Posted by Jeanie Croasmun on January 6, 2010 in Research

Here’s a tip: use the Member Connect tab on a census record to see who’s researching your ancestor’s neighbors. They may hold more clues about your ancestor than you realize.

See, for most of the last five-ish years, I’ve been frustrated by how easy it is for some of my coworkers to grow their family trees — every new record collection turns into a new branch.

My family tree, however, remains a malnourished twig.

A year or so ago, I’d had enough. “Listen,” I shrieked. “I’m sick of hearing about your finds. My family didn’t own land, didn’t homestead. They weren’t politicians or well-reported criminals. From what I can tell, they only made it into the newspaper when someone died — and that’s if they remembered to put away some cash for an obituary. So when you can tell me how to find my regular-Joe, working-class ancestors, THEN I’ll be ready to listen.”

As usual, they ignored me. But somewhere in my rant, I remembered I had a magazine’s editorial calendar at my disposal. And if I really wanted to find my blue-collar past, I could get experts to write articles that would tell me how.

Those articles, including tips and how-tos, appear in the January/February 2010 issue of Ancestry magazine. And in that issue, which is on newsstands now, you’ll find one of my favorite tips: using Member Connect to see if the neighbors’ descendants know where their ancestors worked. Because when I’m looking at my great-grandfather’s census record and it says he’s a miner but I don’t know which mine he worked for, I might find family historians researching other miners in the neighborhood. Odds are good that those miners worked where my great-grandfather did. And maybe their family history-savvy descendants will know which mine that was.

There’s plenty more in the issue, too. From researching women workers and locating labor archives to details about new tools and record collections at that will make your research easier than ever, our January/February issue is packed full. Hopefully the ideas inside will help you as much as they are helping me have a super productive new year. Let me know if they do.

Jeanie Croasmun

Jeanie Croasmun has been working at while futilely attempting to prove the horse thief story in her family history for over seven years. During that time, she learned enough about her family to determine that the story is likely a great work of fiction. But the search continues ...


  1. CAROL


  2. James

    It is always better to start today, than tomorrow. As Grand Parents and Parents pass on that history may be harder to catalogue. The larger families of the past meant that information/family history had a greater change of being passed on but now with smaller families this history may be lost.


  3. Candy

    I have had more help with my family tree from distant relatives & non-relatives than those who are more closely related. I now have my great great grandmother’s thimble because of a non-relative’s help.

  4. Tom Sommer

    I was really lucky. My great-grandmother was documenting her ancestors in the 1930’s. She wrote what she knew, and then wrote letters to relatives. My grandmother did the same for her husbands family so I started with two lines of information back many generations from them. The both obtained some of their ancestor’s wills. My Mother got copies of a family Bible containing a lot of dates for marriages, births, and deaths. My grandfather on my Dad’s side did the same! What an advantage.

  5. Candy

    You are so fortunate. I have to take what relatives & non-relatives give me & try to verify & work back. I have tried to construct an accurate tree on my own. I still have a few roadblocks though… I guess on the bright side I have something to look forward to.

  6. James

    Candy, When I started searching (1994) things were very slow for several years and finding information on my ancestor’s siblings and families was nowhere to be found. Then after posting on the Forums, related persons started making contact and my tree grew.’s census, marriage and military records have allowed me to document my ancestors much better.


  7. Derrell Jr

    Candy I hear ya about family not helping. Turns out I have found more in 7yrs on my own than they have in 28 yrs LOL. I have a road block that hasn’t made easier so I use free databases. I even went to my local library and turns out I wasted money on ancestry since the library worker in the genealogy department gave me their free to the public sign in information and now I can look at censuses for free like 1860-1930. where I’d have tp pay too much money go firgure people pay 20 a month what I look at for free and that includes major cesuses with more information for tracking family.

  8. Judith Gresham

    I hope this is not off topic but I cannot seem to find anywhere else to ask this question. How can a member view a reference like this Vol 182 – Tree 120 and Vol 80 – Tree 1231?

    Thank you.

  9. Dawn

    How true. I am searching my family history and trying to collect enough information so my children will some day know where they came from and what life was like in the past. Someone in my family has a family bible but no one is sure which family member it is?

  10. April

    I started researching my family in 2008 with only a few names that my father provided me. I didn’t know anything about his family except for my grandparents. I now have a tree that goes back 7 generations, have found several distant cousins and photos of family members all because of “connecting” with other members here at ancestory.

  11. Carol A. H.

    #10 Judith:

    What was the source of this strange ambiguous reference? A book, a piece of paper, the back of a photo? What state are you in, more info please. Circumstances of finding this vague notation, etc.

    I will check back to see what you write.

    Carol A. H.

  12. Carol A. H.

    #10 Judith:

    Oopsie! I just thought of something. Could this be a reference to a CD? Weren’t there lots of trees on CDs available at one time?

    Ancestral File at the Family History Center? (Mormon) And didn’t Ancestry (possibly before it became Ancestry) have trees on CDs that were available for purchase?

    Years ago of course. I never used them because of lack of sources. Now Ancestry has the old One World Trees online but you need a surname.

    Check with your nearest LDS (Mormon) Family History Center to see what it might be. Some of them still have the old CDs.

    Also check with your nearest genealogical society. They might be able to help.

    Carol A. H.

  13. James

    #15 Carol, I believe you are correct regarding the CDs. I have several of them in my collection. These were purchased from Broderbund and called “World Family Tree.”


  14. Carol A. H.

    Yeah, James. Now I remember. An extended senior moment for me. Hope that helped #10 Judith. She did not post again and I got too busy to check back. Life happening while you are making other plans!

  15. I understand that the Ancestry magazine has now been discontinued. What a shame!
    Will the digital back issues be kept available? And how will subscribers be compensated for this lost benefit?

  16. Elizabeth

    I too have started to include friends in my family tree. I add a neighbour or friend as a sibling of my relative and then edit them to remove the parents. I then upload photos that I have of my ancestor with the friend or neighbour. This has generated a lot of leads, and information about places of employment and residences for my ancestors. I have also been able to share information with people who had lost any trace of their ancestor, but have come upon my information. For example, my grandfather’s diary outlined the lives of his community on the Canadian prairies, including genealogical information and photos. It’s amazing how much friends can know about each other and when this is passed down through the generations this can be a goldmine of information. Thank you for promoting this idea.

  17. Ann

    I suspect that Judith is talking about the Family Tree Maker CD’s. They had references like Vol 182-Tree 120 etc. They had a family finder index that would refer to the CD volume that had the family name on it.

  18. Ed

    #10 Judith, the numbers refer to CD’s
    in the World Family Tree Collection.

    Vol 80 Tree 1231 is listed as Sloan,
    Smith, Braswell of FL, TX 1712-2000

    Vol 182 Tree 170 is listed as Canady,
    Cathey, Lang of NV 1899-2000

    These Trees are available from

    Hope this helps.

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