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Tips on Tracing Your Family
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TIPS ON TRACING YOUR FAMILY
All of us have different reasons for wanting to know more about our own ancestors. Whatever your reason might be, your will need three things – curiosity, persistence, and a desire for accuracy. Your will find it exciting, frustrating, and time-consuming, but always, in the end, rewarding. After all, you will be discovering the heritage and traditions of your family and who YOU are.Family history is the basis of all history.
Begin with YOURSELF! Use one of the many charts to record the your vital data. Then enter the same information for your parents and grandparents. At a glance, you will see what you know, what you do not know, and what is questionable. You are now ready to begin your research. REMEMBER! ALWAYS move from the known to the unknown, proving the facts as you go.
Use some system of record keeping that appeals to you. These may be computer programs, index cards, notebooks, or printed forms. With whatever system you pick, remember to:
a) be sure you are able to find the information when you need
b) document where you found the material. Many genealogists implement a numbering system, which can be quite helpful as you expand your family tree
Variations in spelling of surnames were common. Foreign names were often difficult to pronounce and/or spell.
Genealogy is a skill learned like any other. Today there are many excellent books, tapes video cassettes, and web site to help the genealogist understand the research process, solve specific problems, and learn what sources are available.
Enlist the help of family and relatives. Interview your parents and older members of your family. Examine ALL family documents, including bibles, news clippings, diaries, photos, etc. You will not only find answers to your questions, but you will learn the traditions and values of your ancestors. These memories are precious and are soon gone forever.
Consider the family group. Avoid looking at your ancestor as an isolated individual. By researching the entire family group, you will find clues that would otherwise be missed. Try to record all of those people of your surname in the area where your ancestor lived.
Use as many primary sources as possible. Primary sources are records that originate with someone directly involved with the event or at the time the event took place. Just as in law, this is considered “best evidence” and has the greatest degree of accuracy. All other records that do not fit this definition are considered secondary sources, which may provide useful information, but may not be as accurate.
Visit your library. You will become aware of what records are available. Many libraries now have manuscripts, federal censuses, as well as other material on the primary level.You will have access to maps, histories, and gazetteers that will give you knowledge regarding local history. Most of all, a good library has the “tools” available to help you locate needed records.
Learn the history of the area where your ancestor lived. They were the “makers” of history. By understanding the local history, migration patterns, and nationality and religion of its residents, you will be able to use intelligent logic when evaluating problems.
Become familiar with the formation of the state, county, and town/ township government. This opens the huge area of valuable records held by government offices.Instructional guides for genealogists are now available for every state and for most counties. You will be successful at locating the records you need at courthouses, town clerks’ offices, and local government depositories, if you take the time to read what records are available and where they are found.
Don’t overlook the vast holdings of the federal government. These include military records, passenger and immigration lists, naturalization records, land grants, and census records.
REMEMBER! Genealogy is a “step by step” process. You can become an expert one step at a time! Join a genealogy group where you will learn from others, have access to knowledgeable speakers, participate in workshops, and become involved in preserving history for the future. Best of all, you can SHARE with others your interest in genealogy!
Checking the Averages
If your research in the pioneering period (before 1850) has “dead ended,” it’s time for creative thinking. You may find these trends helpful in analyzing your problems:
There are approximately three generations per century.
Average age for men to marry was 24. They rarely married before 16.
First marriages were usually between couples near the same age.
Women generally outlived their husbands, but old widowers frequently married women much younger than themselves, who had never been married before.(Remember those old Revolutionary War soldiers!)
Births generally occurred at two-year intervals.Frequently the first child was born a year after marriage.As a woman aged the interval between births grew slightly.Child bearing generally ended around 45.
Families and neighbors generally migrated together from their old homes.Women rarely traveled alone.
Men usually married women from their neighborhood, but if a seemingly “strange” woman turned up, check the man’s former home.Often men returned to their prior residence to find a wife.
If you can’t find an old parent, chances are he “went west” with a son.
If you have a male ancestor born around 1840, strongly consider Civil War service.
Studies show that after 1850, Ohio pioneers frequently moved to counties in other states on the same latitude as their home county in Ohio.
If your ancestor has a virtue name (e.g.: Patience, Silence), consider a New England heritage.
Children were often named for grandparents, both male and female.
Frequently a middle name or even a first name was the mother’s or grandmother’s maiden name, especially if the name was repeated through several related families.