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.
Everyone’s family is different and each family has secrets. Some family secrets are small and only slightly embarrassing, and will be told. Other family secrets will remain hidden until those who know them take them to the grave.
I was once speaking with an elderly family member who was telling me about the life of my great-great grandfather and as we began talking he said, “I am happy to tell you what I know, but there are things I need to leave out, because I will not break my family’s confidence and disgrace their memory”. I love that he held his ground and would not “tell all”. Part of me also really wanted to hear what secrets were left unmentioned.
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…
There are thousands of reasons we don’t seek out information for our family tree. The biggest barrier for me was really asking family (mostly family I didn’t know well) for facts and stories. I thought I didn’t know enough yet to ask good questions, I felt they would not have time for me, and I wouldn’t have time for them. What if they were offended that I didn’t already know the answers to the questions I wanted to ask?
I had to stop making excuses and just call some family members. I am so glad I did.
This may seem like an obvious statement, but even the best researchers think, “Oh, I’ll remember where I found this, and come back to it”, or “I’ll remember to ask Grandma Kate about that”… I have found that if I do not record something correctly right away, I may remember it incorrectly or not remember where I saw or heard it.
While you begin your genealogy project, you will most likely be provided a lot of information orally from family members. You will need to be prepared to take notes and have a good system for short hand or your own set of symbols you can recall easily to make your notes understandable to you.