Posted by Crista Cowan on May 24, 2013 in Research, Website

Are you brand new to genealogy and not quite sure where to start? Maybe you’ve been doing this for a while and need some inspiration to help you break through that long standing brick wall. As we head into the long weekend, I plan on spending a little time working on my own family history research. If you are going to do the same, here are six ideas to help jump start your genealogy weekend.


1. Talk to your family

Memorial Day was originally a time to pause and remember those who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Many of us now use it as a time to memorialize any of our loved ones who have passed on. Still others use the three day weekend to get together with living family members. If you fall into that last category, take advantage of the time you spend with family this weekend to talk to them. Record their stories. Go through that box of pictures and see who they can identify. Ask if anyone knows about a family bible or copies of military service records held by someone in the family. Then take a picture of those people or those documents and attach them to your tree. Speaking of attaching things to your tree…


2. Document your work

That shaky leaf leads to a record hint. Record hints need to be analyzed and considered in context to determine if they really pertain to your person. Then they need to be attached. (Don’t forget that step.) Also, remember that those shaky leaves only provide hints to a small percentage of our most popular databases. There are more records to find. Be sure to search for your family members. Which brings me to…


3. Try a new search technique

I often find myself in a groove. I find something that works and I stick with it. But, I’ve learned that when I try something new, I usually learn something new and, sometimes, I discover something new as well. If you always view your search results by record try viewing them by category. If you only check the Card Catalog to find what databases are available, try using the place pages. If you aren’t sure how to search or you aren’t getting the search results you expect…


4. Watch a video

There’s a video for that. If you aren’t quite sure how to find your immigrant ancestors, there’s a video for that. Need some tips on creating memorial pages to honor the men and women in your family tree who have served in the armed forces? There’s a video for that, too. has a library full of helpful videos and tutorials that just might give you the information you’ve been looking for or that spark of an idea to help you break down that brick wall. And, while we are discussing brick walls…


5. Post your brick wall

Have you posted yours to the appropriate surname or locality message board? The process of writing out what you know, how you know it, and what you are trying to find out is a super useful exercise that might help you see your genealogy challenge in a new light. Posting it to a message board gives you the opportunity to interact with thousands of others who are researching that same surname or that same small county in West Virginia. You never know who may have the information you need.


6. Sign up for a genealogy conference

We are smack dab in the middle of the genealogy conference season. There are opportunities – large and small – all around to attend a conference or Ancestry Day, interact with others who are interested in genealogy and learn some new skills that will help you in your family history journey.


Which of these are you going to try this weekend?

Crista Cowan

Crista has been doing genealogy since she was a child. She has been employed at since 2004. Around here she's known as The Barefoot Genealogist. Google Twitter


  1. Jeff

    As for your suggestion #5, I would, except there are too many trolls on some of the boards here.

  2. Margaret Campbell

    Great suggestions. However, I agree with Jeff in comment #1. I put a message on the message board with the surname and first name of family and got an answer that was same surname that informed me that there was NEVER anyone in that family with that first name. That I must be wrong. Aren’t we here to help each other?? I don’t think I’ll post on the message board anymore. Love ancestry though.

  3. Jennifer

    I’ve posted a couple questions to the boards and received great help from other people. I have found the boards to be a great source of assistance. It’s unfortunate if some have found others to be sarcastic or mean.

  4. Ann

    I, too, have run into trolls. I find that the locality and surname boards have more helpful members. The general boards (especially Ancestry Comments and Ancestry Improvements) have some of the most offensive trolls.

    I enjoy trying to help others, but I get turned off when I offer information only to be told “I know all that,” when none of the details I offered were in the post.

    It’s a 2-way street – well-structured posts are more likely to elicit useful answers.

  5. FHC Librarian

    I’ve heard that is going to become obsolete/discontinued and is controlled/owned by (Why not? They own practically everything else!) I have received lots of help from that site and it is easy to navigate. Some of my best helps have come from GenForum.

    I was once looking to learn what happened to one woman who just seemed to disappear after a 1922 cruise. I couldn’t find a death record or a marriage record. She was part of a prominent and wealthy family. They always had their names in the newspapers and society columns. One kind man had the answer and he posted it. What a wonderful gift that was! Wish I could fill some other holes so easily.

    So if you like this site, let Ancestry know you do and demand they keep it going. You have to make a LOT of noise for them to take action.

  6. Atty. Gregorio Endozo Maunahan

    i solicited help from Ancestry.Com to find out who among MICHAEL, JOHN OR DAVID, all surname MAUNAHAN and US citizen-soldier came to PHILIPPINES and started sowing MAUNAHAN FAMILY NAME. Ihave done my Philippine research yet a missing link exist. Please help or anybody who knows. Thank you very much. ATTY GREGG

  7. Atty Gregg Maunahan

    Please help me discover the missing link in our ancestry by finding out who among MICHAEL, JOHN OR DAVID, all surname MAUNAHAN and US citizen-Civil War soldiers from New York and Kentucky, came to Philippines before the 19th Century and raised a family here. I have discovered 8 major roots from Batangas Province and we have to connect it from our forefathers named above. SOS to anyone who knows. We will appreciate it very much. Thank you.

Comments are closed.