Here are 13 places where you can find out information about your ancestors – and where you can find these records!
Thank you to BonCom Influencers and FamilySearch International for partnering with us on this post.
Last summer, I discovered a book my dad had that had details and stories about our ancestors on his side of the family.
I sat and read through it for hours – it was fascinating to me. I loved reading the stories of those who had gone on before me – those that had made our family what it is today. It was amazing to read the strength of their stories.
Family history is something I’ve enjoyed for a long time now. I think one of the best things we can do is look at our past and learn from it – especially from our ancestors.
In the LDS Church, there is a lot of emphasis on family history. There’s a huge family history conference called RootsTech that goes on every year in Salt Lake City. There are probably thousands of small family history centers across the country, along with a huge one in Salt Lake City. Their Family History website – FamilySearch.org – is probably one of the most comprehensive genealogy websites in existence. I love being able to have all these resources at my fingertips – and that they are available to everyone, whether you are LDS or not.
I’ve written a few posts about family history in the past – such as how to start your family history and 7 ways to record your family history. People seemed to enjoy them, so I thought I’d do another post that dives a little deeper.
But don’t worry, not too deep 😉
When you first start doing your family history, it might seem a little overwhelming. You may have a family tree already outlined from a dutiful relative, or your tree might only have a few branches filled in.
Either way, you have to start somewhere. And, beyond using personal family memories and history, the best way to find people is through records.
There are so many records available on the Internet, in recorders offices, libraries, etc. So many of them can lead you to finding out information about your ancestors. So, I thought I’d share all the different kinds of records you can search through to find your ancestors, along with a few different resources to help you find them!
10 Places to Find Your Ancestors
Places to find these records:
Now you might be wondering – where on earth do you find these records? Unless your family has lived in the same place for hundreds of years, you may be miles (even continents) away from those records, so just jumping over to the county record office isn’t probably going to happen.
Fortunately, in this digitally enabled world we live, many of these records are available online. A quick Google search might even find you what you are looking for. However, there are a lot of websites that have been created that are totally dedicated to helping give people access to these digitized records.
FamilySearch – This is a free website ran by the LDS Church, but it’s available for everyone to use. It’s free and has hundreds of thousands of records available – including many of the ones listed above. I believe it’s one of the most concise and well-organized resources out there. Records are constantly being added, and it is really easy to see your family tree lineage, add memories, photos, etc. and find other family trees that have already been completed.
Ancestry.com – I think this is a resource that most people already know about, but it’s worth noting. While some of the features are free, most of the helpful tools and resources are available on a subscription basis. I’ve found some great hints in here for family history – I really like the ability to communicate with others on here. You can get a free 14-day trial to see if it would work well for you.
FindaGrave.com – I love this website! Not only is it cool to be able to look at the actual headstones of relatives that live far away, but it really can you give you some great insight. I’ve been able to piece together family history from this website. You can also put in requests for people to go look at certain cemeteries and take pictures. You can also take requests as well – this is something I really want to do some time!
County or State Records Offices – You can contact the record offices for different areas to see if you can get a copy of records. Some records cannot be accessed until a certain period of time has passed, but it’s definitely a great place to start for birth, death, and marriage records!
Libraries – When I was in college, one of my professors gave us extra credit for combing through microfilms in the library of newspapers to transcribe information. It was fascinating! Libraries have so many resources – old newspapers, family histories, etc. Old libraries are especially helpful for this!
23andMe – This is a website I just barely heard about, but it’s SO cool! It’s basically an at home DNA test that you can take at home that gives you information about your ancestry, genetic history and potential, and much, much more. You get over 60 tests with your DNA, and I think it’s amazing that it can tell you all about your heritage! It’s $199, but for all the details you get, I think it’s well worth the cost. I can’t wait to try it myself.
How You Can Help:
There’s a great way you can help others find their relatives – and that’s through Indexing! FamilySearch.org has an amazing Indexing program that anyone can use to help transcribe records from across the world. This is one of the best ways to get the records online, and it’s really such a cool thing to participate in.
I have been indexing since I started college, and it’s something I’ve come to really enjoy. Sometimes I feel like I don’t have a lot of family history that I can actually do for my family, so I love being able to play a part in making records available to others. I’ve found myself caught up in the stories that some of the records tell – especially the death records. It sounds totally morbid, but it’s interesting to read about the causes of death (and sometimes, it’s very sad!)
Anyone can Index! They have tutorials on how to do it, and they have all different levels of indexing available. You just download the platform to your computer and you can do it as little or as much as you want.
If you want a jump start, on July 15-17, FamilySearch International will be having their third annual “Worldwide Indexing Day.” The goal is to bring 72,000 people from all over the world online during the 72 hours to index as much as they can! You can find out more about Worldwide Indexing Day here. We are going to have a party so it will be even more fun! Be sure to put your email in to show your are going to do it.
Indexing is an incredible thing and process. Volunteers for FamilySearch International have indexed over a billion records, and there are still so many to go – they have records in all languages and countries that need to be indexed. So if you are looking for something to do, I highly recommend you look into it. You can play a big part in helping others be able to access the records of their ancestors!