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Now What?


So you’ve decided you’d like to learn a little more about your family’s heritage – now what?

You know the names, dates and birth places of your immediate family plus some aunts and uncles – and you’ve found the time to do a little digging. Where do you start? What skills do you need to research your family tree? How will you save the information you do find?

These are some questions that may come up as you decide to begin your family research. Let’s look at a few free options you have to begin your search.

Ancestry.com offers a free 14-day unlimited access trial period and does occasionally run offers that extend the trial period to one month. They have extensive digitized and original source information in databases which you can access under their Card Catalog heading.

If you have military in your family tree consider a trial offer at fold3.com. They provide excellent access to military records as well as photos, and offer a 7-day all access trial period for potential subscribers.

FamilySearch.com is a free research website that is an excellent resource for civil and census records that will get you started verifying what you think you know about your extended family.

Another resource for family birth and death dates is Find-A-Grave – an online database of millions of cemetery records offered by contributors from all over the world.

US Social Security Death Index – an online database of people who have died since 1962 containing date of birth, death, and social security number.

Rootsweb.com is an online database of family tree information submitted by researchers and family members researching their family tree. You can search by surname for family trees that have been posted online.

To find genealogical gems in libraries near you, try WorldCat.org.

JewishGen Family Finder – If you have Jewish ancestry, check out this free online database of surnames and towns.

Don’t forgot to check out blog spots that offer information and links to regional historical society websites, historical newspaper collections, as well as links to local and state funded online information. Two really good blog spots that I use are Terri Fraser’s retracingthepast.blogspot.com and the In-Depth Genealogist. These are two great resources that can point the way to those online records and heritage material that can be accessed for free or on a fee basis.

So you’ve taken the dive into finding what might be online to support your research into family – now how do you store it for access later?

MyHeritage.com is a free social network and genealogy website. It offers basic online research features, free genealogy software to create family trees and charts and a search engine that searches key databases from information you have entered.

AboutOne.com is an app that stores and organizes your family data, photos and memories. The basic service is free and is also available as an app for mobile devices, so you can take your information with you and add to it on-the-go. It’s good for storing photos and videos and lists of household artifacts and memories.

As you check out what services websites offer, be sure to also look for webinars and video tips and tricks for researching your family offered by these sites. They may offer valuable answers to your basic genealogical questions, and help you search for methods and clues for researching your lineage.

And don’t forget Google! Play around with Google by entering a surname and check out what links to online family trees may be out there. You never know, a researcher or distant cousin may have posted valuable information on a topic of interest to you. Find out just how much is out there on your ancestry just by searching basic terminology, i.e., Italian ancestry.

Remember – On my website you will find a Resources Checklist for items you may have in your home that could hold clues for family research. Or contact me at 4Descendants@cox.net with any questions you might have for research plans and services.


Author: Laurene Cross
Laurene Cross is a genealogist and family historian who writes stories about your ancestry and cultural heritage. Owner of Find My Family Stories and 4Descendants – Lineage Research

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