Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Thoughts on Sources

There are a lot of companies that you find on the web that offer to sell you old books, or other genealogical information. You may want to think twice before you buy any old books or access to indices to use as sources for genealogy.

For example, a major American source is The Brewster Genealogy. You can buy Volume 1 from Amazon for about $40.00. Or you could go to The Internet Archive, and
download a .pdf of the book for free. There are lots of other books that are useful for genealogy. For example The Compendium of History and Biography of North Dakota, or Commemorative Biographical Record of the County of York, Ontario.

In Canada a major source for Ontario is a series of County Atlases published between 1870 and 1880. Your local library may have the local atlas, but otherwise they can be hard to find. Try
The Canadian County Atlas Digital Project. There is also the Library and Archives of Canada which has a significant amount of searchable census data online. There is also Automated Genealogy for the 1851, 1901, 1906, and 1911 Canadian Censuses, including a cross reference tool based on names for 1901 and 1911.
which has maps digitized and a search for names too. If you want
If you are looking for BMD information from England you can use FreeBMD which has transcribed most of the entries. It doesn't give all the information you find on the actual certificate, but it allows you to search them easily, for free. There is also FreeREG, which is transcriptions of baptisms, marriages, and deaths from Parish Registers in England. It is not as large as FreeBMD, but it is growing, and more entries are added on a regular basis.

Google does not always search inside databases, for example states and provinces that have BMD information online. BMD information from these sources does not show up in your searches. Just remember, the certificates you may order will cost you, but the searches and basic information are free.

There is a lot available for free on the internet, and a little extra digging can save a lot of money. Here are some useful genealogical search tips

  1. Use quotation marks. That gives you an exact match on the name you are looking for, eg "john smith"
  2. Use minus sign to exclude a word or phrase
  3. Misspell names, either phonetically, by common hearing errors, e.g. Alva may become Alvin, Harry may be Harold or Henry, or by mistaken transcription e.g. Halls becomes Hallo, Hales, Kalls, Hollo, etc.
  4. Search for surname/first name not just first name/surname
    1. don't forget to use contractions or middle names too, e.g. saml for samuel.
  5. Don't forget online databases that Google doesn't search
    1. various national and provincial/state bmd indices
    2. cemetery databases such as Find-a-Grave, or Ontario Cemetery Finding Aid (OCFA)
    3. online national, or state/provincial archives
    4. Google News Archive - try the advanced search
    5. Local university archives
    6. Local genealogical and historical societies. Remember that the local university archives, genealogical and historical societies will often do limited research on specific simple search requests. That was how I got the picture of Samuel Pollard Halls.
The above isn't exhaustive, but it should be enough to get you started.

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