(Disclaimer: The web page advertised above was randomly chosen by GeoCities. It does not necessarily reflect my point of view or life style.)

quest  line


This page has been visited times since January 1998.

history  line

Internet Link Exchange
Member of the Internet Link Exchange Free Home Pages at GeoCities

quest  line

duck  detective YOUR MISSION, IF YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT: To collect and assemble the pieces of your family’s history. This assignment is not for the faint of heart. You will travel through time, sift through a maze of documents and microfilm, journey to remote corners of the earth, question informants, manuver through blockades, and juggle numerous names, dates and places to solve this mystery. Are you ready?...

genealogy  tools  button
Tools of
the Trade
Rookie  guide 
genealogy  tips 
clues  button
Where to
Find Clues
genealogy  dictionary 

Are we "cousins"?

Check out my bookstore!

Excellent books to help you with genealogy research, and much more.


Read my Dreambook!
Sign my Dreambook!

Birkholz Family History Search - Caswell Family History Quest - Home

quest  line

Home - Teacher’s Lounge - Genealogy Quest
Art Education - Art, Etc. - Birkholz Family History Search - Caswell Family History Quest
Cat’s Meow - Cherokee Page - Lakota Page - LDS Page - On Target Award
A Few of My Favorite Sites - Your Comments and Suggestions Welcome
Awards Bestowed Upon My Site - Who is Melissa, Anyway?

quest  line

This page hosted by GeoCities Get your own Free Home Page

Tools of the Trade

Having the right tools makes a job easier. Here’s a list of items handy to have in the trenches:

genealogy  help  ball Pedigree Chart -- This form is used to record information about a person, their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, etc. It is like a four or five generation family tree on one sheet of paper. It gives an "at a glance" look at your ancestry. When your first Pedigree Chart is filled, you begin more charts: Each great-grandparent becomes the "first person" on a new chart. If you have a genealogy computer program, it should print blank copies of this form for you.

genealogy  resources  ball Family Group Record -- This form is used to record information about a husband and wife and their children. It is more detailed than the Pedigree Chart. If you have a genealogy computer program, it should print blank copies of this form for you.

genealogy  tips  ball Folders with Pockets, for a 3 - Ring Binder -- Folders come in handy for temporarily storing documents, photographs and notes. You can label each folder with a surname, then keep all notes on that surname in it's folder. If you visit "Aunt Margaret" to ask her about family history, and she gives you an old photograph, where’s a safe place to put it until you get home? -- A folder pocket. This happened to me during a genealogy trip, and home was two weeks away. Did I want to trust a family heirloom in our suitcase, stuffed with other "junk" in the trunk of the car? No way!

3-Ring Binder -- This is to keep all your genealogy forms, folders and notes in. When doing genealogy research by telephone, or while traveling, nothing beats having an organized, up-to-date family history binder. Invest in a sturdy binder at least 1-1/2 inches thick Pockets are a plus. If you have a computer program which stores your family history, keep the forms in your binder up-to-date anyway. A binder is easier to take on the road than a desktop computer....And if your computer crashes or somehow erases your data, you will still have your information in the binder.

Index Dividers for 3-Ring Binder -- This is to organize your forms in your binder. The basic method is to separate the Family Group Records from the Pedigree Charts. You might find more ways to further organize your binder, depending upon your experience and style. My binder is divided into: Family Group Sheets, Pedigree Charts, and Research (my folder section).

Notebook -- A notebook is useful for, well, keeping writing notes in. Notebook paper is also useful for making pencil rubbings of a headstone if it is difficult to read. You can also buy special forms for your notes. However, I find it just as easy, and more economical, to use a regular notebook. If I want to organize the notes, I just rip the paper out and put it in a folder (mentioned above) for that surmane. If the notes are a biography, when I get home I can type them neatly on the computer and print them out. Nevertheless, if note forms will help you more, then go ahead and buy them.

Pencils and pen -- Yes, we must have something to write all those notes with!

Photo box or album -- Sooner or later you will probably want something to organize those old family photos in. An acid-free, archival quality box or book is best.

Books and Maps (optional) -- You might buy a few genealogy books and maps, depending upon what countries your ancestors came from, and what areas you need help with. Many genealogists collect a small library of resources to help them.

File Box (optional) -- A durable plastic file box is useful for neatly storing all your family history materials in one easy to find location. If you’re a rookie, you might not need one for a while. If you’re a seasoned veteran, you may have a file cabinet full!

Camera (optional) -- I highly recommend using a camera when doing genealogy work in cemeteries. Photograph the headstones. This provides evidence of what you saw and recorded. I had a distant cousin ask if I knew where an ancestor was buried, and what their death data was. I replied, "Yes, I’ve been to the grave." They proceeded to ask me for details of name and dates, but seemed unsure of my information. When I told them I had a photograph of the headstone, it was evidence that my research was correct. She seemed satisfied and the case was closed. Plus, it is also nice to have a picture of the ancestral farm, home, etc. when possible.

Genealogy Software for Your Computer (optional) -- If you have a computer (which you probably do if you’re reading this), a good family history program makes organizing all that data easier. Shop around and note the features you want in genealogy software before buying.

Now, where can you find all those tools? Many of them can be found at your local department store and book shop. You can also purchase some, plus forms, on the Internet. Here are a few online stores to shop around at:

Top of Page - Home

Rookie’s Guide

Here is some help to get you started with your family history.

First, begin your Family History Binder. Write down everything you know on a Pedigree Chart and Family Group Sheets. Start with yourself and move backward. Then organize those forms into your binder. (For more information about the binder and forms, see Tools of the Trade.)

After you start your family history binder, you do deeper research. Begin talking to your relatives--your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Find out what they know about your ancestors. What were their parents' names, and their grandparents' names? When and where were they born? Where did they live, and when did they live there? When and where did they get married? When and where did they die? Where are they buried? It is also nice to find out who they were--what hobbies they had, what things they liked to do. Keep notes of what your relatives tell you. NOTE: Make sure you find out as much as you can about the children in each family. This will help you identify families later. Organize the notes in your Family History Binder. This is when Pedigree Charts and Family Group Sheets really start to come in handy.

Gather all available vital records on your ancestors; namely birth certificates, marriage records and death certificates. Those documents should give you further information about your ancestors’ birth places and parents. It can also confirm the information you already have. If data you were given does not match data on the certificates, further research can confirm correct information. Organize the documents in your Family History Binder. Or, by this time, you might want to start a file box. (For more information about a file box, see Tools of the Trade.) In the U.S., you can order such documents from the Office of Vital Records of the appropriate county, or the Department of Health of the appropriate state. Call a public library near you and ask them for the address and/or telephone number. Outside the U.S., such records are kept in the appropriate county or province records offices. Again, a public library is a helpful place to start looking for address information.

When those steps are done, it's time to search through federal census records. Say you have some information on your grandfather--we will call him James Smith. You know he was born in 1927, in Corson County, South Dakota. You know he had an older sister Beth, and a younger brother Tom. However, you're not sure about who his parents were. Now it's time to order a microfiche census. (How?--Find your local LDS Family History Center. They will be happy to help you order and view the film. If there is not one near you, contact a lending library. Perhaps they have the census you need. Then check with your public library and see if they will let you view the film there.) Using the example above, you would want to order the 1930 census for Corson County, South Dakota. When you search the census, look for Smith families who have children Beth, James and Tom. When you find the children Beth, James and Tom, make sure the birth dates match. If they match, you probably have the right family. (Sometimes, two families have same names and dates, and live in the same area--But that is very rare. If you want to be double sure, read through the whole census.) See who the parents of the family are. Write down their names, birth dates, and places of birth. Many census records show where the parents' parents were born, so note that too.

What if you order the census and cannot find the family? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Call your public library. Ask them to give you the phone number for the Register of Deeds for Corson County, South Dakota (still using the previous example). If you live in a small town, you may want to call a library in a larger community for this information. (No offense to small towns, because I live in one. However, I have found larger public libraries are more helpful in this department.) When you have the phone number, call that Register of Deeds. Ask them if they have a birth certificate for "James Smith, born in 1927". Some offices will look up the information on the spot, and give it to you over the phone. Others will request you send them a letter. If they have the birth certificate, and will give you the information over the telephone, ask them what the certificate states about the parents--What were the parents' names? Does the certificate show the parents' ages and places of birth. Some certificates will. Some certificates will be nicely typed and easy to read. Others are handwritten, and are difficult to read. If they will not give you the information over the phone, you can order a copy of the birth certificate. Even if they do give you the information over the phone, you still might want to purchase a copy. When you receive the certificate, file it carefully in your genealogy notes. If they do not have the certificate, tell them you wanted it for genealogy. Some offices have given me helpful information when I told them this. For example, one lady told me that her county had once been part of an adjoining county. Perhaps the birth certificate was in the other county. Perhaps that county would have the certificate. She gave me the phone number for the other county's Register of Deeds. I called them--sure enough, they had the certificate I was searching for! It was a major breakthrough for me. NOTE: This technique also works with Death Certificates. If you don't know when an ancestor was born, but you know when and where they died, try finding their Death Certificate. They often have birth information on them.
  • You can order a Soundex. Simply put, a Soundex lists all the surnames in a given state during a given census year. The easiest way to order one is to have a local LDS Family History Center figure the catalog number for the surname, and order it for you.
  • You can try ordering census records for adjoining counties, and search them.
  • If you know where the husband’s parents or wife’s parents lived, you can try ordering census records, or a Soundex, for that county or state. Perhaps the couple moved "back home" for a time.

The above information should be enough to get you started. Happy Hunting!

Would you like to keep reading through the next section, Field Tips? Follow the link to go to that next Genealogy Quest section.

Top of Page - Home