From the Ancestry Daily News
The first of the year brings resolutions for many people, and I am no different. While I have done some dabbling my wife’s Swedish and Belgian lines, I have decided to make a concerted effort to seriously work on these families. Like many genealogists, I start out the year with great visions. Hopefully, I’ll stick to this resolution and have some success. While there are differences between the two areas that I will be researching, they do have two things in common: there are excellent records for both areas, and I have a minimal understanding of the languages spoken in both countries.
In order to maximize success and minimize confusion, I need to be prepared before I continue work on these lines. With that in mind, this week we discuss what should be done before I have a foreign-language record staring me in the face. While past columns have discussed my initial attempts with these records, we will start in the beginning.
Homework in the U.S.A.
— Vital records (including records of birth, marriage, and death) were used to determine places of birth where possible.
Census records (federal and state) were used to estimate dates of immigration and birth dates and places when necessary.
Tombstones and cemetery records were used because these sources sometimes provide places of birth.
Church records were used because sometimes these records (particularly in immigrant Lutheran or Catholic congregations) provide clues regarding European origins.
Naturalization records were used because naturalizations after 1906 are fairly detailed. Even pre-1906 naturalizations can help estimate years of immigration.
Immigration records were used because some passenger lists provide information on the last residence in the home country.
Anything else I can findwe don’t want to leave out any possible source!
As we’ve seen from other columns, possible siblings and neighbors of our ancestors may also provide clues as to our own family’s origins. From these records, I had the places of origin for my wife’s Swedish and Belgian ancestors. Taking the time to get that information was crucialthis was not a five-minute process.
Homework in the Homeland
Words. Have a basic genealogical word list in the languages you need (if you don’t know the language in which the records are written, the Family History Library Card Catalog citation for the records you will be using will indicate this). The word list will reduce confusion and help you when you’re ordering the records on film and when I’m actually using the records. The Family History Library website (www.familysearch.org) has genealogical word lists for most languages genealogists will encounter. Click here for a direct link to the first page of these research guides. It is organized alphabetically.
Charts. Blank family group charts and pedigree charts with wide lines are another must. While you will probably not extract complete records on these charts, constantly updating the family structure as you research is essential to keep you from becoming confused. These are working charts, so you’ll complete them in pencil.
Maps. Having detailed geographic information convenient is crucial. I prefer to have maps at several different scales so I have multiple perspectives of the area, from the small nearby villages to the larger, perhaps more distant cities. MapQuest is a great place to obtain some modern maps, particularly showing villages in the immediate vicinity of the ancestral village. Local Family History Centers may have maps in their permanent collections and additional gazetteers are available on loan. The previously mentioned research guides from the Family History Library will include bibliographic information to assist the researching in locating these maps. I always make two copies of maps, one that I can write all over in pencil and another one from which I make additional copies.
Getting Ready to Take Notes
Michael John Neill is the Course I Coordinator at the Genealogical Institute of Mid America (GIMA) held annually in Springfield, Illinois, and is also on the faculty of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Michael is the Web columnist for the FGS FORUM and is on the editorial board of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly. He conducts seminars and lectures on a wide variety of genealogical and computer topics and contributes to several genealogical publications, including Ancestry Magazine and Genealogical Computing. You can e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at: www.rootdig.com/, but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.
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