Finding Records, Getting Started in Family History, Memories, Online Family History


I’m lucky because I get the opportunity to work with other people interested in family history quite frequently.  I had that opportunity just this morning.  I met with a lady who’s a little older than I am.  She’s had some health challenges and wants to make sure she leaves a legacy for her family.

She told me about her grandfather, who came to the US from Germany right before WWII.  She’s one of the last people in her family to have known him, to have heard his stories.  She decided that she was going to write down those stories for her children.

I shared with her one of my favorite FamilySearch features, Memories.


Memories allows you to preserve and share photos, stories, documents, audio and video.  It also has a search feature, so that others can find images which have been preserved by distant relatives.

Another lady I’ve been working with used to work at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.  Over the years, she’s written incredible articles about her ancestors.  She’s been uploading them as memories.  Now her extended family can partake in her detailed accounts of those who’ve gone before.

I’ve uploaded records for my family too.  Here’s a will for Joseph Boxwell, a Revolutionary War soldier.  Memories even has its own search page, so you can search for memories others have shared.  For unique names like Boxwell or Lantzy, many of the memories are of my relatives.

Try searching4ancestors at FamilySearch’s memories section.  You never know what you’ll find!


Family History Forms, Getting Started in Family History

Keeping Organized at the Start

To keep track of the information I uncover as I search for a specific ancestor, I use a First Information Sheet, like this one from the BBC.

first_information_sheet copy

This is great form for jotting down everything you know about a person, and then keeping a record of what you learn.

You know more than you think you do.  Start with yourself.  Talk to others in your family and ask for their memories of family members.  You might even find someone to recruit on your family history journey.

Oral family history stories aren’t always 100% accurate, but they may have clues to get you started searching4ancestors…

Case Study, Family Search, Finding Records, Genealogy Records Online, Getting Started in Family History

A Case Study in Getting Started in Family History Part 2

As mentioned in Part One of this case study, I found a news clipping and the 1940 Census for Ann Johnson Earnest, I now know that

Ann Johnson Earnest, the daughter of Malcolm Johnson, was born about 1903 in Connecticut.  Her husband, Albert Earnest, was born about 1902 in Connecticut and he’s a machinist in an ammunition factory.

I googled ammunition factory and the place they lived and I find a Remington Arms factory.  Right now, I’m not going to follow up on that clue…but it is a clue that I can follow up on so I make a note on the information sheet.  But my goal is to find out how my Aunts are related.

Since I have the most information on Ann Johnson Earnest, I now want to find her on a census as a child with her father, Malcolm.  She was in Connecticut in 1940, and she was born in Connecticut in 1903…so I’m going to check the 1910 Connecticut census.  She should be about 7 and hopefully living with her father, Malcolm.

So I go to the main search page for the 1910 Census on FamilySearch and put in all known information.


I hit enter and…


The first one looks like a perfect match.  Now…looks like a perfect match and is the same person are two different things.  Because we’re talking 1900s America, I should be able to information which matches and corroborates the results.  Ann’s birth, marriage and death certificates (you’ll see that written BMD on many genealogy sites) will help me know if this census is an exact match.  But for now, we’re going with this as the match.

We’ll learn more about Ann’s parents on the next searching4ancestors…

Case Study, Getting Started in Family History

Getting Started in Family History: A Case Study Part 1

I’ve been doing family history since I was in college, so sometimes I forget what it’s like to start from zero.  So this morning, that’s exactly what I did.

When we start family history, we collect up everything we’ve been told and everything we know.  Personally, I use a piece of paper to sketch out the information as I find it.  That’s really Step One.

I’d always heard that 2 of my aunts-by-marriage on my mom’s side are cousins.  I know their maiden names and their husbands’ names (since they’re my mom’s brothers).  And I know they’ve lived in Connecticut for as long as I’ve been alive (about 50 years).

Step Two: This morning I woke up wanting to see how my two aunts are related…that’s my research objective.

Step Three:  Search for low hanging fruit

I did a newspaper search and found a 50th year anniversary for Mr. and Mrs. Albert Earnest of Connecticut.  Mrs. Earnest, Nan, made the best Swedish pancakes.  She lived with my Aunt and Uncle for as long as I can remember.  The news article had her maiden name, Ann Johnson, and her father’s name, Malcolm Johnson.

Step Four:  Take all known information and search the most appropriate record for the information, location and time that fits the known information.

I went to search the 1940 Census to find my Aunt with Nan and her husband on the 1940 Census.

From the 1940 Census, I learn that Nan, Ann Johnson Earnest, was born in about 1903 in Connecticut.  Albert Earnest, her husband,  was born about 1902 in Connecticut.  (The 1940 Census also tells me who gave the Census Taker the information by marking the person with an X inside a circle.)  In the image below, you can see that Margaret Oppell, Anna O Earnest and Violet M Stevens each gave the information for their homes.


In quick review, I jotted down everything I knew and then went to sources from the area they resided and tried to find records for the entire family group.  Once I did, I added to the known information so I could take the next research step in searching4ancestors…