I receive a lot of mail from people who are looking for their ancestors, and while they may share on the same last names as one or more of our lines of descent, the majority are looking for branches on which I have no information.
Prior to this time I have individually offered
suggestions as to where to look for that information, but it is time to
put it all on a page of its own, and that’s what this page is about.
I will miss hearing from any of you who are
looking, and especially those who find information if you do not contact
me, so I ask that you please let me know, and touch bases with me, and
keep me informed about information you have, that I could share with
others by expanding the pages on this site to include your family
I have put all this information up here, I maintain
it, and expand it when I can, and if I don’t hear from those who are
looking at it, I never know. So,
please do contact me. And,
there is always the possibility that I have new information that’s not
online yet, that could help you.
So… just how do you get started looking for
your ancestors? Although
not a trick question, it can be answered in a number of ways. How you choose to work is partly preference, and partly can
be due to whatever information you have to begin with.
If you have a first and last name, birth and death
dates, and perhaps a location where that person lived at a certain time
in their life, then you will want to begin there.
And, from that point you can come forward in time, or you can go
backward in time.
In many families there is at least one member in
each generation, or every couple of generations who has put down family
information, and having something such as this is invaluable when
researching your family. These
people are usually called “storytellers” or something similar, and
if you are going to do this for your family, you are a storyteller.
Irrefutable documentation of the existence of a
family member is done through documentation.
Such documentation is done through birth and death records with a
county, or a state, marriage records, court documents (such as the
filing of wills, exchange of property, etc.), and other records, such as
family bibles (for births and deaths, mostly), letters or diaries. Census records are invaluable in some cases, and more and
more of these are being made public, online.
Genealogical researchers who are “purists” do not actually
list anything they cannot document.
For instance: My maternal grandmother (my
mother’s mother) family name is Campbell.
She often spoke to me of her grandmother, as she was close to
her, and they both had birthdays on the same day.
My mother died last year, and I inherited all the family photos
that had been hers, and my grandmother’s.
One photo was marked on the back that it was of that grandmother,
her daughter, her daughter’s daughter, and her great-grandson.
It also included the name of each.
Then, going through the papers my mother left I
found a letter received by my grandmother from this grandmother of hers.
On the envelope, in my grandmother’s handwriting, it said “Last
letter from Grandmother Campbell, she died …….” And it listed
In the letter itself, her grandmother had mentioned
that she was sorry she could not be with my grandmother on her birthday
that year, but her health was not good (their birthdays were in
February, and she died in April). She
confirmed that their birth dates were on the same day, and mentioned how
old she was in that year. It
also contained, on the postage stamped on the envelope, the name of the
town she was in, and the state.
This type of information is invaluable, as it gives
you a good place to start.
This branch of my family has not been researched
yet, and the information I had before this only went back to my
great-grandfather, who had traveled by covered wagon in the 1850’s
from Indiana to Missouri, where they settled.
However, his parents, or at least his mother, had returned to
that part of the country to live, at some point.
This is the type of information you can use to begin a search of
In some cases, I believe most of us have gaps in
various places in our lines of descent, where legal documentation is
simply not available, and family records – letters, etc., is all you
have to go on, and you might never be able to document it.
I recently read a statistic saying that in 1901, 95% of all
births took place in the home. This
fact, and the fact that church records (for baptism) were often lost in
fires, as was information in county or state records, over the years and
through wars, make it more interesting for those of us who do research.
However, more and more information such as this is coming
available online, as volunteers all across the country to transcribe
In my particular case, my line of Choctaw descendants is very sketchy in places, since my family did not keep good records at all, so there is little information to be had, prior to removal to Indian Territory (Oklahoma now), in 1832 or so.
First of all you need to sit down and write out all
the information you have about every member of your family, categorizing
them in groups, much as you see the line of descent in any family, on
You will probably be amazed, as I was, to find out
just how little you actually know of the family you have, who are still
living! Do you know the
full names, birth/death dates and places of birth for the children (your
nieces and nephews) of your own siblings?
This is where I started, and I had to get all that information
Then you move on to the information about your
parents. You list their birth and death dates, where applicable, listing
by their maiden name in the case of a female, and then her husband(s).
When you have that completed, you move on to your
grandparents (both sets), and list their information. By this time you now have four family lines to research, and
with each generation you include, that number will increase.
You might want to consider getting a program to
keep your information organized, and save some work.
I use Family Tree Maker, and it works quite well.
Once you see the amount of information this all comes to,
something like that is a tremendous help.
The reason I’ve continued with this is because it is compatible
with most programs, and I can find information about one of our family
branches at Rootsweb, and download it right to my Family Tree Maker and
it integrates it right in with the information I already have, so I’ve
saved myself a ton of work.
As you are beginning, if any of your grandparents
are still alive and have active members, you need to talk to them, and
get all the information you can from them.
Actually, you should record any conversations, so you’ll have
something to refer to at a later time.
Video is good, but even an audio recorded transcript is an
excellent resource tool. And
this can also be done long distance.
I was living in California when I first began documenting, and my
grandmother was already dead, as were most of her siblings (she was
second-eldest of nine). One of the two left was in his eighties, but sharp as a tack,
and he wrote me many long letters, and recorded information on an
audiotape. You can always
go back to something like this to pick up small bits of information you
might not have been aware of the first time around.
Be prepared… when I asked my great uncle what his grandfather’s full name was (my grandmother’s grandfather), the answer was “Grandfather Campbell.” I think this must happen a lot in families. After all, they have always called him by his first name, and unless his parents or other relatives called them by name a lot, and the families all lived near one another, that first name was simply not used. I had to really ask a lot of people before I came up with one who knew the answer to that one.
Okay, down to business.
1. There is a great deal of information available on the Internet for family researchers these days. And, since I do website work, I use search engines a lot. I feel Google ( http://www.google.com ) is best for this, but that is partly personal preference, as I don’t have any statistics on it. This is always my first choice, and I use it for everything! It is my dictionary, encyclopedia, medical reference, library, and the keeper of all things I want to know about. There are ways and then there are other ways to use Google (or other search engines), and I’m going to tell you how I use it. For family research, I begin by using a first and last name, a birth date, or date they were living somewhere, and the name of that state. The reason I don’t include a middle name is because if you limit it too much you might not find what you’re looking for, even if it is there. If the information you’re seeking does not list that middle name, you might not turn it up in the search. On the other hand, you don’t want to get too much information. Try to always avoid using words like “free,” “family,” or common words such as those, because you will turn up every site that has those listed. It makes it more difficult to find what you’re looking for. If the words you’ve used don’t give you what you’re seeking, then try other words, either more words or less words than you used the first time.
Just today I received a message asking for information about a common ancestor, and the person was looking for Revolutionary War information. They were sure he must have served, but had no idea how to find it. After reading my suggestions, she did a search on Google, and it came right up. I’d suggested that she use first and last name and the words “Revolutionary Veteran.” Most lists available use pension lists for the wars our veterans have served in, through history. Within a couple of hours I had a reply from her, and she was immediately successful in locating the information she was seeking, and much more.
2. Rootsweb is a very large website devoted to genealogy. It has a partner site called Ancestry.com, that requires a fee to use their information, but if you can afford it, it is an easier way to go. Thousands, if not millions of families are listed in their records, including some of mine. You can find Rootsweb at http://www.rootsweb.com and use their free listings to help you get started. They have the Social Security Death Index on their site, and here you can search through those records for anyone who died AFTER 1964.
They have many, many family message boards titled by Surname, such as the Campbell message board, and you can use their search engine to find your family message board, where people all over the country who are researching that family post inquiries about various members, or help people with inquiries. They also have several other types of services you can use for free that will turn up many family websites that contain the name you entered. I usually get more than can be searched through in several days’ time.
3. From Rootsweb you can access the U.S. GenWeb Project, a volunteer organization that has volunteers in all parts of the country, beginning at the county level, to transcribe documentation records online for family research. Here you may be able to find census records for a state, or a partial listing; county records, birth/death/marriage records, cemetery records, court proceedings, and other items. When you access the GenWeb, you can select a state, and from there locate a county, to see what has been done. You can even volunteer to help. The information available depends entirely on how many volunteers they have for that location, of course. And in all cases it is an ongoing project. You can get good information here, and I’ve done so. Please be sure to email and thank them for any information you are able to obtain from them, and if you wish to put it online, you need to ask permission to do so.
4. Family Websites: There are many family websites out there online, with a wealth of information that can help. These can be found in a variety of ways, and this is where you are really going to get some good information about the family, as many of them have included letters, news information, and other “stuff” that will help to flesh out your family. You’ll find them using search engines, through Rootsweb, and other sources online. Many sites link to them. In my case, the Choctaw Nation has links to my site, which bring people looking for their Choctaw ancestors.
5. War Records: if you are searching to document the war service of an ancestor, there are sites that specifically work to include these online, and they can be found in a Google search. If you put in the name of the war, and a state name, you should bring up many sites that contain records of people in that state who served in that war.
6. Historical Societies: many times when you are searching for information you can receive help (sometimes for a small fee) from a Historical Society. They often have contacts with professional researchers who can help. This is not something I have done, but know of others who have, with good success.
7. Choctaw information: Since I am Choctaw
and have information on my website, people very often contact me looking
for ancestors. My Choctaw
heritage comes from my father, and my parents divorced when I was four,
and my mother was bitter, so she moved until they no longer could find
us. Consequently, for most
of my life I had no contact with this large part of my family.
I did not have his birth date, so I was unable to find any
information on him. Just
three years ago I found this part of my family, and acquired all the
genealogy information my cousin had compiled years ago.
Since it was only direct descendant information (in other words,
only listing the one child a couple had, for each generation, who was a
direct ancestor (is that supposed to be antecedent?), I was able,
online, to “flesh out” some of these families, by locating siblings
of that direct person, online. I also found many of the stories about ancestors online, to
go even further, and bring these people to life for current family
For Choctaw information there are three official
The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma is found at http://www.choctawnation.com
There are also many personal websites that contain
a lot of valuable Choctaw information, and it just takes time to go
through what they have, and the links they furnish, to locate a lot of
If there are Folsom Choctaw family members in your
ancestry, then the definitive site is Harry Folsom’s “Folsom
Family Association” website.
On this site are records of the entire Folsom family, with a
section devoted to Choctaw research.
It should be noted that the information on this
site is documented, so if you have Choctaw ancestors for whom there are
no records, they may not be listed here.
There is a wealth of information here, for all
that, and it is well worth going through.
I usually send people to the following page:
At this page you have several choices, but the “Descendants
of Israel Folsom” is what you want to use to find out if your
family information is included.
If all this information is not enough to help you find what you want, then you might also try a Google search for “Genealogical Resources” which should give you more than enough choices to provide further information for your family research.
Please Note: I do not live in Oklahoma, I do not speak Choctaw, and I know no Choctaw words. If you cannot find a word and translation listed on my site, then you need to look elsewhere for it, since I cannot help you.
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