Genealogy 101: Searching for records

Barriere’s Genealogy Group will be meeting again starting September 6

When hunting for information for your family tree, there are many places to search, and very many types of records that may contain pertinent information.  The most obvious ones of course, are the ‘vital’, or official records – births, deaths, marriages and divorces. Then there are the next most obvious, the church records, which include, baptisms and christenings, confirmations, bar or bat mitzvah records, marriages and funerals.

There are other ‘official’ type records, such as census records, coroner’s reports, city and telephone directories, land and property records and deeds, and court records, both civil and criminal.  Most of these are available to anyone interested in seeing them, and quite a few are available online.

Then there are the more private records, which may be a little harder to access – medical records, adoption records, personal letters and diaries, and school and alumni association records.  If you know of an aunt or uncle or grandparent who kept their personal letters, or kept a diary, ask to see them.

Some records are getting easier to access, especially through the internet, such as newspaper articles and obituaries, military and conscription records, tombstones and cemetery records, and ship passenger lists. has a great set of listings of many of these and may be well worth a look.

There are all sorts of other types of documentation, wills, passports, and voter registration records… you never know what you may find until you start looking.

One thing to remember, though, is that given names could potentially be noted in different ways on different forms, depending on who filled out the form.  For instance, your grandmother ‘Elizabeth’ may have gone by the nickname Beth, Lizzie, Liza, or Beth.  If her husband filled in the form, he may have unthinkingly noted her down as Beth, because that was what he was used to calling her, and he wasn’t thinking of her legal name when filling in the form.  So, don’t just search for Elizabeth Jones when searching online; also search for all the other possible variations to her name.

Also, keep in mind that in England, for a long time it was traditional to name the children after various relatives:

• A first son after the paternal grandfather,

• A second son after the maternal grandfather,

• A third son after the father,

• A forth son after the father’s oldest brother.

• A first daughter was after the maternal grandmother,

• A second daughter after the paternal grandmother,

• A third daughter after the mother,

• A fourth daughter after the mother’s oldest sister.

Other countries had other customs; so try to find out if the country your relatives came from had any such customs, it could help you track that elusive relative down.

Happy hunting!

Barriere’s Genealogy Group will be meeting again starting September 6, 6-7 p.m. at the Barriere Library.  For more information, contact Margaret at 250-672-9330 (evenings), or pick up their brochure at the library.