Monday, August 15, 2016

Moving your genealogy research back to Europe

At some point for most genealogists the trail is going to take you back to Europe. This can seem like the end of the line but it doesn’t have to be. There are several strategies that you can attempt that will help you to overcome any obstacles that crossing the Atlantic places in your way.

There is one piece of information that is vital for your research and that is the name of the town that your ancestor came from. Finding this name will most likely be the hardest part of your research. Where do you even begin to look for this information?

~Interview family members. This is a vital step in the process. You need to talk to as many older family members as possible. Don’t assume because your parents and grandparents don’t know this important piece of information that there is no one in the family who does. Try to talk to aunts, uncles, cousins and even second and third cousins. Usually there is one branch of the family that is the caretaker of the family bible or a marriage certificate or some document that can help in your search and it is possible that other family members may not even be aware of its existence.

Part of the family interview process is also to listen to stores that may give clues to where the original family members came from. Don’t trust family stories to be exactly factual, much like the game telephone, the facts change with each telling however they may be grains to the truth in the stories and of all else fails you have a starting point to begin your search.

~Check for genealogies that have already been done. It may be that someone has already done some of the work for you. Make sure that any information you get from anyone else's research has sources, never accept anything on face value.

~Church records can hold some vital information about ethnicity but keep in mind that churches are not in the business of genealogy and records were not kept with that in mind. Some churches have published their records and this is a very good thing and many more have not. You will need to find out where the records are stored and if you can access them. Writing to the church you are interested in with the information you are looking for and a donation is always the best way to find out if they will help you.

~U.S, Vital Records are a good source of information depending on the time period. You are going to need to find out where the records are kept for the area you are researching. Some are kept on the town level, some at the state and others at the county. The dates for each state will vary widely. The requirement to keep vital records is a relatively new thing and many areas have little before the 20th century. To find out where to write go to the US Health Department and Human Services publication “Where to Write for Vital Records’

~The U.S. Census is useful in getting you to other records. You can see the country of origin not the town but you can also find the year that your ancestor came to this country as well as if they naturalized. Both of these dates can get you to other information that may provide the town.

~Naturalization records may give you the town of origin of your ancestor. A lot depends on the state where your ancestor naturalized. There was not a standard form and some are treasure troves of information and others contain nothing of use.

~Ship records and passenger arrival records are also valuable in helping your find the town in Europe where your ancestor came from. Don’t jump to conclusions, a ship that sailed from Breman or Cork does not mean your ancestor came from that city, it just means they departed from that city.

These are just a few of the places to start looking for your jump across the Atlantic. If you are lucky you will find what you are looking for in these records, if not don’t despair there is still hope. It is just not going to be as easy at you had hoped.

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