How do you find out who your ancestors were

Searches may be done for free, but the authors of a website may ask you to subscribe to a service or pay a fee before you can view the information you have found, in which case you may want to explore how you can otherwise obtain the information for free. The websites highlighted below are organized into several groups, but many provide a wide variety of resources.

Some are mentioned more than once. Therefore, explore what the web sites have to offer, beyond what has been highlighted on this web page.

Was One of Your Ancestors Adopted?

The list below does not represent a complete list of all genealogical resources available. Finally, your local libraries can be a helpful source of information. Often public libraries have a collection of genealogical materials. Ask your local librarians what books and help guides are available to you. Ask if your local library and the community you live in provide workshops on genealogical research.

Good luck with your research! It will answer basic questions you may have on these topics. The DOI also provides information about organizations that conduct genealogy research for a fee, records the Bureau of Indian Affairs has and does not have, helpful family and government documents, tribal enrollment, benefits and services of being an enrolled member of a tribe, Cherokee Indian ancestry, and a link to a directory of tribal leaders.

This article is intended not only for them, but also for service providers who may encounter similar questions from the communities they serve. Genealogical societies are mentioned as are articles and books that focus on research problem-solving. The web page also describes records that are available from NARA.

This guide focuses mainly on Oklahoma tribes but also provides ideas about genealogy resources such as oral histories, newspaper indexes, and manuscript collections. Guides are linked in the middle and right side columns. The site also offers several newsletters. The help section discusses definitions of primary and secondary sources, document preservation, genealogy computer programs, census records, and land records, among other topics.

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Archived versions from the Internet Archive. Some tribes have information about genealogy research and enrollment at their web sites. Open adoptions are now the standard thanks to the research that has shed light on the generally negative nature of most closed adoptions and the benefits of open adoptions. In the past, adoptions were often secretive, complicated and left large gaps in the personal histories of the adoptee — which creates even bigger gaps for their descendants who are researching their own family tree.

Typically, few if any records will exist of the adoption, so family researchers are left to puzzle together whether or not an adoption may have been the reason for missing information in their genealogical research. Adoption adds a whole new family tree into your personal history, so your familial history begins to look more like a forest! This is common, but it can make sorting through historical records a bit more confusing. Orphanages were often used similarly to modern-day foster care. Pick an individual about whom your information is incomplete.

For example, if you are missing information about one of your four grandparents, start with her or him. Try to obtain death, marriage, and birth records if available. Always work backward from the known to the unknown. Your first step should be to obtain vital records if they exist. These include.

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Most U. States that were part of the original thirteen colonies are the most likely to have pre vital records and church records available. Publications such as The International Vital Records Handbook , 7th Edition, and the booklet titled Where to Write for Vital Records provide records descriptions, addresses, and other helpful information. There is also a digital version available on the Slideshare website from the Division of Vital Records. Do a Google search for websites for each state archives to learn more about accessing vital records in a particular state.

The FamilySearch Wiki also offers a state-by-state outline of where to find various records for each state. Church and religious records for baptisms and marriages are often substituted for civil vital records before civil vital records were uniformly collected.


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The best way to find religious records is to search in the county where the ancestor lived. Also check with a library, genealogical, or historical society where your ancestor resided for advice on where to find historical records for the religious denomination of interest. Another essential record group for genealogical research involves searching all available federal census records to glean personal facts about individuals and put together family groups. Federal census records and indexes — excluding the census which was lost in a fire are available online:.

Census records can also be viewed on site at the National Archives and its branches. Many states collected census information from their residents and also what is called census substitutes before or for particular years in-between decennial federal census surveys. The FamilySearch Wiki is a good source to consult for the full complement of records available, state-by-state. City directories are directories that preceded telephone books, which were organized to find people and businesses. They arose from a need for businesses to contact customers, customers to find businesses, and for residents to find one another.

Listings for individuals are organized alphabetically by surname and give a home residence and often an occupation, and place of business. City directories began to appear right after the American Revolution in larger cities and eventually spread to counties and towns. They were published yearly in most locations.

How To Tell Who Your Ancestors Were

By the mids they were discontinued in favor of telephone books and Yellow Pages. City directories are an excellent way to track the movements of people between census years and to separate people with the same name by using addresses and occupations as identifiers.

Identify What You Know and Use Home Sources

The Library of Congress has a full set of all copyrighted directories on microfilm or microfiche and most directories are copyrighted. Internet Archive and the New York Public Library have been digitizing vast numbers of directories from microfilm, so check their websites for free access to digitized directories now online. Miriam J. Ancestry, Fold 3, and other genealogy subscription services have more limited but useful collections of city directory records.

Libraries often subscribe to databases such as these and may offer additional electronic resources with city directories that are free for patrons. Consult a reference librarian locally for more resources available to you. Having collected the basics about your ancestors, you are now ready to visit or contact the courthouse in the locality where your ancestor s lived.

Call ahead to find where the records are housed as many older records are moved to other repositories if a courthouse runs out of room. At the courthouse itself, in the town or county archives, or in a local library, you may discover:. If you cannot go to a courthouse in person, search the internet.


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  • Many town or county offices have digitized at least some of their records and made them available online. Check the local historical societies and the state archives to see if older records have been transferred there. Another option is to consult digitized microfilm of courthouse records on FamilySearch. Libraries and archives with major genealogical collections are an important way to develop your family history, particularly once you have traced your ancestors back four generations or more.

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    Such collections include compiled family histories and genealogies, local histories, and reference materials that can be extremely helpful in your research. In addition, most libraries and archives have unique collections of unpublished materials including such things as Bible records, photo and newspaper clipping files, and surname files. Your local library probably belongs to a countywide web of digital resources that you can access from home using your library bar code.