Sunday, November 23, 2014

Googling your ancestors the smart way

It's always a good idea to google your ancestors. There are family history websites out there that are specific to certain surnames. People write blogs about their ancestors. There are government websites that allow you to search records that you can't find anywhere else.

But you need to be smart about it. Focus on one of the places that your ancestors lived.

For example, I've been trying to find records on the family of James and Rebecca McDonald. They emigrated from Ireland to New Brunswick in the 1830s or 40s, but I can't find them before the 1851 census and I don't know where in Ireland to look for them. I don't even know her maiden name. I've searched my family history sites with some success, but it never hurts to google, so I did.

I typed in "Alma, New Brunswick McDonalds"

Not the smartest search ever. But if I ever want some fries in Alma, I'll know where to go.

So I changed it to "Alma, New Brunswick genealogy" and eventually got a list of New Brunswick cemeteries. Here's Rebecca in the United cemetery in Alma, with a death date and a maiden name I didn't know before. Gone but not forgotten. 

I'm still a long way from tracing them back to Ireland, but a maiden name sure isn't going to hurt!

Photocredit: tiverylucky

Friday, November 21, 2014

Two important reasons to get in to genealogy before you get in to college

1. You can skip the identity crisis
I don't know if this is true for everyone, but I noticed a lot of "who am I" anxiety going on at college. Everyone is out on their own for the first time and they have to decide on their own opinions for the first time. They have to decide how to spend their time now that they're unsupervised. Genealogy can't tell you what your opinions are going to be, but it can allow you to stop worrying about it. When you know where you come from, you have a better idea about where you're going. Remember to interview your parents and grandparents before you leave home. It seems strange, but sometimes knowing that they've been through ups and downs too can put things in perspective for you and help you through the hard times.

2. Mad research skills
Some students assume that college is about proving what you know. That's not true at all. College is about finding the relevant information and then understanding it. It doesn't matter what discipline you choose, they just want to know if you can do that. If you do genealogy, of course you can! That's what genealogy is all about. Trying to find documents about your ancestors isn't that different from preparing a research paper. Research skills that you develop while doing your genealogy may seem a small thing, but they will put you way ahead once you get to college. So next time you are doing genealogy, just tell your parents that you're preparing for college.

Photocredit: Stockimages

Thursday, November 6, 2014

I bet someone wrote a book about your ancestors

If you can track all of your ancestral lines back eight generations, to roughly the late 1700s, you will have almost 300 ancestors to keep track of (not including your ancestors siblings). It's a lot of people.

Have you ever thought about how many descendants your ancestors have? 

Members of the Church often tell me that, since they are the only member of the Church in their family, they don't expect any of their ancestors to have been baptized for the dead. Then, three or four generations back, they find someone that has. Who did that? One of the other descendants, who you probably don't know.

The number of ancestors you have doubles with each generation. So you have 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents etc. But the number of descendants is multiplied by the number of children each of the ancestors had. So even though you only have 8 great-grandparents, if your great-grandparents had 10 kids, and each of their 10 kids had 10 kids, those great-grandparents could have hundreds of descendants.

And that's why...

There's absolutely, positively, most definitely no way you are the only genealogist in your family. Your family is massive. Bigger than you can imagine. Sands of the earth, stars in the sky big. Someone else out there cares about the same ancestors you care about. And I bet they wrote a book.

Here are some ideas for finding it:

1. Search a surname and place on FamilySearch books.

3. Search the catalog at a local library near a place where your ancestors lived.

Books are great genealogy resources. They can jump-start or rejuvenate your research instantly. The people who write them are often part of local genealogical societies and have accessed records you don't even know that you don't even know about. These books don't show up on regular records searches, though, so you have to go looking for them.

Go on!

Photocredit: adamr