Research & Tools: Research Strategies

Citing Sources in your Genealogy

Citing Sources in your Genealogy

The St. Louis Genealogical Society has some wonderful information on citing sources when documenting your genealogical findings.

Citations: St. Louis

[Name of Cemetery]Cemetery Office (St. Louis, Missouri) lot owner cards, lot [number], section [number], owned by [name of owner]; showing the grave site of [name of person buried] in grave [number]; photocopy courtesy of the [Owner of Cemetery], [Name of Cemetery] Cemetery.

*Genealogy for Beginners

*Genealogy for Beginners

An introduction for Genealogy Beginners

Family History Forms

Family history forms and charts help to organize your family history work.  They make visible the relationship between individuals, identify what you’ve found and what you still need, and make your research faster and more effective.  There are a wide variety of different charts available but we’re sticking to the basics here.

FYI, the term ancestors refers to the people who came before you in your family. Ancestors can be direct (such as your mother and father, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on), or indirect (also known as collateral), such as cousins, aunts, uncles, etc.).

A basic for all genealogy research is the Family Group Sheet (FGS), which is used to keep track of data for a specific family, including birth, marriage, death, and children. It typically includes a place to note where you found each piece of information (a critical piece of information).  If an individual has more than one spouse, there is usually one family group sheet for each family unit. Sheets are filed under the husband’s name.

Free family history forms are widely available to download; try your genealogy software program if you have one, Ancestry offers several basic forms for free, as does the FamilySearch wiki,  or do an internet search. FYI, it can take a while to discover which form works best for you, so don’t be afraid to try several out to see what’s the best fit for you.

The following websites (along with many others) provide free genealogy forms and charts.

Ancestry charts and forms

FamilySearch Genealogy Research forms  (scroll down in the page to see Using Censuses to Track Ancestors

Cyndi’s List – contains links to hundreds of general and specialized genealogy forms. Also, a great source for locating on-line sources for your research.


Genealogical terms

The language used in genealogy can be confusing. The following provides a genealogical dictionary.


Understanding Relationships

A common problem among genealogy newcomers is understanding the relationships between family members. It’s easy to understand aunts, uncles and siblings, but is Cousin Mary a first cousin once removed or a second cousin?  The free on-line GenealogyInTime Magazine has a good article that explains how to define the relationship between any two people in a family, and includes a free relationship chart.

The Key to Understanding Family Relationships


Official records

Keep in mind that “official” records do not guarantee that details in that record are correct. Death certificates typically have the date and burial place correct, but birth and marriage information may easily be missing or incorrect. The accuracy of the record is dependent on the person who supplied that information. A son who provided information on his father may have no idea of exactly where his father was born or that he married twice before his marriage to his third wife, the mother of the son who provided the information. Many records are never verified with other sources.

Reverse Genealogy

Reverse Genealogy

In genealogy we’ve been taught to work from the known to unknown, linking one generation to the next older one. But occasionally it’s helpful to turn the apple cart upside down and work from older to younger, or use what’s called Reverse Genealogy. While most of these articles talk about finding the living, I’ve also found that it works to trace down from relatives you didn’t know existed (like my 2nd great uncle’s son) until you found them on some random source.


Focused Family Research – When to Employ Reverse Genealogy

Expanding Family Lines Using Reverse Genealogy Techniques by Amie Bowser Tennant on The Genealogy Reporter

It’s ok to use reverse genealogy (sometimes)!

More Reverse Genealogy | The Occasional Genealogist\What’s the Opposite of Genealogy?

YouTube: Reverse Genealogy: Finding the Living, a Preview by Megan Smolenyak

YouTube: BlackProGen LIVE! Ep 74: Reverse Genealogy, DNA, and Tracing the Living

FAN Research

FAN Research

FAN Research, also known as cluster or collateral research, has you looks at your ancestors’ Family, Associates, and Neighbors. Studying the community of people surrounding your relatives can be valuable in helping you sort through situations where you can’t seem to find anything, or where you find too much. It’s also useful when trying to separate individuals with similar names, ages and residences.



Working with Photographs

Working with Photographs


Did you inherit a packet (box, suitcase, trunk, dumpster full) of old photos?  Such a discovery can be a delightful surprise or a or daunting proposition. This article is aimed at helping you understand the research value they can provide, identify the type and time period of the photo’s you may have and organize, preserve and protect them for the future. 


Using Directories for your Research

Using Directories for your Research

Using Directories for your Research

By the mid 1800’s most major cities had directories, and many smaller towns were included in those of larger locales.  Directories are an often overlooked source of genealogical gold. They typically include the names, addresses and occupations of the individuals listed, as well as marital status and names. Additional information may be available in specialty sections that list names of  those in political positions, local societies, businesses, and advertisements.

Types of Directories

  • Criss-Cross or Reverse Directories are organized by address rather than by names. Older City Directories may include a Street directory at the back that is organized by address that can be helpful in finding relatives, friends, relatives, and neighbors.
  • Social Registers are lists of prominent, community members, typically those well connected, and socially elite Blue Books are almanacs, buyer’s guides or other compilations of statistics and information.
  • Professional Directories list members in specific occupations such as medicine, law, agriculture, and education, often including individual biographical details
  • Specialized Directories, published by school and university alumni groups, church/religious groups, and non-profit organizations typically contain listings of their members or associates


Where to Start


Finding Aids:

Quick Tips

Search Google for directories using the following format: geographical location + “city [or other type of] directory” + year (optional) For example, Washington+Seattle directory+1932 or Washington+Seattle directory

Updated from original article published in the October 2019 issue of the SIGS newsletter, the Beacon.

Theme: Elation by Kaira.
Lynnwood, Snohomish County, Washington