You may have heard your friends or co-workers talking about genealogy, or tried to do some searching on the Internet under your family name. Now you would like to do more research to see what you can learn about your family’s history.
Seattle is a great place in which to begin working on your family history. There are several facilities in the greater Seattle area that will provide you with access to resources and assistance.
The Seattle Public Library owns the largest genealogy book collection in the Pacific Northwest, subscribes to major genealogy databases, and has two genealogy librarians on staff to assist you. The Genealogy Librarians offer basic genealogy classes and tours of the Genealogy Collection, which is located on Level 9 of the Central Library. Check the Library’s Web site for Calendar of Events for an upcoming class or tour: just search for “Genealogy.”
So, how do you get started? The first step is to write down what you and other family members know. Hopefully, you will discover that members of your family have collections of old photos, letters, Bible records, as well as certificates of all types. These are wonderful sources of information.
The next step is to organize this information. Genealogists have traditionally used two basic charts to keep track of their family information and to guide their research. The Ancestor Chart is used to create an outline of your ancestors. The Family Record Sheet is used to record more information about each couple and their children. There are also several genealogy software programs, which will enable you to organize the information electronically. Check the genealogy portal, Cyndi’s List, for more about genealogy software programs. Once you have organized your information, you can more easily determine where to start your research.
Oh yes, another important step is to keep a running log of where you get your information so that you and others can locate it again.
Now comes the fun part! Think of yourself as a detective. You will be using the information you have gathered in the first step as clues to locate additional data. Today we can do much of the initial research quickly thanks to the digitizing of so much information. You can find an amazing variety of data on subscription databases such as Ancestry Library Edition, Heritage Quest Online, America’s Genealogy Bank, and New England Ancestors. All of these databases can be used at The Seattle Public Library. Heritage Quest Online and America’s Genealogy Bank can be accessed remotely from any Internet computer by using your Seattle Public Library card number and PIN.
State archives, such as the Washington State Digital Archives, also offer access to valuable information.
Checking for death records of your ancestors is a good place to start your research. State Health departments began recording birth and death records in the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries. Many death indexes are available on Ancestry Library Edition and through some state archives’ Web sites. The FamilySearch.org pilot site is also an excellent source for finding death records.
At this point you may be able to begin searching the U. S. Census records, which have been taken every ten years since 1790 and are available to the public through 1930. These records will help you develop an outline for your family history research. Census records will be topic of our next blog.
Until then, here are a couple of great beginning guides for budding genealogists:
- Unpuzzling Your Past: The Best-selling Basic Guide to Genealogy by Emily Anne Croom.
- The Everything Family Tree Book: Research and Preserve your Family History by Kimberly Powell.
~ Darlene H, Central Library