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FAQs

This page, Frequently Asked Questions, reflects questions asked or discussed up to this time. As more are developed, they will be added to this page.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How do I gather and organize my family history information?
  2. Where can I find supporting information?
  3. Why can't I find information for the individual I'm researching?

How do I gather and organize my family history information?

  • If you are fortunate enough to have living parents, grand parents or even great grandparents; interview them and take notes capturing relevant information. Try to corroborate the information by checking with others or searching the internet.
  • Organize the information, documenting the source of each piece of information. There are several database tools available to capture genealogical information. These tools typically use a format called GEnealogical Data (.ged file extension), aka GEDCOM. GEDCOM files are useable by most genealogical database systems.
  • GEDCOM files usually contain family history and genealogy data that is saved in a standardized ASCII text format. This allows the files to be opened by a variety of genealogy applications on multiple computer platforms, making it easy to share the family history information online. GEDCOM was developed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).
  • Family Tree Maker and Millenia's Legacy Family Tree are two very user friendly and affordable GEDCOM tools allowing the user to capture all their family history information, such as references to source information, including images.
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Where can I find supporting information?

  • A starting point would be to capture the information you currently have available, e.g. Names, Dates and Parent/child information that you to know. Additional information and corrections can be added as you discover more relevant information.
  • Some very important information can be found in census records that are online. Records from the censuses of population and housing are publicly accessible 72 years after each decennial census' "Census Day." The most recent publicly available census records are from the 1940 census. Since there is a requirement to keep these records private, records from the 1950 census will be released on April 1, 2022.
  • Another valuable source of information (birth, death and marriage) can be found in church records. A large number of these records can be found at the Ancestry or LDS websites. If not found online, in many cases the records are available for perusal at the church, or repository. In many instances these records have been destroyed.
  • Municipal records are a fine source of information. However, most often a trip to their repository is necessary. For example, the Philadelphia City Archives has a vast array of records, some dating back to the founding of the city in the 1600's. City directories, court records and real estate records are among the record types found there.
  • Once you've found specific pieces of information, it is very important that you capture the data and document the source of the information.
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Why can't I find information for the individual I'm researching?

  • In many cases, the surname may have been recorded differently from what you expect. For example, the individual recording the information (scribe) may have spelled the name based on what he or she thought it sounded like. This seems to be common in almost all record types (census, church etc.).
  • A real difficulty in researching females is the fact that, once married, her surname is changed. Sometimes, a daughter may be found in a census record living with her parents (or other relatives) and husband, but her surname has changed.
  • Online databases utilize an index to locate information in their database files (e.g. images). Sometimes, when the index is created, there could be a transcription error, resulting in the information not being located when searching the database. If you have enough information, you may be able to search those records utilizing other search criteria. Once you do find the record you are looking for, some database systems, allow you to enter the alternate information. Subsequent searches do recognize the alternate information as well.
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