Genealogy and Family History Research Tools: How to Find Your Family Roots

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Genealogy is the study and tracing of family history, or family pedigrees, and is often referred to as building a family tree. Genealogy is also referred to as family history research. Private investigators sometimes become involved in conducting research due to their access to a variety of information sources and their keen ability to dig up information.

Genealogy involves the research and collection of the names of relatives, both living and deceased, and establishing the relationships between them based on primary, secondary and/or circumstantial evidence or documentation. This information is then used to create a cohesive family tree.

Resources and Websites for Conducting Research

Following are various resources and resources for researching your family history:

  • Cyndi’s List of Genealogy Sites – A categorized & cross-referenced index to genealogical resources on the Internet.
  • Ellis Island Records – The Statue of Liberty Ellis Island Foundation website. It is estimated that nearly half of all Americans can trace their family history to at least one person who passed through the Port of New York at Ellis Island. The Ellis Island website provides information on the history of Ellis Island, the Ellis Island Immigrant Experience and information on visiting Ellis Island. The website also provides the ability to search Ellis Island records, passenger records, and archives.
  • FamilySearch Internet Genealogy Service – FamilySearch is the largest resource of it’s kind. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services to learn more about their family history. For over 100 years, FamilySearch has been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide. Patrons may freely access our resources and service online at FamilySearch.org, or through over 4,500 family history centers in 70 countries, including the renowned Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.
  • Genealogy.com – Offers a wide range of family and local histories, vital records, death records, military records and more.
  • Genealogy Today – This company has has been publishing unique information and offering innovative services since 1999 as providers of family history resources.  The search engine includes surname and resource components, allowing visitors to search a variety of databases and catalogs. In addition, you can preview results from numerous online information sites.
  • GeneaNet – Helpful research website that helps you build Your Online Family Tree, Share Your Family History and Improve Your Research.
  • How to Search Obituaries – Learn how to find information about deceased individuals by searching obituaries, cemetery records and vital records.
  • National Archives – How to research records in the U.S. National Archives.
  • Olive Tree – Find ancestors and family origins in free Ships Passenger lists, images of ships passenger list manifests, Orphan records, Almshouse records, Ancestor photos, Census substitutes, Newspaper records, family surnames, church records, military muster rolls, census records, land records, American, Canadian, Orphan records, Naturalization records, death records and more.
  • Researching Your Roots – Reference website that teaches you wow to research your family history and family roots.
  • Resources By State (USA.gov) – This research website provides a list of helpful research tools and resources for each state.
  • USGenWeb Project – The USGenWeb Project consists of a group of volunteers working together to provide Internet websites for genealogical research in every county and every state of the United States. The Project is non-commercial and fully committed to free access for everyone.  Organization is by county and state, and this website provides you with links to all the state websites which, in turn, provide gateways to the counties. The USGenWeb Project also sponsors important Special Projects at the national level and this website provides an entry point to all of those pages, as well.
  • Vital Records Information State Index – Vital Records Information State Index

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Software for Researching Family History

Genealogy software helps you research your family history, discover your roots, and build your family tree.  Many ancestry software programs allow you to gather family photos, create charts, and even create books to share with family. Private investigators are often asked to conduct lineage research due to their skill in digging up facts and information.  Leverage a good software program or online search tool to help.

RootsMagic Family Tree Genealogy Software – An easy to use family tree program with extensive family history reports, multiple navigation views, photos, publishing, and website creation features. The program supports an unlimited number of people, families, events, notes, and photos. Use the tool to print books, charts, forms, lists and custom reports.

Personal Historian Software – This helpful program helps you write a personal history, memoir, and biography about yourself or your family members. It helps keep you organized by breaking your writing into small pieces, then compiles the information into a full document.

Master Genealogist Silver Edition – This helpful tool guides you through the process of managing your own family history project. Includes features such as charts, forms, notes, and bibliographies. Also includes a historical timeline feature and a to-do list to help keep you organized. In addition, the software includes a tutorial on how to conduct research.

Generations Family Tree Software Program – A great tool for researching your family history and building a family tree.

Books: Learn How to Research Family Roots and History

Investigators use a variety of resources to trace a family’s history, including: online database research, search engines, genealogical websites, court record searches, newspapers, libraries and more. In some cases, P.I.’s can help coordinate DNA testing and provide assistance with interpreting the results.

Understanding how to conduct the research can be learned via training courses, or self-taught by the use of books related to the subject. Amazon.com has a wide variety of books on the subject and can serve as a great resources for both novice and experienced detectives.

Following is a small sample of several books that provide helpful tips on researching ancestors and building a family tree.

  • Genealogy Online for Dummies – This is an introductory guide to conducting genealogical research online. It explains how to prepare, how to get organized, how to pick the right names, and how to begin researching your family background.
  • Trace Your Roots with DNA: Use Your DNA to Complete Your Family Tree – This helpful book explains how genetic testing can help you research your ancestry, the types of DNA testing that are available, how to interpret the results and more.
  • Genealogy 101: How to Trace Your Family’s History and Heritage – This guide explains the basic steps necessary to find your ancestors, how to look for information in libraries, how to leverage historical societies, and an extensive review of internet sources.
  • Online Roots: How to Discover Your Family’s History and Heritage With the Power of the Internet – This book covers how to use the power of the internet to find information, how to evaluate the results, and how to use the information to trace your family’s history.
  • Your Guide to Cemetery Research – A book that explains how to conduct cemetery and graveyard research. How to capture information from tombstones, burial customs, etc.
  • Unpuzzling Your Past: The Best-Selling Basic Guide to Genealogy – How to gather sources, the meaning of names, whom to interview and more.
  • The Organized Family Historian: How to File, Manage, and Protect Your Genealogical Research and Heirlooms
  • Finding Your Roots Online – How to use the internet to find your roots. Explains how to find information online and how to analyze the results.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I’m an author and in my current book my PI has a person’s social security number and wants to look up her genealogy using her SS#. In my research of the genealogy web sites, non of them search by SS#. Do PI’s use these search engines and follow the same procedure as a non-PI or do they have a special software program that allows them to search using a SS#?

    Thank you,
    CH Taxdal

    • To search by social security number, private investigators would need access to a background check information provider such as Accurint, LexisNexis, KnowX, etc. See our Background checks page at
      https://www.einvestigator.com/background-checks-and-investigations/ for more providers.

      Also, some private detectives are approved to access credit reporting information for business purposes (e.g. background checks, employment checks, debt collections, etc.), which may be searched by SSN.

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