Recently theBlaze.com reported that a California couple found–literally–buried treasure on their property! It was a stash of coins (now rare and highly prized) that was carefully hoarded away by somebody in the 1800s. They found it partially exposed under an old tree while walking their dog!
The find is valued at about $10 million because many of the coins are in such great condition and are now very rare.
“I don’t like to say once-in-a-lifetime for anything, but you don’t get an opportunity to handle this kind of material, a treasure like this, ever,” said veteran numismatist Don Kagin, who is representing the finders. “It’s like they found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.”
What would you like to find buried on your family property?!
See the find for yourself:
As you may have already noticed, a lot of websites these days host millions of family trees: MyHeritage.com, Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, Geni.com, FindMyPast.com, Archives.com and more. There are virtual forests and forests of family trees out there! How can you find a tree that includes your family? How can you be sure it’s yours? How do you know that what you see is accurate?
Get started with these 7 Steps: How to Find Your Family Tree Online:
1. Choose a site from the list above and create a free log in.
Which should you choose?
- FamilySearch.org is the only one that offers totally free access to all user-submitted family trees as well as the historical records that can help you with your research. However, the other sites offer a variety of free access options, especially to user-submitted trees.
- MyHeritage is known for its international user base (check out its user map here) and multi-language access.
- Some sites have different portals that specialize in records from different countries. For example, Ancestry.com (with a U.S. focus) owns Ancestry.ca for Canadian genealogy, Ancestry.co.uk for the United Kingdom and Ancestry.com.au for Australian records. Similarly, FindMyPast.co.uk (U.K. focus) also hosts FindMyPast.com (U.S.), FindMyPast.ie (Ireland) and FindMyPast.com.au (Australia). Check out additional sites for specific countries (including non-English-speaking) here. If your family recently immigrated, look for a site about “the old country.’ If you have pretty deep roots in your current country, or you’re not sure, pick a site that specializes in your current home.
2. Enter the name of one of your relatives in the Search bar.
Each site files its family trees a little differently: some with historical records and some separately. Search trees at FamilySearch here. On Ancestry.com, look under the Search option for Public Member Trees. Enter names of your relatives, along with any other details you know (like a birth date and place or a spouse’s name). Try different combinations, sometimes using the person’s first and middle name, trying a maiden name, entering a nickname, etc. Increase your odds of finding people by entering a range of years (like 1880-1890) for a date and a more general place, like a state, rather than the name of a little town. If you get too many results, enter more specific information.
Which relative(s) should you choose?
- One who is deceased, if possible. Records about living people may be restricted for some places (but not all).
- If possible, one with a relatively unusual name. They may be easier to spot.
- One you know several things about: a full name (including maiden for women), dates and places of birth, marriage and death; burial place; where they lived during their lifetime; names of their spouse(s), sibling(s) and/or child(ren).
- One who lived as long ago as possible, to increase the chance that someone has posted a tree. But a grandparent is a great starting point, if that’s as far back as you know. If your grandparent is still alive, ask them their parents’ names, and start with your great-grandparent.
- Need to learn more about your relatives first? Read this article on how to gather information about your family.
3. Click on results labeled as “family trees.” Are they “yours?”
Browse the search results. Do any of these names and details look familiar? Everything doesn’t have to be a perfect match for a tree to include your roots. Sometimes different information is handed down through different branches of a family. Sometimes people get their information from sources that don’t match yours. Sometimes people just guess or patch together parts of different family trees without looking closely to see if they’re right.
Tech tutorial: What exactly are you looking at when you look at a family tree online? Before the days of internet genealogy, researchers organized family history findings on their home computers in one of several specially-designed software programs. These programs could generate .GED files (often referred to as GEDCOMs) that would allow researchers using different software to share their findings. Many people have now uploaded their GED files to genealogy sites like the ones we’re talking about–or they’ve just built a family tree from scratch right on the site.
4. Evaluate the accuracy of what you find.
The best way to judge the accuracy of a family tree without researching it yourself is to see what proof is offered. Do you see any records mentioned (like footnotes) or attached to the tree? Common records include tombstone images; government or church vital records (birth, marriage or death records) and census listings. Do you see photos attached? Photos may indicate the submitter has access to family records or albums (bonus!).
If a tree mentions lots of sources, it’s more likely to be accurate–at least for the pieces of information that are sourced. If a tree doesn’t have sources, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong, it just means you don’t know if it’s right.
Sometimes you’ll find a “branch” on a tree that goes back many generations without a single source mentioned. Beware! Sometimes these branches are just copied from other trees. This may particularly be true if a branch is connected to a royal line. Royal lines are well-documented in history and some people have created family trees with the hope of running into royal relatives. These connections may not have been thoroughly researched–they might just represent “wishful thinking.” Again, look for sources.
5. Optional step: reach out to the submitter of promising-looking family trees.
Some sites allow you to contact them through confidential email routed through the site (you may have to purchase a subscription first). You might contact a submitter to meet a possible cousin, share information you have or ask for more details about what they posted. If you contact them, be polite–don’t open with “you got my grandfather’s birthday wrong” or you may never hear back. You may not hear back anyway, if the submitter is no longer researching, their email changed or they have passed away.
6. Google your surname along with the phrase “family tree” or “genealogy.”
See if any personal websites pop up with your family tree (or other family history information) in them. Evaluate the information by looking for accurate details (as far as you know) and lots of sources mentioned. Look for an “About” or “Contact” page to learn more about the submitter of this information.
7. Verify it yourself.
Wandering through forests of online family trees may give you the urge to create your own tree. An accurate, and sourced tree! If so, good for you. Keep reading the articles suggested below to learn how to get started!
Up next, read:
Get Started: How to Find Your Family History for Free. Perfect for the beginner!
Explore the Genealogy Gems website for more tools, tips and resources that can help you put together your family’s “bigger picture.”
Sign up for our free e-newsletter and receive my FREE ebook on using Google to find your family history.
Check out my step-by-step Family History podcast for beginning genealogists.
Post an Online Family Tree. Listen to a podcast episode (or just read the show notes) on how to post your own family tree online.
Originally published 2009. Republished February 25, 2014
Download the Show Notes for this Episode
Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-2009. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.
Episode 20: The Genealogical Proof Standard
In this episode we are going to cover a powerful process for doing your genealogy research. It’s called the Genealogical Proof Standard or GPS.
If you’re new to research you may hear some terms that you’re not familiar with. This is the ideal time to start getting familiar with them because it may save you going back and re-doing some of your hard work later down the road.
If you’re an experienced researcher, you may already have had some experience with the GPS. But even if you have, you likely haven’t heard it quite like this. My very special guest is Mark Tucker, a software architect by day and an avid genealogist evenings and weekend. And it’s safe to say Mark has a passion for genealogy and he brings his computing expertise to genealogy in some pretty exciting ways, most recently by process mapping the Genealogical Proof Standard – the GPS – into a visual aid that will help you navigate your way to a successful family tree. (Update: Mark’s Think Genealogy blog is no longer available.)
In our first segment Mark tells us how he got started using the Genealogical Proof Standard, why he created the GPS map, and what it will do for you to improve your genealogy research. Then he gives us an overview of the Genealogical Proof Standard and the various tools that go along with it.
In our second segment we talk about how the GPS map can be effectively used for breaking down your research brick walls.
What is the GPS?
The Genealogical Proof Standard speaks to the quality of our genealogy research process, as outlined in the BCG Genealogical Standards Manual. BCG stands for the Board of Certification of Genealogists, and it’s an internationally recognized organization that certifies qualified genealogists who meet their standards.
The idea behind the GPS is that it provides standards generally accepted in the field of genealogy research. Historically the GPS has been thought of in conjunction with professional genealogists. But more and more it is being used by family historians everywhere who want to do a quality job of climbing their family tree.
The Genealogical Proof Standard is really like a process map. It maps out the proven steps that a good genealogist takes to answer their family tree questions.
Proof is a fundamental concept in genealogy. In order for your research to really be accurate and dependable, each conclusion you reach about an ancestor must have sufficient credibility to be considered as proven. To make sure that conclusions you come to about your family are accurate they really need to meet standards of the Genealogical Proof Standard (The GPS). The GPS consists of five major criteria:
- You have to be sure that you have conducted a reasonably exhaustive search.
- You need to have complete and accurate source citations.
- You need to do the analysis and correlation of the information that you’ve found. It’s not just enough to find a fact, you have to look at it within the context of all of the fact and make sure that it fits together in a way that really makes sense.
- If that analysis brings to light the fact that there are conflicts when you put your data together, then your next step is to go back and work to resolve any conflicting evidence. You’ll want to look for additional resources to solve the question at hand.
- You need to be able to write a sound, reasoned, and coherent conclusion. If you can summarize your findings in a way that makes sense and you can show your proof you know that you’re in good shape and your hard work meets the Genealogical Proof Standard.
The GPS is not just a tool for professional genealogists, but it’s also a tool for you and your research. It actually makes a lot of sense, and it’s pretty simple when you break it down into the 5 basic steps:
- Conduct a reasonably exhaustive search;
- Document complete and accurate source citations;
- Analyze and correlate all of the collected information;
- Resolve any conflicting evidence;
- Write a sound reasoned, and coherent conclusion.
Mark’s Genealogy Research Process Chart and Powerpoint presentation “Navigating Research with the GPS.”
Genealogy Standards by the Board for Certification of Genealogists, now updated in a 50th anniversary released in 2013.
The Historical Biographer’s Guide to the Research Process Quicksheet, a laminated quick reference guide by Elizabeth Shown Mills.
“Genealogy GPS: Keeping Your Family Tree Research on Course” by Genealogy Gems Contributing Editor Sunny Jane Morton for Family Tree Magazine. This is a digital download that includes an interview with Elizabeth Shown Mills.
The popular genealogy software RootsMagic (and valued sponsor of The Genealogy Gems Podcast) already has an app for iOS (iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch) users. Now it’s got one for Android users!
A RootsMagic news release explains the app’s useful features:
- “Access your actual RootsMagic files via iTunes or Dropbox – RootsMagic for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch uses your actual RootsMagic files- no conversion needed. You can copy as many files as you want right on your device via iTunes or Dropbox. Users of other genealogy software such as PAF, Family Tree Maker, Legacy Family Tree, and others can convert their files into viewable RootsMagic files using our free desktop software.
- Easily search and explore your family tree – Familiar Pedigree, Family, Descendant, and Individual Views help you quickly explore your family tree. You can also search for specific people by name or record number.
- View pictures, notes, and sources – All of your RootsMagic data is available inside the app. Touch any name to see more information about that person as well as family members. All of a person’s information is there including notes, sources, and pictures.
- Lists – Browse lists of your information and view more information about sources, to-do items, research logs, media, addresses, repositories, correspondences, and places.
- Tools and Calculators – useful tools to assist you in your research including a perpetual calendar, date calculator, relationship calculator, and soundex calculator.”
The RootsMagic app is available on Google Play and in the Amazon appstore. Learn more at at www.rootsmagic.com/app.
Many Americans have ancestors who lived through the Civil War: many have roots in both the North and South. Few families, whether they sent soldiers away or not, were untouched by this conflict that claimed an estimated 620,000 lives and freed millions of American men, women and children from slavery.
Ancestry.com recently posted a new video webinar to help you begin tracing buy thrush medication your Civil War ancestors. It’s given by noted genealogist Amy Johnson Crow. Check it out:
Here are some more great online resources for Civil War research:
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