365 Ways to Discover Your Roots: August 2006

By Lisa A. Alzo Premium


1. Colorado’s Denver Public Library has one of the best historical records collections around—see <>. Explore the resources of a public library in your ancestral state.

2. The first US census was taken today in 1790. Have you checked all the censuses your ancestors might show up in? If your library or genealogical society subscribes to Ancestry Library Edition or HeritageQuest Online, you can search the census for free.

3. More than 500 years ago, Christopher Columbus set sail with the Niña, Pinta and Santa María. What ship did your ancestor sail on? Look for information and a picture at <> and <>.

4. Stay informed by subscribing to Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter <>.

5. Sketch out a plan, or “storyboard,” for a family history CD or DVD. Look through your family files for photos, sound clips, scanned documents and video you can include.

6. Get help translating a foreign-language document. For a few sentences, use an online translator such as Babel Fish <>. Longer deciphering jobs may require help from an ethnic genealogical society or a university language department.

7. Almanacs gave your ancestors planting schedules, local event listings and weather forecasts. Look for these books at libraries and historical societies, and see what your family was up to.

8. Do you do a happy dance when you uncover a new detail about an ancestor? Record your thoughts in your research journal or blog.

9. Dig out those old 35 mm slides or negatives and start scanning them into your computer. Or have a photo lab convert them format for you.

10. More and more state archives are putting birth and death indexes, military rosters and other records on the Internet. Check the archives Web sites for all the states where you research (click to them from <>.

11. Go back to your favorite message boards and look for new postings.

12. Scrutinize your immigrant-ancestor research for in-laws, relatives, friends and neighbors who may have been traveling companions. Their trails could lead you to your ancestor’s hometown.

13. Search for ancestral town names. In the United States, use ePodunk <>. In Central or Eastern Europe, try the ShtetlSeeker <>.

14. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law this day in 1935. You can search several versions of the Social Security Death Index for free using the tools at <>.

15. Ancestral adoptions can stop your research in its tracks. For help, see <> and <>.

16. Looking for answers about surnames, family hometowns and old words? Go to the <> search engine and type in your question.

17. Explore the history of your childhood home or an ancestor’s house. Check deeds and tax assessments in the local courthouse or county office.

18. Look up the origin and meaning of your surname at <> or <>.

19. Browse others’ online genealogy journals and start your own at Family Tree Circles <>.

20. If you’ve gotten a Y-DNA test (or a close male relative has), use the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation database <> to compare your results with thousands of genetic profiles.

21. Leave your own genealogy trail—add the surnames you’re researching to your e-mail signature.

22. Don’t overlook overseas connections when searching pedigree databases. Scour UK-based Genes Reunited <> for British ancestors.

23. Do you feel left out of the family tree software loop because you use a Macintosh? Stop by Mac Genealogy <>.

24. You’re missing out if you always use the same Web search engine to find relatives’ names. Try a new one such as A9 <> or AlltheWeb <>.

25. Most everyone has a WWI, WWII or Korean War relative. Search American Battle Monuments Commission <> databases of burials in commission cemeteries or names on the Walls of the Missing.

26. Search the Nationwide Gravesite Locator <> for military ancestors buried in Veterans Administration cemeteries.

27. Read about the Civil War as your ancestors did: Peruse the articles in the Historical New York TimesProject <>.

28. Get a dose of Daily Genealogy News at <>.

29. Search the death records at <>. And consider sharing information from the cemetery listings, funeral cards and death certificates you’ve researched.

30. Take a genealogy class—especially if it’s at the 2006 Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference, now through Sept. 2 in Boston. Call (888) 347-1500 or visit <> for details.

31. The Civil War Battle of Jonesborough, Ga., began today in 1864. Take a break and watch Gone With the Wind

From the February 2006 issue of Family Tree Magazine.