How to Begin
WRITE DOWN WHAT YOU KNOW
Fill in a family chart— you, your parents, grandparents…
Add birth, marriage, and death dates and places. Estimate dates, or years if you are unsure.
Talk to relatives and take notes. You are looking for names, when and where births, marriages, deaths and burials took place, religion, occupations and family stories. Did ancestors become citizens, when did they come to U.S., where exactly did they come from and why did they leave.
Locate ancestors in the 1930 census then 1920,1910…note ages, place of birth…
Where to Look
- Ancestry Library Edition is available in the library only.
- fold3 is available through the library from home. Provides access to National Archives records
- FamilySearch provides access to thousands of records online as well as a catalog of microfilms available to send for from the library in Salt Lake—world’s largest collection of genealogy material
- Heritage Quest is available through the library and provides access to most US census records. (Only household heads indexed)
- National Archives
- Cyndi's List is a collections of genealogical websites
You can also use Google to locate records for a specific locality, for example: google “wood county ohio genealogy”
LOCAL LIBRARIES ARCHIVES & COURTS
Libraries often have local obituaries, county histories, and local census records. Local Courts and Archives may have birth, death, and marriage records as well as wills.
Records to Look For
The United States took a census every 10 years beginning in 1790. The most recent census available is 1940. Beginning in 1850 every member of the household was listed, prior to that, you will find only head of household. Other census records include state, agriculture, slave and mortality schedules. Along with the summary, make sure to look at the actual record for additional information on the family as well as neighbors who often are relatives.
BIRTH, MARRIAGE & DEATH
Late 19th and most 20th century records will provide parents names and perhaps maiden name of mother along with other valuable information
City directories may include address, wife’s name, widowed or not, and occupation. This can also act as a substitute for the 1890 census which was destroyed in a fire.
OBITUARIES & NEWSPAPER ARTICLES
The 1900 through 1940 census records will tell you if and when your ancestor was naturalized. Naturalization records including the Declaration of Intent and/or Petition will often reveal the ship and date of arrival in the U.S. as well as the home town in the old country.
SHIP PASSENGER RECORDS
20th century records can provide place of birth and nearest relative in old country
WILLS, CHURCH RECORDS, CEMETERY RECORDS, HEADSTONES
WWI & WWII draft registration cards can provide date of birth, address, and birth location. Even if your ancestor did not serve in the war, they probably were required to register, depending on their age.
The National Archives will lead you to your ancestor’s military record. Pension records can be most revealing.
- Not everything is available online.
- Work your way back in time step by step. Try not to jump around.
- Generally speaking, early to mid-19th century records will contain much less information than late 19th & 20th century records.
- Names on documents are often misspelled. Dates may not be exact, and can often be a few years off.
- Try to confirm information by finding more than one source. Sometimes the record you find may belong to a different person altogether. Be especially skeptical of other researchers conclusions—for example, family trees you find online.
- Make a working copy of your records to bring with you when you research