Researching your family history through genealogy databases can be an exciting and rewarding experience. These online record collections hold a wealth of information that can help you uncover your ancestors' stories.
To make the most of your genealogy research, it's essential to understand how to effectively navigate these databases. In this article, I will share easy tips everyone should know to enhance their research skills and succeed in genealogy database research.
Understand the Database Content
Before you start searching, take some time to familiarize yourself with the specific genealogy database you're using via the database "About Page."
Each database has its own reference materials and titles that may not perfectly align with its content. To avoid frustration and wasted effort, locate the database's content information pages, typically found at the bottom of the search form or through a provided link.
These pages offer valuable insights into the scope and limitations of the database. By reviewing this information, you ensure that you are searching for relevant records within the collection.
In the video below, I demonstrate the various "About Pages" for the databases that could contain information about my German ancestor. The four different examples from FamilySearch and Ancestry have varying lengths of details.
For the collections referenced in the video, check out the following:
Ohio, County Naturalization Records - FamilySearch Historical Records
Naturalization records, 1859-1906; index to naturalization records, 1850-1906 (FamilySearch - Franklin County, Ohio)
Ohio, U.S., County Naturalization Records, 1800-1977 (Ancestry)
Ohio, U.S., Naturalization Petition and Record Books, 1888-1946 (Ancestry)
These resources may reveal valuable information, including:
image visibility restrictions
and any known issues associated with the collection.
Take the time to familiarize yourself with the nuances of each database and the supplementary resources they offer.
It is important to check the front pages of a digitized collection for additional reference material. This can provide relevant details that will help you understand the evidence you will find. Always navigate to the front material of any online database you explore.
To see the full explanation of using the tips in this blog post, watch this video.
Master Search Result Variations
Understanding how search results are displayed in genealogy databases can significantly impact your research efficiency. Before diving into a specific database, it's wise to get acquainted with the search results using a common or familiar name.
While some genealogy educators recommend names like John Smith or David Davison, it's essential to consider the cultural context of the database you're using. For example, if you're searching in a German collection, using names like Friedrich Ott or other common German given names and surnames may yield better results.
In the video, I demonstrated how FamilySearch employs a valuable feature that automatically accounts for spelling variations of first names. When conducting a search, FamilySearch suggests variations like Fred, Fred'k, and Frtiz.
By experimenting with common names in different databases, you can gain valuable insights into search result variations and refine your search approach.
For more tips on searching the other major genealogy websites, watch this video.
Utilize Effective Search Parameters in Genealogy Databases
While inputting as much information as possible to quickly locate your ancestor is tempting, a less-is-more approach often yields better results in genealogy databases.
Begin with a few specific details, such as your ancestor's name, birth year, and birth location. Overloading the search parameters can unnecessarily limit your search. Instead, let the quantity and quality of the results guide your next steps.
After reviewing the initial search results, you can fine-tune your search by gradually adding more details or utilizing the search filters provided by the database.
Consider adjusting the following parameters include:
Name: Search by first, middle, last name, or a combination thereof. (For more on No Name searches, check out this video.)
Also, try different spelling variations and punctuation marks.
Figure out how the database handles names that start with Mc, Mac, De, O, Van, etc.
Some put a space after it.
Some use an apostrophe.
Some have no space or apostrophes.
Birth date: Search by the exact or estimated birth date, birth year, or range of years.
Birthplace: Search by the exact birthplace or a broader geographical region.
Spouse: Search by the spouse's name, maiden name, or both.
Parents: Search by the parents' names or a combination thereof. (Check out this video for more on searching for children by using parents’ names only).
By playing with different combinations and parameters, you can uncover hidden gems within the database and make significant strides in your research.
↪️ Are you new to genealogy? Grab your copy of this FREE Beginner Guide:
Experiment With These Easy Genealogy Database Tips
Researching in genealogy databases can be a fascinating journey to discover your family history. Following these easy tips can maximize your research potential and make the most of online record collections.
Familiarize yourself with the database's content, master search result variations, and utilize effective search parameters.
Remember, persistence and experimentation are key as you delve into genealogy research. Embrace the adventure and unlock the rich tapestry of your family's past.