We Know: Researching Your Ancestry/Family Tree Online
Where is the Best Place to Start Researching?
While there are hundreds of websites promising to help one discover his or her family roots, there is one important site that all Americans should start with. The Federal Government uses the National Archives (NARA) to keep records of its involvement with all registered Americans. This site is not only helpful because of its vast amounts of records and resources, but it is also secure because it is sponsored by the Federal Government rather than an independent third party.
What Information Should Researchers Start With?
Because the NARA website does not use overriding master subjects or have a name index, it is important that researchers know as much information as possible about the people they search for. Ancestor names, names of spouses, siblings, children, and others are a good starting point, along with dates of birth, death, marriage, divorce, military service, and so on. Locations of these events help as well. Once researchers have as much of this information as possible, the online archives allow one to dive through records spanning decades and centuries.
What Kind of Records Do the National Archives Provide?
The most commonly used records the archive houses are census records. Because censuses are regularly taken every decade, they are considered the foundational building blocks of genealogy research. After census records, military records are the second most accessed files, and depending on the branch of service the physical records are either housed in Washington, D.C. or St. Louis, Missouri. The NARA also is home to other commonly accessed files such as immigration records, naturalization records, records of land ownership transfer.
What Does One Actually Find Online?
The records themselves are not stored online even though researchers can look for them there. Instead of the record, there are listings of search aids such as the Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archives, which helps navigate physical copies of records. There are also listings of microfilm resources, and instructions on how to attain the microfilm.