Recomendations on sources to learn to become a better home genealogist

+12 votes
I'm looking for recommendations on good sources to learn to become a better genealogist researcher. Not a professional mind but knowing what I am passing down is fact and not a unsourced guess of a firm possibility of a definite maybe.

I am tired of being 'stuck' because I cannot decided if the "John Q. Doe" I find in record is my "John Q. Doe".
in The Tree House by L. Harrington G2G6 (9.1k points)
Join a genealogical society. Meetings for many have regular speakers on a variety of topics that vary from beginning level to advanced researchers.

There are a lot of books on both general and specific topics. Search the online bookstores, and the National level societies.

The FamilySearch wiki has a lot of useful information.
I'm a big proponent of completely filling out fairly detailed information on a generation before trying to go back a generation.  People want to focus on their specific tree and want to go back, but it can get easier to go back the more you know about the more recent generation.  I'm also a big fan of viewing things geographically.  You can find a lot of information you are interested in, when you aren't specifically looking for it but rather are going methodically through some set of geographically relevant records.

5 Answers

+6 votes

The England Project’s Orphan Trail is a great place to learn how to find and use sources for English profiles. Easy then to use what you have learnt in other countries

by Marion Poole G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
If you have ancestors in Scotland, Scotland project has a Tartan Trail, similar to England Orphan Trail.  Both will help you learn about wikitree, general sourcing, as well as finding sources and citing them from those locations.
My late mother was a Liverpudian who married an American GI (A WWII war bride). Her paternal grandfather was from the Shetland Islands. Her paternal grandmother was from Cumberland, England. My maternal grandmother was born in 1889 'on the wrong side of the blanket' in Tranmere, Birkenhead, Cheshire (surname Kelly). Given what little I know about Birkenhead at that time,  there's chance that my one of my grandmother's parents ancestors came from Ireland. Mind it just a guess but with a great-grandmother's name of Mary Ann Kelly, it a fair guess.
+6 votes
The biggest game-changer in my life was when I learned about the “catalog” tab under the “Search” feature at FamilySearch.

It has so much stuff. Switch to “title” and type in the name of a compiled family genealogy, and you might just find a copy available nowhere else online.

Put in a count where your ancestors lived, then click the links for court records or land records or church records or probate records or town records and you might just find the key record to knock down a brick wall. Its happened to me several times.

Lots of people swear by Ancestry, and they do have some records not available on Family Search. So if you can afford it, subscribe there too. But if I had to choose just one, it would absolutely be FamilySearch and their catalog.
by Barry Smith G2G6 Pilot (232k points)

Thank you Barry, I had not noticed the options on the search page. So much to look through.  smiley

There are some great 'indexes' to space pages on wikitree that Rick Pierpont had started.  If you find a source online that is not included in these lists, space page should be created and added to these pages. Very easy to copy the information from one of these to create a new space Page, just changing it for the new source.

I’ve created a lot of source pages...

OMG Barry!yes

Why have I ignored the "Catalog" tab for so long?

You're right, it's incredibly useful.....  Would go into more detail about how great you are, but I have a crumbling brick wall that this feature is perfect for.  Got to go!

L. Harrington,   thanks for asking this question!

I agree. Just started using it regularly a year or so ago. Real game changer, at least for some types of profiles.
Peggy, I don't doubt that you will knock down some brick walls! I've knocked down several specifically with the land records in the catalog.

Something I learned only after the finding the catalog, so FYI also: when there is a camera icon, you can view the image from home. When there is something that looks like an old film reel, it is viewable I guess only in the original source or else with a trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, where it would be on film.

When you see a camera icon with a "key" over it, that means you cannot view it from home, but you also needn't travel all the way to the original source or to Utah. Those images are viewable at any affiliate facility to the Family History Library -- these include Family History Centers, affiliate libraries of the Family History Library (I've been trying to get my local public library to become one!), and a few other sites such as the beautiful NEHGS library in Boston.

Most places in America are near an FHC -- my closest is about 50 miles from me. They've been closed for COVID, but mine just emailed me two days ago to tell me that they've opened for appointments and to see if I want one. Yes please! I have a running list of items to look at on my next trip to the FHC, and I include the Film # to make it super easy to find while I'm at the FHC.
Thanks for even more ideas!     Until recently we lived near  an INCREDIBLE  new FHL in Independence Missouri.  (It claims to be the Midwest Genealogy Center)  But I can easily go there when I visit family......  of course Covid is still an issue.

Have a great NEW YEAR.
+8 votes

To make sure I have the right "John Q. Doe" I try to triangulate the facts. I look for:

  1. Right place
  2. Right Time
  3. Found in more than 1 record
  4. DNA supports it
When I can't figure it out, a well researched and crafted question on G2G sometimes leads to a goldmine. 
I also perform a timeline analysis like they teach in Research Like a Pro when I get really stuck.
by Shanna Leeland G2G6 Mach 5 (58.2k points)
Thanks so much for the link, there are some very good ideas on the website.
+5 votes
Some of the projects here have basic training courses relevant to the project and members often share good resources, e.g. England's Orphan Trail, Profile Improvement Project.

FamilySearch has some videos on Youtube, Christa Cowan (The Barefoot Genealogist) has videos on Youtube demonstrating various Ancestry features. Legacy Family Tree Webinars ( has webinars covering an extensive range of topics. Some are free to access, some are free for a short time, and a subscription (about US$50 pa) allows you to access the entire library and download/printout any notes that came with them.

Source everything thoroughly so that you can easily find it again if you need to, and keep a research log.
by Anonymous Ford G2G6 Pilot (146k points)
+4 votes

You might be interested in these courses from the National Genealogy Society.

The courses available are:

  • AGS: The Basics is a course designed for anyone just starting out or who wants a refresher on genealogical principles

  • AGS: Guide to Documentation and Source Citation is a course for anyone who wants to understand the principles and practice of citation for common sources such as books, periodicals, and a variety of filmed and digitized records.

  • AGS: Beyond the Basics is a course covering various genealogical records and research techniques; the student also develops skills in collecting, interpreting, analyzing, and evaluating genealogical information. Each lesson has a written assignment.

  • AGS: Branching Out is the fourth course in the AGS series. In this course you continue to expand your family research knowledge and hone your skills in writing genealogical reports and citing numerous genealogical documents.

    Source: National Genealogical Society - American Genealogical Studies (AGS)

I took the Basics Course back in the Spring of 2001 and thoroughly enjoyed it. (Note: there is a cost)

by Tommy Buch G2G6 Pilot (842k points)

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