them to be extremely useful in filling in the blanks about my ancestors and the era and area in which they lived. Family and local histories especially reveal a wealth of information, and you may even find that your ancestors can be found in some of these publications. Even if you don’t locate your ancestor in them, they can help you to get a keen insight into how and where they lived. What’s more is that they are absolutely free genealogy resources!

During my research I have come across quite a few websites where you can access and read historical books online. The spirit of genealogy is growing, and thanks to countless, dedicated volunteers and generous donors, we have a wealth of wonderful online resources available to us. The following are some of the best websites I’ve discovered while researching my own family history. The best part is that all of them are free!

Internet Text Archive introduced us to the Wayback Machine. The Wayback Machine is a search engine that allows you to search over 240 billion web pages that have been archived since 1996, right up until just a few months ago. This in itself is a valuable genealogical tool, as you can find web pages that are no longer published. Their collection of Texts includes millions of public domain books, local, town, and county histories, published books containing historical records, family histories, and a wealth of other publications on a variety of genealogy relevant material.

Our Roots

This website boasts a wealth of Canadian local histories. In fact, it bills itself as having the largest collection of these precious genealogy resources in the world. You can easily search areas related to their search by simply clicking on a map of Canada, and a list of resources for that area will be given you. I did a quick search for Ontarioand 24 pages were returned. They consisted of local histories, letters written by emigrants, ethnic histories, school records, and much more. A genuine goldmine of free genealogy resources!

Their Own Words

Here you can find over 50 books containing regimental histories, autobiographies, biographies, and military journals. Additionally there is a collection of letters, pamphlets, and diaries dating from the late eighteenth century to the early 1900’s. You have to search alphabetically by author, but a summation of what they have written is located beneath their name.

Hathi Trust Digital Library

The Hathi Trust is a partnership that includes a number of libraries and research institutes that are dedicated to preserving historical records. They pool their resources, the result being a massive collection preserved and made available to the public at no cost. There are thousands of digitized books of genealogical value, especially about local histories. Much of their collection was initially composed of content from Google Books, but they are continually publishing more and more books and other texts that are being digitized locally. You can download individual pages, and some full PDF documents are available for download from some of the partner institutions.

Historical books are really a very useful genealogy resource, especially if you are working on a project that involves in-depth historical research. They can educate you about historical trends, laws and statutes that might affect the records you need to consult, and in some cases even reveal personal information about your ancestor. The above are all completely free to use – no strings attached, the kind of free genealogy resources every genealogist loves, and the kind we like to share with you!

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March 5th, 2013

Is Your Ancestor in the News? Tips for Searching Online Historical Newspapers

Historical newspapers that have been digitized and place online make great free genealogy resources. The technology they use to make them searchable however is sometimes imperfect, and it can be difficult to find the information you seek. Different newspaper archives employ different search technology, which compounds the problem further. The following tips however can help you to minimize that difficulty and give you the best shot at finding that crucial information about your long lost ancestor.

Tip #1 – Search Using only the Surname

It can be difficult finding an exact name in online newspaper archives. This can be because of the search technology employed by that particular website, or due to nicknames, misspellings, and abbreviations. Unless you are searching for a particularly popular surname like Smith or Jones, begin your search by using just the surname. This will increase the amount of returns you get, but if you take the time to weed through them, you could find the name of your relative, either their full name, one including a nickname that proved a road block, or an abbreviated version. If you get too many returns, enter further info such as a location.

Tip #2 – Search for Relatives

If you don’t have any success using the above strategy, try researching a relative of the ancestor you’re trying to locate. Try a combination of given names for other family members and you might be surprised at the results. Another strategy that sometimes works is to search the first name of your ancestor along with the first names of their parents.

Tip #3 – Search by Address

Sometimes the technology used by database search engines can miss surnames. The articles or obituaries you are searching for could well be there, the search technology is just not picking them up. This has happened to me several times, but perseverance usually pays off. A strategy that has worked for me in the past is to search using my ancestor’s last known address. Quite often obituaries list a person’s address, and wedding announcements sometimes do as well. They are one of the most popular types of free genealogy resources.

Tip #4 – Search by Date and Name of Publication

Sometimes you simply have to search a newspaper page by page to locate information on your relatives. If you know the date and location of an event in your ancestor’s history and have exhausted the first three strategies, this might be the way to go. If you know the date they died for instance, you can search obituaries for that time period. Find out what newspapers are or were published in the area in which your ancestor lived and use their browser option to locate the newspaper for the days the notice may have appeared. Make sure you check issues for a couple of days on either side of the event, or even a week or two. Sometimes a funeral notice or memoriam was published a few weeks after a person’s death. They also are excellent free genealogy resources.

Tip #5 – Search Using Subject Keywords

Instead of a surname search, sue the name of a specific type of documentation such as “obituary,” “wedding announcement,” or “death notice.” If you have the option, enter additional keywords such a “memoriam” or “funeral notice.” Old newspapers may use different terms, so have a look at them first, and take note of what they name particular sections of their publication. Some of them may have pages for birthday or anniversary announcement, so use as many terms as you can think of.

Tip #6 – Modify Your Keyword Search

While the above mentioned terms are important to use, you may have equal success by not using them. Don’t neglect using terms like “business notices” or “business listings.” Sometimes they mention individuals in their notices, so if you know what the occupation of your ancestor was so make use of them as well. Older newspapers sometimes listed those who immigrated to other countries; the options are really endless.

It depends on the search technology that a particular newspaper database uses, but sometimes just a name and address will get you surprising results. A genealogy search however requires imagination and resourcefulness, especially in these types of databases. Experiment using as many terms as you can think of. Terms such as “military” or “school” can sometimes be amazingly revealing. The main thing is to never give up. Make use of these excellent free genealogy resources and follow the ancestral trail as stubbornly as you can.

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February 26th, 2013

How Important is DNA to Genealogy? Just Ask the Ancestors of Richard III!

The skeletal remains that were found beneath a parking lot in Leicester, Englandin September, 2012 have been confirmed to be the remains of Richard III, one of England’s most reviled kings. The search for King Richard’s remains was conducted by researchers from the Universityof Leicester, who were led to their possible location by records from a local monastery. The researchers worked from historical maps, and deduced that the remains were located under the small municipal parking lot. Ground-penetrating radar confirmed that there were bones there, and they were consequently excavated.

The amazing part, especially genealogically speaking, is that DNA samples from known living relatives were used to confirm his identity, more than 500 years after his death! One of the relatives that donated DNA was a man descended from King Richard’s sister which produced an almost perfect match. This is conclusive proof of the value of, not only maternal DNA testing, but the entire genealogical process. Richard’s descendants could not have been located for testing if traditional genealogical records did not exist, or if there were not sound genealogical methods and qualified researchers to carry them out.

How DNA Testing Works to Locate Ancestors and Descendants

The samples that the Scientists from theUniversityofLeicesterused to confirm Richard III’s identity were taken from his bones. They performed a maternal DNA test and compared the samples from the bones with the DNA of his known living ancestor, Michael Ibsen, the son of Richard’s sixteenth generation niece. The other donor chose to remain anonymous, but the results were overwhelmingly conclusive.

Maternal DNA or lineage testing allows both males and females to trace their ancestry through the DNA inherited from their mother. The father’s mitochondrial DNA is destroyed at fertilization, and so children inherit only the mother’s mitochondrial DNA. Because of this unique inheritance phenomenon, the maternal link to the past is preserved in both men and women, which inevitably made the son of Richard’s niece, even after 16 generations, an ideal subject.

DNA testing for genealogical purposes can be very valuable to family historians. It can be used to confirm your ethnic or even geographical origins as well as whom you are related to. Genealogy will never rely solely on DNA testing, without the written records, King Richard’s descendants could not have been found or confirmed, nor would the team of researchers from theUniversityofLeicesterhave known where to look for his remains.

Besides, one of the most rewarding aspects of an ancestor search is locating their records and enjoying a bit of historical nostalgia along the way. DNA research and modern DNA testing will never take the place of finding a love letter that your great-great-grandmother wrote to your great-great-grandfather, but it can help you to locate relatives you didn’t know you had. If you’d like to know more about the mitochondrial DNA testing the researchers used, please read our article Understanding Mitochondrial DNA Ancestry Tests

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