Ancestry Search

Whether you're new to the world of genealogy or you've been doing it for years, you've probably realized that there's not one way to do your ancestry search. You can use online subscription sites, or you can write to county courthouses. You can interview relatives, or you can look for published books on your family. You can even hire a professional to do your ancestry search. But even that's not clear-cut: there are two main organizations for genealogy credentialing: the Board for Certification of Genealogists, or BCG, and the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists, or ICAPGen. Certified genealogists are credentialed with the BCG; you can find a listing of them at Accredited genealogists are credentialed with BCG, and you can find a listing of them at

Do Your Ancestry Search Like a Pro
The good news, however, is that you can do your own professional-quality research at a much-lower cost. To do your own ancestry search, here are a few basic things you should know:

  • Search for whole family groups. Some researchers just look for their direct-line ancestors in an effort to push their family tree back as many generations as possible. But actually, neglecting collateral lines, or your ancestor's siblings, is one of the worst things you can do. Professionals recognize the importance of searching in whole family groups. That way, if your direct-line ancestor is missing in the records, you can still continue extending your family tree back by picking up siblings. Besides that, you can get to know your ancestral families better and get a more complete picture of your family.
  • Everything should have a source. Don't take people's words for things. Check written sources. Every birth, marriage, and death in your file should have a footnote and a source for where you got the information. Your data is only as good as your sources.
  • Start with what you have, and work backwards. This sounds basic, but you'd be surprised by how many people try to start their ancestry search on a line that goes back to the Mayflower without verifying the more recent information. The problem with doing that is that you're starting your ancestry search on a shaky foundation. There's nothing worse than spending time on a family line only to find out later that you've made a mistake and it's not really your family line.


So is it basic? Yes, professional ancestry search is basic and straightforward. There aren't any real secrets to doing professional genealogy work. The important thing is to do thorough research and avoid taking shortcuts.

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