Wednesday, April 26, 2023

19 Things You Can Do to Enhance Your Family Research

Well, it's official.  I've been blogging about people, places, and things I've found helpful in my research for 19 years.  Whew!  In celebration of the blogiversary, I've compiled a list of 19 ways to enhance your family research(listed in no particular order.)

  1. DNA Testing--Testing using autosomal and YDNA can bring about research avenues that you might not have ever discovered using only traditional genealogy research.  It can help to focus on our blood ancestors path while broadening our family.  Many times those cousins you discover thru DNA will have pictures, family memorabilia or stories about our ancestors that weren't passed down in our own line from the shared ancestor.  DNA testing mtDNA can also be helpful if you have a specific question about a matrilineal line.
  2. Read books about social situations--It was helpful for me to learn more about the Tuberculosis outbreak and hospitals when writing about my Cook(e) family.  My paternal grandfather's oldest sister's family was almost wiped out during the outbreak in Rutherford County Tennessee.  There are also many great books about slavery, women's history, and just about any other social situation you can imagine.
  3. Explore the Unindexed records at FamilySearch--These are a goldmine.  I have bookmarked the Place Catalog Search Results for areas I'm researching so that I can see what is available online at FamilySearch.   It makes it feel as if I am at the courthouse browsing thru through the record books.  The best part is, no travel, no need to worry about your attire, and no dust.
  4. Genealogy Education--There is so much out there in the way of education for genealogist.  Webinars, Seminars, Books and How To Videos.  Many of the libraries and genealogical societies offer free help.  I personally love Legacy FamilyTreeWebinars. is also great for keeping up with all of the educational opportunities out there.
  5. Order Document retrieval--There are a good number of document retrieval services offerings.  When you think about how much it would cost to travel to a library and/or archives to get copies of the files you need, it's no wonder that there is a market for retrieval.  I've discovered so much wonderful information in pension files and copies of other records and often wish I had started taking advantage of these services sooner.
  6. Network--We really need to interact with other researchers who are studying the same areas or surnames.  They may have specialties that we don't. I've found it helpful to ask a friend about research problems to see if it is my approach that is limiting my results. 
  7. Talk to Family--Even siblings have different memories of events that happened in a family due to their own unique perspective.  Talk to cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. They may have stories you don't and may have just assumed you knew the stories.  
  8. Cluster Research-- If you aren't researching the friends, associates, and neighbors of your ancestors, you are just getting a partial picture.  Their story is so much deeper than what you see if you merely scratch the surface.
  9. Visit areas where your ancestors lived.  If nothing else, it makes you feel closer to them.  It might also put you more "in tune" for researching the area.  For me it's a deep personal experience to walk on the same ground where my ancestors walked.
  10. Create a Family Archive of important documents--I have made several of these for my family.  I have one with the papers of my paternal grandparents and another starting at the marriage of my parents.  Often time you don't realize how much information you have until you start assembling the notebook/binder.
  11. Plan what becomes of your research--Not to be morbid, but if you don't want your research to end up at the landfill, you need to make plans for what happens to it once you have passed.  State Archives, local libraries or if you have historically significant items such as ledgers or family papers you might consider area museums. 
  12. Place Name or One Name Studies--This is a given really.  The more you know about an area in which your ancestor lived, the easier it is to know and understand what was going on in their life.  Also if you familiarize yourself with the different families who carry the same surname, you will be able to differentiate between your Cook family and the other Cook families.
  13. Organize Photos and Exchange--Organize your photos and try to identify the subjects and dates of each photo.  Many people do not like to share their photos of ancestors.  I share freely.  They have other descendants who might want copies.  Also if(heaven forbid) something should happen to your photo there will still be a digital version out there. That should be incentive enough to share right there.
  14. Use a Notebook(or notebooks) for Brainstorming--Always keep a notebook devoted exclusively to brainstorming on your research.  When you get an idea for an avenue of research, write it down otherwise you are likely to forget.  I keep a notebook on my nightstand.
  15. Revisit old Documents and Research periodically--This is especially helpful when you feel you are at a brick wall for a particular ancestors.  Many times what didn't look like helpful information when we first viewed the document is found to be helpful given what we know presently.
  16. Write about your research(blog or article submissions)--Writing or blogging is so helpful.  It helps you think thru research issues. Too writing about your ancestors gets your research out there.  This can be scary but it's also scary to have done years of research and no one is aware because it's never been put out there in a publication.  It doesn't matter whether it's a submission to a local or national genealogical publication or your own blog.  Please write.
  17. Join at least one Historical or Genealogical society--There are many types of historical and/or genealogical societies:  State, county, area, surname or association.   All of these serve a purpose you will just need to find one that suits your needs.  This can also help with networking and publishing.
  18. Email or Call County Clerks or Librarians with Specific Questions--Emailing or calling can save you time.  If you are planning on visiting the library or archives, you can be better prepared and increase the likelihood of a successful and productive research day(or week.)  Also, sometimes they can email you a document.  
  19. Mentor or be mentored--if you are an experienced researcher consider mentoring a new researcher. I began researching in 1990. I can't tell you the number of times I've wished I could tell my 1990 self DO THIS or DON'T DO THIS.  Regardless of whether you are mentoring or being mentored you will learn new things.
I hope you have found this list helpful and thanks for visiting! 


  1. Anonymous8:32 AM

    19 years is a long time! Congratulations on your blogiversary.

  2. Congratulation on your blogiversary. Sharing your post with genimates downunder.