Genealogy Search Tips

Tips for Finding Ancestor Information

Discover an Ancestor's Place of Birth, Date of Birth, Occupation, Father's Name, Mother's Maiden Name and More

Below and on the previous and following pages are all of our search tips - they are not categorized and are in the order in which they were added to this site.

Find Obituary Information

If you can't find a recent newspaper obituary online try the funeral home's website. More and more funeral homes publish obituaries on their websites and these are usually the same obituaries that the funeral homes send to the local newspapers.

On these sites you might also find photos of the deceased, comments in the deceased's guestbook, life stories, a life timeline and more.

Find an Ancestor's Address

High school and college yearbooks are a good source of addresses at the time of an ancestor's graduation. Usually the yearbooks list only the addresses of those in the graduating class. Since this will usually be the address for the family yearbooks are also a good source for the address of the parents and some siblings of the graduate.

See our discussion of Yearbooks for some additional tips on finding ancestor information.

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Find a Birth Date

If you are looking for the birth date of a male who was living in the United States between June, 1917 and September, 1918 you might try looking for a copy of his World War I Draft Registration Card.

All males born between 1872 and 1900 were required to register for the draft and the birth date was one of the questions. See our discussion of Military Records for additional information.

Find a Death Date

Death indexes are good places to find death dates. If you enter death index and a state name into a search engine you will probably find a number of online death indexes for that state. A website might list individual death indexes for some of the counties, cities or towns in the state.

An individual death index might provide the death date and an obituary or the death index might provide the death date and the name of the parents of the deceased.

Find a Death Date

Use a search engine or meta search engine to find a death date. Key in an ancestor's name in quotes AND the year of death AND the county or town where the death occurred. You can also try the name in quotes AND year of death AND obituary.

You might find a death date or an obituary that was published in a local genealogy society listing, newspaper, newspaper almanac, genealogy forum or some other source.

Find an Obituary

Sometimes you know the year of an ancestor's death but don't know the month or day. Try to find a local newspaper that was published weekly during the year of your ancestor's death.

There may be no index or an available index might not be very complete and so you might need to look at each edition of the newspaper until you find your ancestor''s obituary. A local library might have microfilm copies of the newspapers and it might also have copies of the newspapers online. Check the local library's website to find out what online resources are available.

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Find a Death Date

Church records are a good source for death dates and are generally found at the local church or at the denomination's headquarters. For example your ancestor's death record may be at the parish church from which he or she was buried or at the denomination headquarters for that church - Catholic, Episcopalian, Lutheran or any other denomination.

Church records can sometimes be found at local (for example, the county) genealogical societies and/or at local libraries.

Find a Death Date

Bible records are a good source for your ancestor's death dates. They are also very credible sources because the death dates were usually recorded at the time of the death.

Family Bibles are most likely in the possession of one of your ancestor's descendents but sometimes copies or transcriptions of the records can be found online or at local libraries or genealogical societies.

Find Maiden Name

If you want to find someone's ancestors on the maternal side it is necessary to know his or her mother's maiden name.

Obituaries and death records are an obvious source of main names but they are not always available. A women's Marriage License Application is a good place to look and the marriage license applications of any of the woman's children might also contain her maiden name.

Find Ancestor Description

Sometimes you would like to have some ideas about what your ancestor looked like because in many cases photos are not available.

Take a look at the World War I and World War II Draft Registration Cards where you can find height and build information as well as a registrant's eye and hair color. See our discussion of Military Records for additional information.

Find a Death Date

In many cases you can find the death date of a deceased US citizen in the Social Security Death Index.

If you know a person's death date (or even just the death year) it is much easier to find obituary information for that individual.