Tips for Finding Your Family Roots

by Ragtimelil

Here's a couple of things I've discovered about finding and saving your family history.

Both my dad and I regret that we didn’t ask more questions when my grandparents and aunts and uncles were alive. We could have gotten a lot more information that just names and dates. Sometimes even dates and places are hard to look up, especially in a state that was so rural in the late 1800s. I'm not an expert, but I've made a couple of good finds that I thought I would share.

Online Research



James Jeffrey

I find I now have to do most of my research online now. I've gotten increasingly frustrated by sites that want a paid membership to look at records that used to be free. Just over the past couple of weeks, a large database of all the cemeteries in Texas has vanished. I’m hoping it comes back the way it was. I still had things to look up there.


Luckily, I stumbled on an archive site that has most of the US censuses online. The site is Their mission is to build an internet library with permanent access to for researchers as well as the general public.

It is time consuming looking things up since you can’t just type in a name and have it pop up. You have to scroll though the pages just like in the old days when you had to scan microfilm. But it’s free and I rather like looking at pictures of the old torn pages that were all handwritten with misspelled names and all. 

Once on the site, look on the right and click on the box labeled “texts.” Then on the menu bar at the top, select “additional collections.”

About halfway down select “genealogy”.

I’m usually looking for censuses but there’s all kinds of good stuff here. I haven’t even scratched the surface.


Lana in Italy I’m not good with paper. I have a large binder with pages stuffed in it and I can’t really find much when I need it. I have trouble figuring out how I should list people and how to connect them.

I thought about getting a genealogy program for my computer, but two things discouraged me. One is that I tend to accumulate programs and can easily fill up a hard drive. Another is, if the computer dies (I confess I don’t have a good backup yet) I’ve lost all that information

Online Records

 Wiki PageI decided to put my history online so I could organize it and share it with my family. We’re all at some distance from each other so this way everyone could look at it. I decided to go with It’s a Wiki site and works like Wikipedia. Anyone can contribute information to the site.

Since my dad is also working on our history, he can add information as he finds it. I like the way the pages are set up with mother, father and siblings in a box on the right and spouses and children right below. A click will take you to any of those family members. It’s easy to edit a person and easy to add source citation.

I still get a little confused adding new families and sometimes end up with duplicates. I also uploaded some pictures and have yet to find out where they are.  Other than that, I’m very happy with the site and think I’ll figure out the system shortly. Being able to see relationships in a logical format makes it easier to see where I need to do some research next. Next I’ll copy some of these pages for a hard copy back up.

Screen Shots

Another program that I'm using more and more is With a click you can get a screen shot that you can edit, annotate and save either online or as a file on your computer. Files can be saved as a .png or .jpg.

1850 census


The Pettey FamilyA word of warning. This can be addictive.

I'm not sure why I'm so fascinated by genealogy. My dad wrote a book about his early life to pass on to his children, but I don't have children. I guess I'm doing it for myself, to see where I came from.

 More than once I've been up till midnight looking up just "one more thing!" It's like a treasure hunt and there's a sense of achievement when the pages are all updated an in order.

Some Cool Books

The Everything Guide to Online Genealogy: Use the Web to trace your roots, share your history, an...

Trace and record your family history online Are you a descendant of ancient kings? Were your ancestors fierce warriors? Are you related to an eminent scholar? With The Everythin...

$33.02  $1.3
The Source: A Guidebook Of American Genealogy (Third Edition)

Genealogists and other historical researchers have valued the first two editions of this work, often referred to as the genealogist's bible." The new edition continues that trad...

$72.39  $39.99
How To Trace Your Native American Heritage

This DVD will assist you in obtaining your Tribal Citizenship and CDIB card.

$16.91  $2.92
Forensic Genealogy

Have you ever considered looking at the edges of an old photograph to find out who is in the picture? Have you ever considered epidemics as a source of genealogical information?...

$63.75  $44.25
Updated: 09/23/2012, Ragtimelil
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Ragtimelil on 03/02/2014

It is the best thing to do. Unfortunately, almost all of my ancestors are no longer with us. I so wish I had asked questions when they were still alive. It just doesn't always occur to a kid to do that.

Rose on 03/02/2014

Another good thing to do is interview all your old relatives that are still alive - grandparents, great aunts and so on. It's amazing the anecdotes they can tell, plus they have a lot of information about things like jobs and professions of family members that arn't in the census details. And the family gossip about scandals and so on is priceless.

Ragtimelil on 07/02/2012

Yes, it can be time consuming. I find myself pouring over old census records until midnight. I haven't done much with our Italian side of the family. My sister did some so I'm just letting it percolate. But traveling might be fun.:)

Tolovaj on 07/02/2012

No, not yet, but i think it will be pretty time consuming task because my ancestors on both sides come from all sides of Europe, so I would be forced to make a lot of traveling...
I agree, this can be addictive, for me at the moment in this shortage of time, as fascinating as is, even a mere thought is out of the question.
But I would gladly read more on this subject, if you decide to expand it:)

Ragtimelil on 06/28/2012

Wow. Thanks so much. My uncle and dad have done a great job researching the male line, but now we're working on my grandmother's family. I find it very strange that my great-grandmother was married twice and both husbands vanished without a trace....spooky.

katiem2 on 06/28/2012

Funny everyone I know who's gotten involved in seeking their family roots seems to get addicted to it as you mentioned. But how fascinating to unravel the history and lives of those who made you possible. Thanks for the helpful insights as to finding my family roots. We're immigrants, Scottish and Irish, you no doubt have some understanding as to the information forgotten as so many had to deny their roots to make America their new homeland. All the more reason to find out the truth, for their sake and suffering bringing family back to it's fold. Great article. Love it! :)K

Ragtimelil on 06/28/2012

Thank you and you're welcome! I've enjoyed reading your articles.

JoHarrington on 06/28/2012

Great article! And thank you very much for linking my articles too. <3

Ragtimelil on 06/27/2012

I've been on findagrave. Good site. I just updated my ggrandmother's info. I'm going up there shortly to look around. I would like to get involved with the photography part.
I'm so sorry I didn't ask questions when my grandmother and great grandmother were alive, but I was just a kid and more interested in horses....

BrendaReeves on 06/27/2012

Lil, another free place to look is You just might find some of your relatives on there, I have. You can also volunteer to take photos at cemetery's for people doing research. I'm volunteering. Some of the people take pictures of every grave in the cemetery. I love geneaology and old cemeteries. Luckily, I asked my grandparents a lot of questions and listened to their stories. I also have a fantastic long-term memory.

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