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Tips for Finding Information About Your Ancestors

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Researching your family history is like putting together the pieces of a puzzle. Each piece of information you find gives you a fuller, richer picture of your ancestors. Here are some tips you can use to find out more about your ancestors.

#1 Talk with Your Family Members

A lot of family history can be found in memories of your older relatives. If you have grandparents still living, talk to them about their parents and grandparents. Ask them if they ever heard stories about where their families came from. See if they have old photos of family members you might never have seen. Besides grandparents, talk to their siblings if they are still living. Older siblings often remember details younger ones don’t remember. Ask if anyone is the default family historian.

#2 Look Through Census Records

Every ten years since 1790, the US government has conducted a census of its citizens. These records hold a treasure trove of information that can open up new avenues of research. Census records older than 72 years are available for public research. Accessing the 1930 Census for researching your ancestors, for example, is easily done through various online services. You can view census records dating as early as 1790.

#3 Find Their Obituaries

Traditional obituaries can provide illuminating details of your ancestor’s life. The obituary usually lists the person’s spouse(s), children, grandchildren, siblings, and parents. They often mention church membership, political affiliation, education, and work history. All of this information opens up new areas for research.

#4 Go Graveyard Hunting

Old gravestones often provide details of a person’s life that you might not know about. A child’s grave may mention the parents’ names, for example. What’s more important is who the person is buried near. Many times, family members were buried in family plots. The graves nearby could be parents, grandparents, siblings, children, and other relatives.

#5 Search Church Records

If you know your ancestor’s church affiliation, see if you can access church records. Some churches keep such records private for the sake of church members. However, some allow researchers to access older records. You will find information on baptisms, marriages, burials, christenings, and church attendance. You may also find information on whether your ancestor was a strong believer or an occasional sinner.

#6 Locate Their Marriage Records

Marriage records often tell more than the bride and groom’s names. They can name the parents of the happy couple. They tell who officiated the ceremony, which can indicate the religious affiliation of the couple. A record will also indicate if either party has been married before and how those previous marriages ended.

#7 Visit the Courthouse and the Archive

Millions of public records are available online. And millions more are joining them every year. However, there are still plenty of records locked up in archives and courthouse basements. If you want to learn as much as possible about your ancestors, visit the courthouses in the cities, towns, and counties where they lived. You can find everything from vital records to land records to estate records. Also, visit the state archives to get the finer details.

Each of these tips will help you find information about your ancestors. You can find many records online. Some, however, are still locked up in old courthouse archives.