Finding New Ancestors & Cousins

One of the most satisfying aspects of Family History work is finding new family members through research efforts. Researching has become significantly easier with the help of multiple search services, "Record Hints", and such. So many different types of records are on-line now, such as Census Records, Military Draft Records, City Directories, Probates & Wills, birth, marriage, and death certificates, obituaries, and more.

Doing research is like putting a puzzle together. Try it with other family members. Feel free to explore the tips below. New information is added often, so please check back periodically.

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Review the Family Tree Record Hints For Additional Clues to Your Family

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The easiest way to begin finding ancestors is to just look for the little blue "Record Hint" icons. These are found associated with an individual on the pedigree, or when on that person's "Person Page", they can be found in the upper right column. In addition, when you first log into FamilySearch, the "dashboard" page has a section that lists record hints available.

Record hints may point to birth, marriage, or death information, but can also include census records, military records, and even some outside sources like Find-a-Grave.

They are correct "Most" of the time, but still, be sure that the record hint actually belongs to your relative. There are a lot men with the name of "William Smith" in the world!

Explore what the hint is about. It could be a US Census record showing where your ancestor lived and who was in the household. It could be a Draft Registration record that shows the physical description of your ancestor. Take time to explore everything in the record. You are seeing a bit of history about your ancestor.

Keep your mind and heart open to the Spirit. It is not unusual to feel the yearning they have for you to get to know them. You don't need to worry about "research" yet.

Try attaching Record Hint to your ancestor. These hints become "sources" that will add additional "story" about your ancestor's life events. If you need some help in doing this, your ward consultant or we can help you with this.

Reviewing Census Records Are the Quickest Way to Add New Family Members

US census records started listing the names of individuals in 1850, and by 1880 the relationships of the household as well. Every 10 years a new census was completed, that showed the composition of the family. New children will be added to the next census. Don't forget that new children would die between census decades and so their names wouldn't be noted on census records.

Looking at a census record for the first time that shows your ancestors, perhaps your grandmother as a young girl, is an exhilarating experience. Did you know that the census record even shows the street address and name of where they lived? Take some time and Google search on Google Maps for the house, and see what you find.

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Descendancy Research Is Another Way Of Finding Additional Names

It is said that if you pick an ancestor back ten generations, they would have close to one million descendants. Many of us probably have those "Aunt Marys" in our family that traced our ancestral lines back to "Noah", or at least back into the 1500-1600s. These will be our "ANCESTRAL" lines.

Around 2012 or so, an emphasis on finding all the collateral line descendants, our cousins, was introduced. This is called "Descendancy Research". If you were to pick an ancestor just four generations back (a great-great grandparent), there will SIXTEEN collateral descendant lines to research. Sorry…just when you thought that your family history was done! Actually, it is quite exciting to think that we can work on finding new people in these lines, AND during a time period when records are more easily found.

There are several ways to learn the basic concepts of how to look at descendancy. Get your ward consultant to help you, or of course, we are very willing to help you at the library as well.

Attaching Record Sources To The Individual

Record sources are the birth, marriage, death, census, and other records that we find. They document basic facts about that individual, like what day they were born on, when they were married, etc. It is important to "attach" these sources to the individual(s) to document the facts that are entered. The following statement is often quoted.

"Genealogy without sources is mythology"

Sources document that the individual actually lived. Just because Aunt Mabel told us that the information is true, doesn't mean it is, unless there are sources for the facts.

FamilySearch is now doing a lot of the searching for you, even while you are asleep. Just how cool is that? They will show you a record source as a "hint". Just look at it, and determine if it belongs to your ancestor or not and then attach it through their "Source Linker" if it is.

Sources not only have dates and places, but also may have information describing your ancestor's physical characteristics, like he was red haired, tall, slender, and had blue eyes, such as on the World War 1 Draft Registration cards. Census records will tell you where they lived and often what they did as an occupation and much more.

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Review the Sources That Are Already Attached

Let's say that I have an ancestor with 11 sources attached to my ancestor. It's interesting how many times I have just gone back to review each attached source, from top down, and found additional information to record from the source, and it is often other family members that have not yet been added to Family Tree.

The process of using the FamilySearch "Source Linker" can be a bit confusing at first. It is typical to not know how to use this tool and so some family members may have incomplete sources attached. We can show you how to use this great tool!

Another common problem we see, is that the person attaching the source record, doesn't even look at the actual document. They only look at the index of the document. Always look at the document image to see for yourself what is in it. Remember that dates or other information can be mis-indexed.

By actually looking at the document image, gleaning all the information from it, and correctly attaching the source, you will be amazed at how much more information will be available for them, including additional family members.