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Family History Information About Surnames

If you've been researching your family for several years and find you're more interested in knowing about the details of recent generations rather than digging further down the ancestral timeline, then this is the place for you.


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Resource: Genealogy Today
Word Count: 1254 (approx.)
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If you've been researching your family for several years and find you're more interested in knowing about the details of recent generations rather than digging further down the ancestral timeline, then this is the place for you. If you're new to genealogy, please visit our Getting Started section.

Many family researchers often overlook the fact that they are not alone in the quest for information about their ancestors. Genealogy Today has a variety of resources for locating genealogists that researching the same surnames, as well as, an index of thousands of surname web sites. You'll probably hear the term "query" used when speaking with other family researchers. A query is nothing more than a post to a message board stating a specific ancestor or surname someone is looking for -- it's much like a classified ad in a newspaper, except that most are free. Using the Search feature, you can check across many of the databases at Genealogy Today, including Family Tree Climbers, Lost and Found and Birthroots. After searching, feel free to post some queries for the names your are looking for.

One of the things we tell new and experienced genealogists is to always check what other researchers may have already published about the surnames in your family tree. Most people react to this by saying, "yeah, sure, we checked out some web sites about our family names," which is a good start, but did you realize that many researchers have spent money to publish their family histories in PRINT -- some over 100 years ago! This is an untapped resource that many genealogists overlook. Genealogy Today has partnered with different publishers and has a searchable index containing references to over 6,000 of these self-published family histories. Prices of these reprints vary by the age of the book and the number of pages it contains.

A great resource for finding out what life was like in the towns where your ancestors lived is the local historical or genealogical society. They are often the keepers of local directories, newspaper archives and sometimes even have lists of people buried in local inactive cemeteries. When contacting a local society, keep in mind that they are usually run by volunteers who are more than willing to help, but don't expect them to do your research for you. To find a local society, we recommend Society Hill -- it's a free directory and lists the addresses of thousands of societies with links to their web sites. This information is available in our genealogy directory.

With a long tradition both in the United States and Europe dating back to the 1800's, funeral cards (also sometimes called mass, mourning or remembrance cards) are an excellent source of information for genealogists. You may have some in your closet, or your Mom may have collected them over the years. Be sure to ask all of your relatives. Genealogy Today has been scanning and indexing funeral cards, and you can search by surname. Just visit our Funeral Cards Online page.

If you're interested in learning additional family history techniques and want to keep up with the latest trends, read "Everyday Genealogy" written by Bob Brooke. Each month Bob highlights an area of family research of interest to people who have been looking for their ancestors. To make sure you don't miss a single article, sign up for the "Family Tree Digest" newsletter.

Another excellent source of local information is newspapers. While many newspapers have web site, few have made available access to any archives. Looking for articles about your relatives from 40 years ago remains a laborious chore of visiting a local library that has microfilm reels. Recently, made available a searchable online newpaper archive, which is accessible for a small annual subscription. The power of this new service is that you can actually search for keywords (including surnames) and find information. For example, if you knew that an ancestor was involved in an event (like a parade or fire); you can search for their surname plus the keyword. It's very powerful and saves enormous amounts of time. New papers are being added regularly. Click here to learn more about the Historical Newspaper Col lection.

Most people are familiar with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (whose members are often referred to as Mormons), but most family researchers do not know that they are a fabulous resource for genealogy. Mormon beliefs about the eternal nature of the family, and the need for deceased ancestors to receive certain ordinances lead them to an active interest in family history. The LDS organization has, for many years, recorded primary documents from around the world on microfilm. They also run the largest genealogy library in the world in Salt Lake City, Utah. Locally in cities around the world, they operate Family History Centers (FHC) within their churches where anyone can visit and access the wonderful LDS collection. More recently, they expanded the capabilities of their web site,, and many of their indexes can be accessed online. From there you can then order a microfilm be sent to your local FHC to view the actual primary document you're looking for.

In addition to the LDS church, there are many commercial and independent groups that have transcribed information and make it accessible online. Our genealogy directory is an excellent resource for finding local free and subscription-based transcriptions for over 30,000 cities, and all counties and states in the United States. This directory can also help you locate local newspapers, libraries and adoption resources.

As a family researcher, you're probably quite familiar with dozens of web sites and are searching for multiple surnames. To help keep your efforts organized, you can sign up for a free membership to Team Roots. As a member of Team Roots, you get access to innovative tools that make using this site more effective. You can store a list of the primary surnames you're working on, bookmark favorite sites or features, keep track of the queries you post, and a whole lot more. Click here to join Team Roots now and instantly take advantage of these free tools.

Not every aspect of genealogy can be distilled down to step-by-step research techniques. In fact, many people "stumble" upon crucial facts by luck. Serendipity, a collection of unique stories submitted by genealogists about their most surprising research discoveries, is a project that tracks this supernatural part of family history. Interesting stories like: a failed cemetery search ends in a major discovery when their car breaks down in front of an ancestor's grave; or a researcher finds an elusive relative when he bumps a microfiche reader and finds them indexed under the wrong name; or a woman studying land records discovers that her own house is on the same land her family once owned! If you have an interesting story to share, feel free to stop by and submit it.

Be sure to stop by our Marketplace and browse through the Prints and Charts area for items to help document your findings for presentation to your friends and family.

After you have built up your family tree to several generations, and collected details on the lives of your nearest ancestors, you might be interested in digging further back in time to research additional branches, which you can do in our Research Tools section. Or perhaps you would like to formally learn how to become a genealogist and understand what it takes to become certified. If this is the case, visit our Advanced Topics section.

Source Information: Genealogy Today, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2003.

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