Researching Immigrant and Ethnic Ancestors

Researching Immigrant and Ethnic Ancestors

Everyone starts at the same place, whether your ancestors were German, Irish, Native American, African-American or English. Start with yourself. Record what you know about you, your parents and your grandparents on charts and forms that you can download from FamilyTreeMagazine.com.  Whether your ancestors came in the 1900s...

  • Everyone starts at the same place, whether your ancestors were German, Irish, Native American, African-American or English. Start with yourself. Record what you know about you, your parents and your grandparents on charts and forms that you can download from FamilyTreeMagazine.com.
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  • Whether your ancestors came in the 1900s or the 1600s or were here to greet the rest, oral history is an important aspect of tracing immigrant and ethnic ancestors. Ask specific questions of relatives about your family’s arrival in America. Record all stories as told, regardless of the accuracy. You can verify the stories as you begin research.
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  • Exhaust all American sources before attempting to research in another country. No one wants to trace the wrong ancestors. By doing your homework, you’ll be assured that you’ve got the right family once you get into the foreign records. Read a basic genealogical guide that will help you find and use common genealogical records, such as vital records, censuses, land records, wills and so forth.
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  • Study the immigrant or ethnic group’s social history. Learn about the customs, culture and folkways of your ancestors’ group while in America. This information might lead you to other sources, will help explain your ancestors’ behaviors, and will give you an appreciation for your ancestors’ lives.
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  • Join an immigrant or ethnic genealogical group. By networking with others who are also interested in researching that group, you will learn about all sorts of sources and strategies to help you in your own search.
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  • Research in foreign sources on microfilm that may be as close as your own neighborhood. The Family History Library in Salt Lake City has on microfilm millions of records from all over the world. These can be rented through one of 3,400 worldwide Family History Centers. Check the Web site at www.familysearch.org for a center near you. Check the catalog at www.familysearch.org/search/searchcatalog.asp under the locality where your ancestors came from for records on microfilm.
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  • Read genealogical guidebooks specific to the immigrant or ethnic group. Almost every group has a research guide to help you learn about records of foreign countries and how to access them. Or visit the Family History Library’s Web site at www.familysearch.org/sg/ for foreign source guides.
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  • Don’t forget to write your immigrant or ethnic ancestor’s story! Researching is only half the fun. Make all your efforts a legacy by writing your ancestor’s story.
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