Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Family History Day: A Dozen Ways to Jumpstart Your Family History Project

The third class I went to for Family history day was also given by Lou Dennis Szucs.  This time she spoke on ways to jumpstart your family history project.

Often time, we feel stuck in our research as genealogists.  Maybe we hit a brick wall or we just don’t know where to turn next.  In these cases, Lou first recommends going back over what you have.  When was the last time you looked at all of your documents for information you may have missed or didn’t realize was important the first time around?  Even just writing the information out in a new way, such as a timeline, may give you a new idea.  Also, make sure you are looking at the witnesses, sponsors, neighbors and fellow passengers on those documents, as they can often give you clues about your family (or may even be your family!).  One of my favorite bloggers, Tina, has been doing this recently.  She is going through her entire document collection, cleaning up her database and posing about it on her blog Gen Wish List.  She has found a multitude of items and is only on the letter “L”.

It is also important to continually look for new sources.  This can be done by looking at new Ancestry.com databases, going to your local library (or your ancestors local library), using sources new to you (in my case mortuary records and mortality census records), and checking out family history societies and museums.  Also remember that the 1940 US census will be released April 2nd!

Can you speak for 5 minutes on every place your people came from/lived?  I can’t either, but think it’s a great idea.  Writing up sketches of ancestral homelands is another great way to jumpstart your research.  Include the history of the area, maps, and things such as major occupations, churches, and organizations.  I also like the idea of writing sketches of organizations your ancestors belonged to, such as churches or fraternal organizations, and their employer, as this will give you more insight into their life.

You should also be writing up biographical sketches of your ancestors themselves.  This goes along with her first point of seeing what information you have.  Do not just put dates, but try to show their personality as well.  You can turn these sketches into your own personal mug book. 

Lastly, it is important that we network with others.  You can do this through genealogical organizations, on message boards, on a blog, Facebook, or using Ancestry.com member trees.  The more ways you get your information out there, the more likely you will find others who are related or can help break that brick wall. 


  1. Thanks for the shout out! Cleaning up my database has helped me find more resources for my family tree. I was stuck with what to do next, but now I have a whole list. Plus it has been nice to focus on my own family.

  2. @Tina Lyons, It looks like an awesome project and one I hope to do in the next few months. Thanks for the great idea!


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