Are we searchers or researchers?

The 2015 Annual Conference of the National Genealogical Society in the United States has just ended – wish I could have been there!  I was very interested in some comments reported by the Ancestry Insider on a presentation by Crista Cowan – one of my favourite presenters – entitled “Maximizing your Search on”

“One challenge we have as genealogists is that we have become searchers, not researchers, Crista said. A researcher thinks about what they are searching for and then takes steps to find that thing. Another mistake is that we think we are looking for people. But we are not searching for people; we are looking for records about people.”  Ancestry Insider 19 May 2015.

Do we search for a person to fill a gap in our tree and then stop when we find them rather than doing research to learn about their lives?  Sometimes the first thing we find may be inaccurate and lead to poor conclusions.  We are fortunate to live at a time when every week there are new resources available to help us with our research.

You might want to read the rest of the article.  Here’s the link – there was a second part to the article on 20 May.

Thank you Ancestry Insider

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Using the Free Research Guides from or .com

Did you know that publishes free research guides?  – and you can access them without a subscription to Ancestry!

It wasn’t easy to find a simple list of all the free research guides available at Ancestry! – there is so much material in their Learning Centre!  – but what a great resource!!   Here’s how to get to the list:

Go to (not .ca).  If you don’t have an Ancestry subscription – and you don’t need one for this – then click on Search to go to the Home page.  If you have an Ancestry subscription you are automatically on the Home page. Click on the heading Learning Center – not any of the drop down choices, just the heading.  Then look for a green box on the left hand side with the words Research Guides Free.  Click anywhere in that box and you will get a list of all the available guides and dates when they were updated.

This is what you should see (as of 6 May):

New Guides

Sweden, Selected Indexed Household Clerical Surveys, 1880-1893 (March 2015)

Researching Your American Indian Ancestors on Ancestry (November 2014)

German Civil Registrations 23 October 2014

Ancestry Genealogy Toolkit 9 October 2014

Starting Your Tree on Ancestry 3 October 2014

Search Strategies on Ancestry 8 August 2014

Loyalist Resources on Ancestry 8 August 2014

Using Religious Records 9 June 2014

Tips for Finding and Visiting Your Ancestors in the Cemetery Added 23 May 2014

5 Military Favorites Added 12 May 2014

Research Guide to Finding Your Quaker Ancestors Added 27 April 2014

5 Steps to a Healthy Family Tree Added 5 March 2014

State Research Guides  Ongoing project with new states being added regularly

Getting Started

Starting Your Tree on Ancestry

Interview Questions

Ancestry Genealogy Toolkit 9 October 2014

Ancestry Anne’s Top 10 Search Tips

How Your Family Tree Helps You Learn More

Creating Timelines That Produce Answers

Guide to Searching for Death Records Added 26 October 2013

Ethnic and Religious

African American family research on

Finding Your Irish Ancestors in the U.S. and Ireland

Finding Your Ancestors from the UK and Ireland

Finding Your Swedish Ancestors at

Sweden, Selected Indexed Household Clerical Surveys, 1880-1893 (March 2015)

German Civil Registrations 23 October 2014

Finding Your German Ancestors on

Finding Your Canadian Ancestors on

Loyalist Resources on Ancestry

Research Guide to Finding Your Quaker Ancestors

Researching Your American Indian Ancestors on Ancestry (November 2014)


AncestryDNA 101: The Insider’s Guide to DNA Added 6 November 2013


Finding Your Immigrant Ancestors on

10 Things to Know about Passenger Lists 


10 Census Tips from our Members

5 Steps Beyond: The 1910 Census

10 Census Questions That Lead to More Answers

Follow Your Family Using Census Records


Tips for Success: Military Records at

Your Family Tree in the American Revolution

Find Your Civil War Ancestor on

Find Them in World War II


5 Tips to Jumpstart Your Research Added 3 October 2013

5 Must-See Collections on Added 17 December 2013

Black Sheep: 10 Things to Know  “

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Update on FamilySearch Webinars

We’ve talked about this before but thought we needed to do an update.

Spring is in the air – which in Alberta means snow for areas just north of Edmonton, and the end of over 40 years of conservative party rule in the provincial legislature.  Our local Family History classes have been suspended for the summer, but family history should continue . . . .  Why not try a free online webinar from FamilySearch?

Go to , then go under the search menu and select Wiki.  Enter the search term Online Webinars and you see links to articles from 4 research teams:  Latin America, British Isles, International and Scandinavian, and United States/Canada.  When you follow any of these links look for 3 things:  1.  A list of upcoming webinars, 2.  Information on the new webinar platform in use since February 2015 – now using WebEx, and 3.  Links to handouts and past webinars – what a great resource!

Here are upcoming webinars:

Latin America

British Isles

May (Scotland Intermediate Research Series)  – the beginner series and handouts from April are also available.

  • Mon May 18th @ 1pm- Scotland Emigration
  • Tues May 19th @ 1pm- Scotland Probate Records
  • Wed May 20th @ 1pm- Scotland Poor Law Records
  • Thurs May 21st @ 1pm- Scotland Land Records
  • Fri May 22nd @ 1pm- Scotland Naming Patterns & Clans

July (Wales Research Series) – no dates and times yet

  • Welsh Naming Patterns
  • Improving Your Welsh Research by Using Place Names and Gazetteers
  • Wales Research Online
  • Church of Wales & Non-Conformist Church Records
  • Wales Probate Records

International and Scandinavian

Don’t forget to scroll down on this article for a very lengthy list of past webinars and handouts for 8 countries – Danish researchers look especially fortunate!



United States/Canada

No sign of past webinars here but some handouts

May 2015

June 2015

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Free Access to US Civil War Documents

Too good to miss . . . .  if you have US Ancestry!  My good friend the Ancestry Insider  has reported that Fold3 are giving free access to their collection of Civil War documents until the end of April.  Why? To celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the end of the Civil War.  General Lee surrendered on 9 April 1865.

How do you get to the documents?  Follow the link to the Ancestry Insider blog  and there is the link to exactly the spot Fold3 that you need.  When I did this I went to the screen asking for the name to search for!

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Free Credits at Scotlandspeople, and Half Price FindMyPast Subscription

Two articles in a row referring you to the Lost Cousins Newsletter!  Am I determined that you try it? Or is it just because the founder of Lost Cousins is named Peter?

I just received my link to the April 17 edition of Lost Cousins

. . . and there were 2 things I thought you should know:

1.  There is an offer from ScotlandsPeople for 20 free credits – worth about $9 – how often to do you hear about that?  Even if you don’t think you need to use them right now you should go and get them.  The offer applies to new users and those with existing accounts.  This is the best site for people doing research on Scotland.  How do you get the free credits?  The link is in the Lost Cousins Newsletter!  Don’t delay – the offer is only until the end of the April – and then you have a year to use the credits.  What does 20 credits buy?  One credit to see search results and five credits to see an image.  The link at Lost Cousins will take you to an article in a Scottish newspaper.

2.  There is a half price offer on subscriptions to FindMyPast – which is a great site for anyone doing British research.  Offer only good until midnight UK time on April 31.

There are other things of interest in the Lost Cousins Newsletter.  I was interested in the large number of Derbyshire records at FindMyPast, and that they now also have the Derbyshire records from FamilySearch.  There is an interesting comment about looking in the same collection in 2 places with a different search engine.

Thank you Peter Calver and Lost Cousins Newsletter


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Lower Cost UK BMD Information Coming, Free Weekend at and More

I hope you have a Happy Easter – and remember the life, and atonement of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

This article includes some time sensitive information so we are published early this week.

I enjoy reading Peter Calver’s work,  the founder of the very fine Lost Cousins newsletter , which is published every 2 weeks – Click Here to go to the latest edition.

Exciting things in the latest edition?  The very really possibility that we may get lower price access to the information on British Birth Marriage and Death certificates as a result of  the Deregulation Act receiving Royal Assent on 26 March 2015.  All researchers with ancestry in the UK need access to the records kept by the General Register Office but it has become so expensive.  The passage of this act may lead to alternative ways to access the information.  Read Peter’s article at

Also – and this is very timely – this weekend until midnight Monday London time is a free weekend at!!!  This is a great opportunity to use the site for free.  Just don’t fall into the tempting traps for short or longer subscriptions – unless you really want to.  Follow the link in the third paragraph of the Lost Cousins Newsletter.

There are other very interesting items in the Lost Cousins Newsletter – including a link to very interesting research project on People of the British Isles.


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Getting Started – March version

Sorry that the numbering did not transfer very well in the section on types of websites  . . .

How do you get started? – 5 steps

  1. Identify known family information – write what you know – fill in as much of a pedigree chart as you can – check with relatives – has anyone done research on your family?  (see Types of Websites in Section 2 below)
  2. Decide what you want to learn – look at your pedigree chart – set a research objective.
  3. Select records to search – what types of records are available for your locality in the time period you are searching? (check on the research wiki to find out about records that are available) – where can you access them?
  4. Obtain and search the records – keep a record of your findings in a research log
  5. Evaluate and use the information – is this my ancestor? Record the information. Share what you have found.
  6. Do more research or set a new goal.

Go to a Family History Centre and get a copy of “How Do I Start My Family History” (includes a blank pedigree chart) – and get personal help! – you can also look in the Research Wiki at (from the main page click on Search and then click on Wiki) – the same website has 100s of free research courses (from main page click on Get Help in upper right and then Learning Center).

Tip #1 Is this my ancestor?  Consider the following:

  1. Is the possible match person living in the right place to be my ancestor?
  2. Is this event in the right time period to be within the lifetime of my ancestor?
  3. Is the possible match person too young or too old to have been my ancestor?
  4. Are names of children associated with the possible match consistent with what I already know about the children of my ancestor?
  5. Do the ages of the children seem logical, or are they too young or too old to be my ancestor’s children?
  6. Is this the right spouse?
  7. Are the economic conditions of this person consistent with the known family history?
  8. Do the relatives and associates of your ancestor appear in records with the possible match?
  9. Is the possible match person affiliated with the church you know your ancestor belonged to?
  10. Could the possible match person, living in a neighboring county, be my ancestor?  County and electoral district boundaries changed over the years.
  11. Why is the name of the possible match person spelled differently from my ancestor’s name? The name of a person was commonly spelled differently in different documents.

Tip #2 Make a decision about your possible match – choices:

  1. Confirm the person as your ancestor.
  2. Suspect that the person may be a relative with the same name.
  3. Eliminate that person as your possible ancestor.
  4. Decide that there is not enough information yet to confirm or eliminate this person as your ancestor.

(From “How to Recognize your Canadian Ancestor” in  the research wiki at

Tip #3 Select a genealogy software program to record, and organize your research – & print reports. There are even several very good free programs available – Rootsmagic, Ancestral Quest, Legacy FamilyTree have free versions – there are many many choices – FamilyTreeMaker, Reunion and so on.  Take a test drive before deciding – matter of personal choice!  Do not select your software based on the number of “free” names given to you, and don’t use price as a criterion!  Think: is the person giving me the advice also the person selling the software?

Using the Internet for Family History – tips and strategies:

  • The Internet is a wonderful tool with which to do family history.
  • There are some very good sites and some not as good, so be selective
  • Just like printed materials, being on the Internet does NOT mean it is true!  VERIFY any information you obtain from the Internet unless it is from a scanned copy of an original record.
  • Remember that indexes, and typed copies of originals are secondary sources
  • Unless it is a scanned copy of an original document it is not a primary source
  • You always need to look at the original whenever possible
  • You can’t do all your research on the Internet (yet!), so recognize that you will need to use a library and archives at some point
  • Use “Find on this page” (Ctrl + F), found under the “Edit” to search for a specific word, such as a surname or place, on a web page
  • Keep a list of the addresses of web sites you have visited, along with what you found there – the Internet is very changeable, what is there today may not be there tomorrow – consider how you can save the information you find (Hint: take a screen shot)
  • Be aware of spelling variations and nicknames – e.g’s James may be Jas, William may be Bill or Will or Wm.  Just because you know how the name is correctly spelled does not mean the person who wrote or transcribed the record will have it right!  Try to work out how it was written in the record.  Could a birth in Middlesex be transcribed Mexico?  Could Bethnal Green become Green Bethnal?  Be careful in the use of Mc or Mac.
  • When was the website last updated?  This could be a problem if you are looking for the latest information and the web site was last updated in 1999.

Types of web sites:

  1. How to site – help with doing your research – – great tool for finding how to do research – for many countries
  2. Research done by others and sharing your research
  1. Databases – original images and transcripts – some are free, some are pay to use
  1. Cemeteries and Obituaries
  1. Search engines – learn how to be good at searching
  1. Maps
  1. Directory/Gateway sites – finding FH websites
  1. Encounter a Brick Wall?  Who doesn’t!  Go to, select Search and then Wiki – use Search Term “Brick Wall” and go to GenealogyInTime where there are 2 good articles on Brick Walls
  2. Archives and Libraries
  1. Surname and locality interest lists
  1. Blogs and Newsletters
  1. Family History or Genealogy Societies – publications and surname interest lists
  1. Scandinavia


For a “click and go” version of this handout go to – you can also subscribe to get our new articles automatically by email.

Posted in Canadian, England, Getting Started, Ireland, Research, Search engines, Wiki at | Tagged | 2 Comments