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Genealogy Research

Overview of Options

Familysearch.org – register for free account

  • Includes most common records (censuses, many marriage/death records, shiplists)

  • Some records for specific localities indexed/available only here

Ancestry.com – must be on campus to have access

  • Includes most common records

  • More records that include information about living people

  • More maps showing land ownership (plat books)

  • More sophisticated search options (“sounds like”, “similar”, and more searches for specific types of records (e.g. immigration)

Unfortunately, very few options for online access to individual data for places outside North/South America and Europe

For students with Mennonite ancestors, we have additional databases that include primarily genealogical information

Search Strategies

  • Start searching with information about which you are most sure

  • Start with exact searches for names/places

  • Start with 3-year range for any date (to better catch relevant records that have approximate dates)

  • Look at results by collection/category of record to more easily find records relevant to your interest.  

  • Too many results?  Try narrowing your search.

  • Too few results? Experiment with fewer, broader, or different combinations of search terms.  

  • Use asterisk with exact searches to truncate words that may have different spellings (e.g. “Kauf*” will find Kaufman, Kaufmann, Kauffman, Kauffmann)  

  • Remember that many records have mistakes in them—either because original record incorrect or misread by transcriber

Pay attention to all the information provided in a record

  • Any clues about where the person was born/lived earlier?

  • Any information about parents or children?

  • Economic status/occupation?

  • Census, shiplists, etc. list “proximate” people:

    • Do any appear to be relatives? 

    • Is your person similar to/different from those around him/her?  How? 

    • How might that help you understand what their lives may have been like?

  • Will an earlier/later record of the same type include this person?  Where will you go to find it?

Some Key Resources for Mexico & Canada

  • National censuses are most helpful

  • Mexico 1930

  • Canada 1911 [1921 Ancestry.com only]

  • Birth/Marriage/Death records from various states in Mexico, some into 1980s 

  • Border crossing records from Canada to U.S. 1895-1960 [Ancestry.com]