Research Tips
A census taker enumerates members of a household during the 1850 census.
Basic Genealogy
  • 1.   Genealogy is the search for our ancestors. Family history is the study of the lives they led. Using the information from each area provides us with a true picture of our family.
    2.   Do your genealogy to learn about your family and your place in that family, to leave a legacy for your children and grandchildren and to research and trace our family's medical history.
    3.   Remember that each generation doubles the number of ancestors. It's easy to get lost if you don't plan ahead for your trip. Focus on one or two families. The others will still be there when you get to them.
    4.   Female lines are as important as male lines. One-half of your ancestors are female!
    5.   A generation is 22-25 years for a man and 18-23 years for a woman.
    6.   When taking notes... Use standard size paper, one surname per page, record source and identifying information so you can find it again, the date and place you found info (volume and page). Use only accepted abbreviations (no homespun stuff). Understand basic terminology.
    7.   Remember to document everything you find on your ancestors. UNDOCUMENTED GENEALOGY IS MYTHOLOGY!
    8.   Meaningful genealogy requires thought. Develop a plan – "Why am I doing genealogy?" Set goals of what you plan to accomplish in a reasonable time frame i.e. go back 4 generations, go back to the immigrant ancestor, do only my father’s male line, etc.
    9.   Know your relationships: An ancestor is a person from whom you are descended. A descendant is a person who is descended from an ancestor. A relative is someone with whom you share a common ancestor but who is not in your direct line.
    10.   To find a birth date from a death date, subtract the age in years, months and days from the date of death. This is a very close approximation.
    11.   To find a birth date from a death date, subtract the age in years, months and days from the date of death. This is a very close approximation.
  • 1.   When you're "doing" census, be sure to look at 10 families before and 10 families after the family you are researching. These folks are most likely the friends (and family) of your ancestor. They lived in community... not alone.
    2.   Begin with the latest census available and work backwards. Census records have been take since 1790. Before 1790 you can use Tax Lists and other local lists that might have been compiled according to the state you are researching in.
    3.   Don't assume that all children listed in the census belong to the wife listed. This may be a second wife and the children a combination of "his and hers."
    4.   A census is an official county of the population living in the United States on a designated day set at intervals. The census places an ancestor is a specific place at a specific time.
    5.   The census is taken every 10 years on a designated census day by an "enumerator" in a specific area, E.D. (enumeration district). The first census was done in 1790; there are no censuses before 1790. The 1890 census destroyed. Census information is confidential for 72 years after the census is taken.
    6.   In addition to the census population count, there are a number of special censuses: Slave, Industry & Manufacturing, Agriculture, Mortality, Social Statistics, Union Veteran and Widow, Defective, Dependent and Delinquent.
    7.   Prepare a census timeline before you begin. Review what you will find in the census you are searching. Work backwards from the most recent census. Expect spelling and age variations.
    8.   When copying census information, copy EVERYTHING EXACTLY AS IT IS WRITTEN! Do not change or update the information even if you think it is incorrect. This is the way it was written… leave it alone!
    9.   Soundex is a system of coding names for the census based on sound rather than alphabetical spelling. A variation called American Soundex was used in the 1930s for a retrospective analysis of the US censuses from 1890 through 1920. To save time, a free Soundex converter is available at www.rootsweb.ancestry.com.
    10.   Don’t assume that all children listed belong to the wife listed. This may be a second wife and the children may be a combination of "his and hers."
    11.   When the head of the household is no longer listed, don’t assume he/she is dead. It’s possible that the former head of household is now living with one of the children.
    12.   A person may not have been living on the day the census was actually taken (not the official day). However, all information is to be "as of the official census day."
Charts and Forms
  • 1.   The Pedigree chart is the road map of you and your ancestors. It begins with YOU! Females must use their maiden names.
    2.   The Family Group Sheet identifies a couple and their children. Everyone has two group sheets - one as a child with parents and one as a parent with children.
    3.   A Chronological Profile begins with your ancestor's birth and is filled in with various occurrences in his life. Continue to fill this in as information becomes available to provide a picture of your ancestor's life.
    4.   The Research Log is very important for the time when you share you data or decide to publish your work. You will need to know your sources for obtaining each piece of information. Be VERY specific with your information quoting authors, titles, pages, publishers, etc.
    5.   Use a Correspondence Log! This includes the name and address of the person you have written to, what you requested, the date the request was sent and a column for the outcome. Remembering every letter written is impossible. Follow up if you don’t get an answer within a month.
Land Records
  • 1.   There are various types of deeds to property. The most common are the warranty deed which transfers property with assurance of good title and the quitclaim deed which transfers one person’s interest in the property without guarantee of good title.
    2.   When looking at deed indexes, be sure to look at both the "Grantor Index", an index to those selling the land and the "Grantee Index", an index to those buying the land.
    3.   STATE LAND STATES are states that owned and distributed their lands. This includes the original 13 colonies, Kentucky, Maine, Tennessee, Vermont and West Virginia, Hawaii and Texas. They use "metes and bounds" to survey the land.
    4.   FEDERAL LAND STATES were created from public domain, land the United States bought or acquired. The land was created into territories as the population spread out. Survey is done according to the rectangular survey system.
    5.   Many legal instruments other than deeds appear in deed books. They include Bills of Sale, Prenuptial Agreements, Powers of Attorney, Contracts, Affidavits, Wills and Inventories and Voter and Jury Lists.
Guide to Finding Your Immigrant Ancestors by Ancestry.com  Click here to download PDF