Project 4 Goals:  1: Get Organized   2: Identify a Line   3: Form a Strategy   4: Use FamilySearch Tools   5: Develop Search Skills   6: Solve Problems   7: Family History Trip   8: App Gallery


Project 4: Discover

Learn the essential research skills you need, to find your ancestors.


Tracker:   Online  or  Word  

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Goal 1: Get organized for research. Vault

Taking the time to get well-organized now will save you time later, and it will help you research your ancestor lines efficiently. Here is a good overview of getting organized with your genealogy materials.

Choices

A Organize your materials.

Summary
  1. Get a research binder and add page dividers in it, by geographic place of research or family surname.
  2. Determine your own sub-categories within the dividers, such as maps, how-to's, information contacts and websites, where to order records, printed forms, brief blog posts and articles, etc.
  3. Read this article for more tips on creating a research binder.
    How a Research Notebook Can Keep You Organized
  4. Watch this Ancestry video for ideas on organizing your genealogy.
    Tips for Organizing Your Family History Records
  5. Here are tips on using filing systems for genealogy.
    Color-Coded Genealogy Research Filing System
    | My Genealogy Digital File Folder Organization
Exercises

B Create and use to-do lists to keep on track with your research.

This helps you remember where to begin and how to stay on target with your goals.

Summary
  1. Study these videos for tips on writing down research learnings and keeping effective to-do lists.
    AC: Write It Down—27:00
    | AC—Genealogy ToDo Lists—19:57
  2. Decide on small, focused tasks for your to-do list. Make sure your tasks support the goals you are working on.
  3. Use an electronic to-do list (Outlook, iPhone, etc.) or a paper-based list for your to-do list.
Exercises

C Keep your records organized as you research.

Summary
  1. Use these tips to help you stay organized with your research.
    FS—Organizing Your Files
    | AC—Organizing Research Info—19:00
  2. Read these articles for tips on organizing your research and your findings.
    AA—Getting Organized: Tips to Help You
    | FS—Organizing Your Research
  3. Read this article for tips on taking effective notes as you do research.
    GC—Taking Notes in Genealogy
  4. Use research logs to track your progress.
    BYU—Research Logs—6:50

    FS—Research Logs—5 pgs.
  5. Store lists of records you are working on in the FamilySearch Source Box or the Ancestry Shoebox.
Exercise

D Keep track of your correspondence with others and write effective request messages.

Summary
  1. Read this article for tips on tracking your correspondence with others. See also the Correspondence Record form in Choice E.
    GC—Tracking Your Correspondence
  2. Here are tips for writing to family members and organizations.
    GC—Tips for Writing to Family Members
    | GC—Tips for Writing to Institutions
  3. You can use these form letters and tips when writing to people internationally.
    GC—Form Letters for Requesting Information
  4. Make use of email or text-message folders for electronic correspondence.
Exercise

E Use pre-printed charts to help you organize your research efforts.

Summary
  1. Use an Ancestral Chart for sketching ancestor possibilities.
  2. Use a Research Calendar to keep track of resources you have explored and other notes.
  3. Use a Research Extract to summarize data you have researched, when digital copies are not possible or practical.
  4. Use a Correspondence Record to track correspondence with others.
  5. Use a Family Group Sheet to record information on members of a family you are researching.
  6. Use Source Summary to summarize sources for a given family.
Exercises




Goal 2: Identify a line to do research on, to extend your pedigree.

Choosing one line at a time to pursue is a more efficient way to do research. Try to gather as much information about a given family unit as possible, before tracing back additional generations: work backwards in time. Here is a warmup video to get you started with research; watch 7:10 to 8:15.

Choices

A In Family Tree, find a family group sheet with some missing information for ancestors you want to find.

Summary
  1. If possible, look for someone who was born after 1700, with a recorded spouse.
  2. Make note of missing names, dates and locations in the records of recent ancestors.
  3. Here are some tips for choosing a line to research.
    BW—Choosing a Line
  4. Read this About.com article for tips on finding missing parents in your line.
    AB—Five Tips for Tracking Down Parents
  5. Plan to search for all your ancestors, not just the direct male or female lines.
    LDS—Search for Every Ancestor
Exercises

BForm questions for each selected ancestor that will help drive your research.

Summary
  1. Ask the questions you're most interested in: Why did an ancestor move? Are there missing children in a gap on a family group record? Watch this video for ideas.
    FS—Choose an Ancestor and a Question—3:20
  2. Learn how to define research questions in this article.
    BW—Define Your Research Question
  3. For a review of questions for ancestor research, watch this video.
    AC—Asking Genealogy Questions and Getting Answers—17:20
Exercises

C Use Find-A-Record.com or Puzzilla.org to quickly identify "end-of-line" ancestors (those without recorded parents).

Summary
  1. See Project 1, Goal 9 for instructions on using Find-A-Record. Once logged in, clear all the check boxes in the colored categories on the left. Then open the Relationships category (purple) and check the Missing Father, Missing Mother, and Missing Parents boxes. A list of end-of-line ancestors is displayed on the right.
  2. See the Puzzilla.org Goal in Project 3 for instructions on displaying an ancestor view. Nodes without extensions are the end-of-line ancestors. To highlight these nodes so they stand out more easily, click Targets in the left pane.
Exercises




Goal 3: Form solid strategies to research your selected lines. Vault

A good research strategy will help you get more research done in less time. It will also help you know when to spend more time on a line and when to move on to the next one.

Choices

ALearn principles of effective research.

Summary
  1. Use good standard practices for genealogy research.
    Society of Genealogists—Standards and Practices
  2. Read these articles for tips on getting started with your research.
    AA—Getting Started: Tips to Help You
    | RIV—Research Training Guide—27 pgs.
  3. Learn to focus your research efforts for better results.
    LDS—Focusing Your Research
  4. Use the Gather, Choose, Find, Evaluate, Share process in your research.
    LDS—The Research Process—3:53
  5. Study the strategies for research in these articles.
    FS Wiki—A Guide to Research
    | AC—5 Tips to Jumpstarting Your Research—7 pgs.
Exercises

BDevise a research plan to use.

Summary
  1. Try the research planning strategies shown in these articles.
    AB—Think Like a Detective
    | BW—Create a Research Plan
  2. Here is a sample research plan template to use.
    Cyndi's Intermediate Research Plan Template
  3. Study this example of a research plan in action.
    AB—Research Plan in Action
  4. Create broad goals and refine them into specific goals, as shown in this video.
    AC—Crafting a Research Plan—23:49
  5. Understand where to look for the records you need.
    LDS—Keys to Finding Relevant Genealogical Resources
    | LDS—Searching through Layers of Sources
  6. Use time-saving tips from these articles to make your research more efficient.
    GC—Time-Saving Tips for Genealogists
    | GC—What You Can Do in Two Days
Exercises

C Take advantage of previous research.

The strategies in this Choice will help you when you search genealogy collections in Goal 4.

Summary
  1. Try the strategies in this FamilySearch Wiki document. Note : This document is titled as a United States article, but it applies well to research in any country.
    FS—United States Previous Research
  2. Learn more about using previous research in these articles.
    GC—Previous Research in Families
    | GC—Finding and Using Published Genealogies
  3. Learn about using genealogical documents and manuscripts in your research.
    FE—How to Find and Use Genealogical Documents

    AA—Using Manuscripts in Your Research—52:00
  4. Learn to examine inherited pedigrees carefully for possible problems.
    LDS—Examine Inherited Pedigrees Carefully
Exercise

D Learn how to use names and naming patterns to accelerate your research.

Summary
  1. Read this document for tips on names and naming patterns.
    GC—Importance of Names and Naming Patterns
  2. Learn about tracing surnames in these articles from About.com.
    AB—Last Name Meanings and Origins
    | GC—Importance of Names and Naming Patterns
  3. Read this document to learn more about surname origins. There are many sub-articles, some dealing with international names.
    AB—Surname Meanings and Origins
  4. Read this About.com article to learn about using maiden names to further your research.
    AB—Top Places to Find Maiden Names
  5. Learn about surname research in this article from the Society of Genealogists.
    Surname Searching at the SOG
  6. Learn about the Geneanet site in this video.
    BYU—Geneanet—10:00
  7. Explore surname lists, such as those found on abcgenealogy.com.
  8. Investigate single names at the Guild of One-Name Studies site.
  9. Search Geneanet.org to find your surnames of interest.
  10. Explore surname research in the right column of the Linkpendium site.
Exercises




Goal 4: Use FamilySearch and other tools to find ancestor information.

Choices

AUse the Records option in the Family Tree Search menu.

Summary
  1. For an overview of searching the FamilySearch site for records, read this blog post.
    FS—How to Search the FamilySearch Site
  2. In the Search menu at the top of the screen, choose Records.
  3. Fill in the name of the person to search for, along with any relevant life events. For help with using spouse and parent relationships in your search, read this article.
    FS—Searching for Historical Records Using Spouse and Parent Relationships Information
  4. If you want to limit the records you find to exactly the search terms you are using, check the "Match all terms exactly" box. For help with setting additional filter options in your searches, read this article.
    FS—Applying Filters to Search Results in FamilySearch Historical Records
  5. Click Search.
  6. Use best practices in your record searches.
    FS—FamilySearch Tips
  7. Use these tips and options to increase your success with record searches.
    FS—Options and Tips for Searching
    | FS—Tips and Tricks for FamilySearch Historical Records (4 pgs.)
  8. For tips on searching unindexed images read this article.
    FS—Using "Browse Image" Collections
Exercises

BUse the Search Records feature (Person page) to find ancestor information on FamilySearch.

Summary
  1. To see search results in historical records for the selected person, in the Search box click FamilySearch.
  2. In the Records tab that appears, look through the list of ancestors to find the one that most closely matches the one you want.
  3. In the View column at the right, click the document icon or camera icon (if available) for more information.
  4. In the left pane, you can refine your search by choosing different options.
  5. Here are additional details on how to search for records from the Person page.
    FS—Searching for Additional Records from the FamilySearch Person Page—4:47

    FS—Searching FamilySearch Historical Records from a Person page in Family Tree
  6. For tips on using search filters in this screen, read this article.
    FS—Using Search Filters in FamilySearch.org
  7. To restrict your search to specific record collections, a) Click the Collections tab; b) Select the record collections you want to use; and c) Click the "Filter These Results" button.
  8. Watch this video to learn more about using record collections.
    FS—Find More Records in FamilySearch under Collections—3:03
Exercises

CUse the Genealogies option to find ancestor information in user-submitted genealogy trees.

Note: Be sure to verify information in a genealogy tree before adding it to your line in FamilySearch.

Summary
  1. In the Search menu at the top of the screen, choose Genealogies.
  2. In the right pane of the Search Genealogies screen, read about the types of genealogies that are available here.
  3. Specify your search fields in the left side. You can select the "Match all terms exactly" box if you want.
  4. To select a certain types of genealogy to search, click All and select the genealogy name from the list.
  5. If you have the submission ID for a particular genealogy, you can specify it in the Submission ID field.
  6. Click Search.
  7. If you want to submit a family tree (GEDCOM file) to the Genealogies collection,
    a) Click Submit Tree; b) Read the instructions on the Submit Your Trees screen; c) Click Add GEDCOM; d) Navigate to your GEDCOM file and click Upload.
Exercises

DUse the Catalog option to find ancestors in the FamilySearch Catalog.

The FamilySearch Catalog and Books contain additional records that may be helpful in your searches. There are other online catalogs as well that can prove useful.

Summary
  1. Learn more about the FamilySearch Catalog in these articles.
    FS—Introduction to the FamilySearch Catalog
    | RIV—FamilySearch Catalog—4 pgs.
  2. Learn about using catalogs in FamilySearch and Ancestry.
    BYU—Catalogs for FS and AC—56:00
  3. In FamilySearch, click the Search menu and choose Catalog. You can read about online catalogs in the right pane of the screen.
  4. Click one or more "Search By" fields and fill in the search information.
  5. If you have a call number for a library item or microfilm/microfiche number, click the Search For item, and then fill in the field. Or to limit the search to one family history center, select its name from the drop-down list.
  6. Click Search.
  7.    
  8. On the FamilySearch Catalog page, under "Other Catalogs to Consider", click the OCLC World Cat link. WorldCat is the world's largest network of library content and services.
  9. Watch this video to learn more about using WorldCat.
    BYU—Using WorldCat—5:45
  10. On the FamilySearch Catalog page, under "Other Catalogs to Consider", click the Archive Grid link. ArchiveGrid is a collection of nearly a million archival material descriptions.
Exercises

EUse the Books option to find ancestors in online books.

  1. In the Search menu at the top of the screen, choose Books.
  2. Type the name of the book to search for and click Search or Advanced Search.
  3. To explore partner institution websites, click any of the links on the left side of the page.
  4. Learn about genealogies and books available from FamilySearch.
    RIV—FamilySearch Genealogies and Books—3 pgs.
  5. Explore online biographies. See this FamilySearch Wiki article for resources.
    FS—U.S. Biography
  6. To visit the website for a large public family history library, click one of the links on the Family History Books page.
  7. Learn about digital books for genealogists.
    BYU—Digital Books for Genealogists—53:00
Exercises

FUse periodicals to find research clues.

Summary
  1. Learn how to find ancestor information in periodicals.
    GC—Finding Ancestors in Periodicals

    FS—Welcome to the World of Periodicals
  2. Read this article for more information on magazines and journals.
    GC—Magazines and Journals
  3. Learn about using the PERSI (Periodical Source Index).
    LDS—PERSI
    | FS—Using PERSI for Genealogical Success
  4. Explore the PERSI catalog on Findmypast.
Exercises

GUse the Wiki option to do research with the FamilySearch Wiki.

  1. In the Search menu at the top of the screen, choose Wiki.
  2. Type a location or topic in the Search bar and click Go; or click an area on the world map at the right to search by region.
  3. Watch this video for an introduction to the FamilySearch Research Wiki.
    FS—FamilySearch Wiki: What It Can Do for You—47:11
  4. For additional tips on using the FamilySearch Wiki for research, read the article and watch the video.
    RIV—Finding Ancestors Using the Research Wiki—4 pgs.

    BYU—The Research Wiki—34:12
  5. Here is some additional information on using the FamilySearch Wiki for research.
    RIV—Wonderful World of FS Wiki
Exercises




Goal 5: Develop your skills in searching records. Vault

The better your search skills, the more time you are likely to spend looking in the right places, and the better the results.

Choices

AImprove your search techniques.

Summary
  1. Apply best practices in the Internet searches you do, such as searching broadly at first and then more narrowly, and searching for unusual names before common names.
    FS—Internet Search Tips
  2. Get tips on doing record searches in FamilySearch.
    RIV—Searching with FamilySearch
  3. Try the search strategies in this article when working with records in Ancestry.
    Ancestry Insider
  4. Use these tips when searching for ancestors with common (often occurring) surnames.
    LDS—Finding Ancestors with Common Names
Exercises

BSearch for records in Ancestry, Findmypast, and MyHeritage.

Note: You must be signed in to partner sites before accessing their records.

Summary
  1. To see search results for Ancestry, go to the Person page and click Ancestry in the Search Records box. You can click See More Like This for more person results, or click any Matching Records link.
  2. You can also see search results from historical records for the selected person by clicking Findmypast. To see details, click the Note icon; to see a record image (when available), click the Camera icon.
  3. You can also see family tree results for the selected person by clicking MyHeritage.
Exercises

CUse Google (www.google.com) to conduct effective searches for ancestor names, dates, places, etc.

  1. Learn how to use basic search variations in Google.
    FMP—Google Your Family Tree
    | RIV—Genealogy Toolbox (p. 3-12)
  2. Learn how to use basic search variations in Google.
    GI—Refining Google Searches
  3. Learn advanced techniques for Google searches.
    GI: Google Advanced Search, Part 1
    | GI: Google Advanced Search, Part 2
Exercises

DUse variations in searches to produce better search results.

  1. Account for spelling and name variations as you search records. Read these articles for tips.
    FMP—Name Variations: Tips and Tricks
    | AC—Finding Your Ancestors with Spelling Variations
  2. Read this article for additional tips on using name variations.
    About.com—Tips for Finding Alternate Spellings
  3. Learn to recognize possible nicknames for ancestors.
    AB—Matching Nicknames with Given Names
    | AC: ABC's of Nicknames
  4. Use wildcards effectively in FamilySearch searches.
    FS—Searching with Wildcards in FamilySearch
  5. Use wildcards effectively in Ancestry searches.
    AC—Wildcards and Search Options—30:00
  6. Get the right blend of "specific" and "flexible" when doing searches with indexed records. Provide multiple search parameters to narrow the search, or use ranges to see more results. Watch this video for ideas.
    FS—Using Indexes to Find a Record—3:53
Exercises

ESave search results and images from records on your computer for later use.

  1. Do a records search in FamilySearch.
  2. In the Search screen, click the Export Results button, and then click Save. Your search results will be saved in Microsoft Excel spreadsheet format.
  3. Learn about using export results in this article.
    FS—Using Export Results
  4. Save record images to your computer so you can study them in detail later.
    FS—Downloading Images in Historical Records
      LANG:   ES   PT  
Exercise




Goal 6: Solve problems and use effective research methods. Vault

When research challenges arise, they don't need to derail your progress. With some best practices and creative thinking, you can keep your family history work moving along.

Choices

A Learn to avoid common mistakes in research.

Examples of common mistakes include:

  • Collecting ancestors, without verification or sources
  • Incorrectly identifying ancestors
  • Trying to connect with a person in the past by going forward in time
  • Not recording what you find
  • Not looking for siblings of ancestors
  • Skipping generations
  1. Watch this video for more information about common mistakes in family history research.
    AC—Common Genealogy Mistakes—27:27
  2. Avoid preconceived notions in research, such as: "All the information given to me must be correct;" "I don't need to ask research questions;" "All events have exact dates and places available."
  3. Learn about mistaken assumptions in genealogy research.
    AC—Preconceived Notions—29:05 (start 3:00)
  4. Understand how mistaken identities occur and how to avoid them.
    GC—Mistaken Identity
Exercise

BUnderstand potential problems with terms and records.

  1. Be familiar with terms that may have confusing uses in genealogy:
  2. Read the articles to discover possible record problems and how to address them.
    GC—Potential Problems with Records
    | LDS—Dealing with Errors
  3. Learn about the art of estimating ("guessing") in your preliminary research.
    FS—How to Guess Where to Start
  4. Learn how to do critical analysis of your research findings.
    BW—Critical Analysis
  5. Here are some additional tips for working with information in records.
Exercises

CUse effective tools and techniques.

  1. Learn how to abstract (summarize) the important parts of research records.
    BW—Abstract a Document
  2. Use Correlation approaches to piece together records. With correlation, you can draw conclusions that are supported by the evidence, even though specific facts may be missing.
    FS—Using a Correlation Approach—45:40
  3. Use discrepancy charts to help you evaluate facts when research is inconclusive.
    GC—Discrepancy Charts
  4. Use "cluster genealogy" to research the family members of direct ancestors. This can often lead to additional clues about your direct ancestors.
    AB—Cluster Genealogy

    BYU—Locating Your Ancestors Using Clusters—55:29
  5. Use Inferential Genealogy techniques to work with goals, searches, records and evidences. Start with a focused goal; search broadly; understand the records; correlate the evidence; and write down the results.
    FS—Inferential Genealogy
Exercises

DUse creative approaches to solve problems in non-typical ways.

This can help you make progress when traditional methods aren't working well.

  1. Read this article to learn about proven tips and tactics that reach "out of the box" for results.
    FSTips and Tactics—8 pgs.
  2. Learn about "detective techniques" for family history in this video.
    BYU—History Detectives
  3. Learn how to find missing ancestors by searching for their children.
    LDS—Find Missing Ancestors by Searching for Children
  4. Use "mind maps" as explained in these articles.
    BW—Correlate with Mind Maps
    | FTM—Using Mind Maps to Organize Research Ideas
Exercises

E(Optional) Use photographs to aid in your genealogical research.

  1. Use existing photos to further your research work. Look for photos that arouse your curiosity or that seem to have a story to tell.
    FS—Use Photos to Enhance Your Research
    | GC—Using Photos in Your Research
  2. Learn how to date photographs in their approximate times.
    GC—Dating Your Photographs
    | AC—Dating Family Photographs Using Historical Fashion Clues
  3. Explore the Photo Detective blog for ideas on how to do photographic detective work.
    Photo Detective Blog
  4. Find clues in photo captions and labels.
    AC—Bad Photos, Good Genealogy
  5. Use photos and other approaches to find out more about an ancestor's life.
    FTM—How to Learn What Your Ancestor's Life Was Really Like
    | FTM—How to Mine Family Memories for Genealogy Clues

F Know what alternatives you can try when research is slowed or stopped.

  1. Know what questions to ask before declaring a "brick wall".
    LDS—Questions to Ask Yourself Before Declaring a Brick Wall
    | BW—Have You Built Your Own Brick Wall?
  2. Here's a great list of 20 breakthrough items for research, from Findmypast.com.
    FMP—20 Things to Do when You Are Stumped
  3. Here is some helpful advice on cracking your genealogy brick walls.
    AC—Breaking through Your Genealogy Brick Wall—32:06

    AC—The Dreaded Brick Wall
  4. Learn tips in these articles for handling challenging situations.
    GC—Impossible and Improbable
    | FS—Solving Tough Research Problems—7 pgs.
Exercises




Goal 7: Take a family history trip. Vault

There's nothing like being there ... You can deepen your family history experience by planning and taking trips, short or long, to places connected with your ancestors.

APlan your family history trip.

  1. Make a list of locations of interest for research or gathering memories, and then decide where you will go.
  2. Read this article for tips on planning family history trips.
    FS—Planning and Implementing a Research Trip—3 pgs.
  3. Use suggestions from this video in planning for a successful trip. See also the first part of the video in Choice C, step 1 below.
    AC—Taking a Family History Vacation—20:08
Exercises

BDo effective research at the remote site.

  1. Learn the techniques of doing remote research.
    FS—Doing On-Site Research—30:01
  2. Learn about the resources available at most libraries and archives.
    For more information on accessing archive and library resources, see Goal F5 in Project 4: Discover the United States, or corresponding goals in Project 4 for other countries.
    GC—Libraries and Archives
  3. Learn what do do with your research findings.
    GC—What to Do after a Genealogy Trip
Exercises




Goal 8: (Optional) Use apps from the FamilySearch App Gallery to assist with doing research and discovering ancestors.

Apps, for Apple or Android, or websites, can help you do family history research and discover ancestors.

Choices

A Explore apps and websites in the App Gallery.