Hitting a research wall can be so extremely frustrating when you are wanting to discover more about your family history. I have been in this situation many times, and it can seem like you will never find the information you seek, and make you wonder if it really is out there, or if it is lost in history forever!
Here are a few tips to spur you along in meeting your research goals.
In my quest to discover my Italian history, I have discovered (accidentally come across) some online resources that are FREE! One that has been particularly interesting, although time consuming, http://www.antenati.san.beniculturali.it/ This site offers online digital archives to be used for genealogical purposes. This website is in Italian, but can be translated. The microfilmed archives themselves are just scanned images and cannot be automatically translated.
This site allows you to browse the records, or search for names. I have attempted to search by name, not all names/records in this database are searchable. Don’t be discouraged if the name comes up as having no results. The record you are seeking could still be in this database. If you know the region where your ancestors are from, you could browse by region. It may take some time to navigate the site, but it could be well worth it!
Once you have located your ancestors within the United States and discover that they Immigrated or traveled into or out of the USA; now you can get started on your Immigration Information Quest!
Before you begin, you will need a Research & Source Record form that you can find and print for free under the forms tab (or there are many other great research source forms out there to use). You will also need your research handy to reference birth dates, family members and census records to make sure of your “match” when you discover it.
Ready? OK… Let’s begin with immigration records.
You will find that sometimes when you are looking on line for certain records (ie: vital statistics before a certain year), you will only have access to the index numbers from the records and you will not be able to view the actual record on line. When this happens, I start a “Get info” page. This way, when I go to order documents from an out of state facility or I travel locally to research, I can be prepared to get the information I need quickly. * I do not have a “Get info” section in my family history binder, but it would not be a bad idea to add it if it would help you keep track of what you still need to get.*
On my “Get info” form, I jot down my ancestor’s name, birth/death dates, and the index #s that I need to find. Please visit my “Forms” section for a printable version to use during your research!
Researching my family history and helping others navigate and research theirs has obviously become a passion for me, so I enjoy encouraging others to dig into their own histories. I don’t believe it should be a passion for everyone, but I do believe that each person should know a thing or two about their family’s past.
Get to know your family:
I have found that researching your family history can be a great tool (sometimes a great excuse) to get to know your family members. When I was younger I often felt like I didn’t know how to talk to older members of my family whom I didn’t know well or see often. Asking them to help me learn about the family’s past, their memories and stories of their life felt somewhat “safe” to me. It saved me from the small talk and allowed me to hear real life adventure stories. It allowed me to really picture what life was like for my family long ago. I am so thankful that through my research, I was able to really get to know some family members, grow the relationships, and keep the stories alive.
Having a good system for keeping track of your notes, tree charts, questions, contacts, documents, photographs, maps… can seem overwhelming and tedious. However it is extremely important as you begin your research journey with a plan and some proper tools.
I am a pencil and paper girl, so I like to keep my research for each branch of my family tree in a separate three ring binder with tabs that are appropriate for what is in each specific book. Here is a list of tabs/sections that I would recommend starting with…