Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Let the Genealogy Research Begin!

Researching our family history has always been on our “we should really do that” list.  Now, thanks to a some recent interest from one of our cousins, we are elbow deep in index cards of possible ancestors and copies of census records.  We started with what we know and what our parents could tell us.  Unfortunately, our grandparents are no longer with us to share their memories and we have very little to begin with. 

One set of our grandparents, married in 1946.

A few weekends ago, we attended a genealogy workshop at the Connecticut Historical Society, where we gathered some tips on how to get started and how to begin to organize and coordinate what information we find.  The CHS Research Center is an excellent resource, especially for local history, so we spent the afternoon following the workshop in the Research Center gathering what we could find to help us get started.  We have since spent countless hours online digging for more.  Most of what we have found was through HeritageQuest Online, FamilySearch.org, and ancestry.com.  Luckily, our last name, and most of our other related surnames are fairly uncommon, so any information that is available has been pretty easy to spot (except when people decide to change the spelling of their names!).  We have several census records, a few military records (more are on order from the National Archives), town directory listings, and a sprinkling of immigration and naturalization records.  At this point, I think we have exhausted the online records and we have plans to visit the CT State Library this weekend to see what we can find there. 

Our other grandparents, married in 1950.

We have made a few connections between family lines, but still have a long way to go.  We have one line that we can trace to the Civil War (including a Medal of Honor recipient!) and we think they've been in the U.S. since at least the middle of the 18th century.  The other lines of our family were immigrants to the U.S. in the generation of our great-grandparents.  We hope to share some fun stories with you all as we continue to unearth them.  Have any of you embarked on this journey of family discovery?  Any tips or recommendations, especially for foreign research, would be most appreciated!


Sandi said...

Family history has been an obsession of mine for years! My Ancestry.com family tree has almost 4,000 people on it. I recommend sending out for birth and death certificates if you don't have them. Copies of Social Security applications can be helpful too, if you want to find out someone's parents' names and for some reason cannot locate a birth certificate. Further back, census and church records are often the most helpful. Outside of the country it's rather unpredictable; depending on the country, there can be a lot or a little available.

One thing I have enjoyed doing is taking my old family photos and putting them in an album alongside a biography of the person based on the information I've uncovered. It's a fun and accessible way to organize the four or five most recent generations, if you have photos.

lahbluebonnet said...

Have you visited family cemetaries? I have been wanting to take the kids up to my mom's home in Pennsylvannia to tour all the family heritage stuff that I got to see when I was little...old houses and cemetaries and such. The markers, flags for time in military service, epitaphs, etc can be great information. These are actually my favorite tangible forms of research.

Isabella said...

I've been researching my family tree for almost a decade now and...you'll run into issues but it is a LOT of fun. We are still trying to find one ancestor of mine, Emma Moore. We think we are having such a issue finding her because she was "passing" as a white women back in the late 19th C. We think she was American Indian but no one is sure where she came from.

On most branches, my family tree goes back pretty far and I'm always finding new to me ancestors to add. I've also found cousins! One of the funniest stories was when I was reading over an LJ friend's family tree and it matched part of mine. I quickly emailed her - it was her cousin's tree that she did for her cousin. So, I have an LJ friend that is a 1st cousin to my 5th cousin! :-)

una said...

Family history is also one of my hobbies. For my research I started with birth-, marriage- and death-certificates we already had (some dating back to early 19th century) and info I got from older family members. Then I went to several churches to look through the records there. I managed to trace back my ancestors to mid-18th century, but local churches have records back to 17th century, so I might find out more.
Like Sandi said, there are lots of methods for gathering bits and pieces. It can be useful to be able to read old handwritings, though, so I highly recommend practicing that.

vintagevisions27 said...

Hi ladies! I was recently awarded the Liebster Blog Award and would like to pass the honor on to you!
Best wishes,

Ashley said...

I'm so excited that there are so many others who enjoy family research as well! I love hearing about the adventures and stories that others unearth. Thank you all for your wonderful stories, comments, and suggestions!

I think our next step is ordering birth and death certificates as well as visiting any local cemeteries. One line of our family has been in Connecticut and on Long Island, NY so we have a few somewhat local churches, &c. to begin further research with. Hopefully once we discover when our other family lines immigrated to the United States, we will have some direction for those lines as well.

And thank you, Emily, for the blog award! We'll be posting our five picks very soon!

Jan said...

A few years ago I began to look into genealogy, using information other relatives had for me and going back further. a death certificate helped clarify who my great grandmother's mother was and that made a clear line to the Mayflower. How fun!

I learned what the members of each generation were doing and even found some family stories about how their lives were impacted by the British control of Long Island during the American Revolution.

I suggest you start with ancestry.com and put your information on there. I recommend keeping your tree private so as people need to get information from you, they contact you personally and they can't steal your pictures etc. and use them in ways you don't approve. I have found family I didn't know existed that way and we have helped each other develop our information.

On ancestry the records can be attached and you can scan in those death certificates you find and the old pictures. Finally, when you get enough together, you can go to the publish section of Ancestry. Some pages are made automatically such as five generation charts. In the end I made a personal family history book and tribute to my mom, while she was still alive to read it. The best part are the stories her grandchildren wrote about her!

After that I did my father's side of the family and made a book honoring him. Now I am working on my husband's family. The neat thing is that it never has to end. You can keep adding to the book as new things emerge and then order a new copy if you like. Also, anyone in the family who wants it can order their own if you give them permission.

I have too many amazing discoveries to share in this space. It is addictive. Beware. You might find yourself creeping down in the middle of the night looking for that one more record or that next generation.

Jan, enthusiastic about janeology