Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Not that common?

What to do if your family comes from parts of the world where online genealogical research is not so readily available? For instance, my family is from the twin island country of Trinidad & Tobago. There isn't a plethora of genealogical documents available online for Trinidad. So where to begin? Message boards are your friend. The best way to begin is to take the information that you have collected from your family members and start searching genealogy message boards. If you can find distant relatives, you can piece together your part of the jungle with theirs. Two good places to start are:

Ancestry Message Boards
Not only should you search these boards, but post your own messages.  You may get a response right away or you may get a response in a few years from now.  I have had a lot of success finding family members by piecing together bits of information.

The other thing that you have to be willing to do is write letters.  Some places might not have documents online, but you can find information if you write a letter requesting information.  For instance, my family line goes from Trinidad to Madeira, Portugal. One of my distant cousins (who I met on a message board!) has written to the Regional Archives of Madeira and gotten some information that helped him make the leap from Trinidad to Madeira.

 Every year, more information is becoming available online.  So even if you searched a particular website for information and you don't find something, come back and check again. You might find something eventually. A few years ago, there was not a lot available from Madeira, and now the Archive website has some databases that are accessible to the public.

If you still have relatives back in the "home country", try to get them involved by sending them photos with little stories about your ancestry.  If they are interested, you can collaborate with them and they can  help by doing some old fashioned research by looking through civil and religious records for more information.

The best advice I can give to anyone researching genealogy in more uncommon parts of the world is: never give up! Just when you think there is no hope and you are stuck at a dead end, the dam breaks and you add another piece of the puzzle!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My Favorite Genealogy Sites

There are quite a few websites out there that can help you get started on your family's genealogy.  Before you start out on any of these sites though, the first thing to do is interview your family members! Ask questions, ask for copies of pictures, ask for stories.  Always remember to be sensitive...things that to you seem like ancient history that is just an interesting story, could be a very sensitive matter to someone of an older generation.

Ask for names, dates of birth, marriage, death, locations, children, siblings, spouses, parents. If you are so fortunate that your grandparent's are still alive, ask if they can remember back to their grandparents. That gets you back several generations! After you have compiled all the information that you can, check out these sites: - Lots of documents online for free! - Good option for storing your tree online either public or private. Also, for a fee there is access to lots of documents.  You can get a lot of good info during the 14 day free trial if you can't pay for the subscription right now. - A growing database of grave information. - The most comprehensive collection of genealogical websites

It also never hurts to Google some'd be surprised by some of the websites you can find that might have information on some of your ancestors!  These are just some places to start...more coming soon!

What is my Family Jungle and why should I start one?

I began working on my genealogy many years ago when I was putting together a memory book for my sister's Confirmation. I thought it would be nice to have some family history at the beginning of this scrapbook so I started asking questions.  I was so surprised by how much information I didn't know about my family that was so readily available.  I was amazed by the photographs that were packed away of ancestors I never knew anything about...and I was fascinated.  Who were these people? What were their lives like? I discovered things that inspired and puzzled me.  I also discovered that this family tree could quickly grow into something more was a jungle out there!

Genealogy gave me a stronger sense of self; who I am and where I came from.  It is beautiful to see the sacrifices that our ancestors made that have led us to to the lives we now lead. You can also find the mistakes they made that we hopefully learn from. It is a journey that will take you on ups and downs and what may seem like dead ends and wild goose chases, but in the end, you will be amazed and maybe even learn more about yourself and your family members.  I encourage you to open yourself to the possibilities and start trudging through the jungle that is your family!