Genealogy is the study of your family history and ancestors. Researching your family history can be daunting, but there are many online tools available that make finding your great-great-great-grandfather a little bit easier.

So you want to start researching genealogy…

As you get started researching:

  1. Talk to your family members. Grandma might remember a lot more than you might think! Look through family documents to gather additional information.
  2. Fill out a family tree: Fill out the tree with information provided by family members, and any research found from family scrapbooks and other documents. Start with yourself and work back.
  3. Start small: Try and focus on one or two lines at a time.
  4. Keep detailed records: It is important to keep detailed records of people and information you find as you search. Try to use genealogical recording conventions to keep track of what you find:
    • Dates: Dates are usually written as day – month – year, e.g. 21 May 1852.
    • Maiden Names: List a woman under her maiden name. If her maiden name is unknown, leave blank space, e.g. Mary (_____) or Mary _____.
    • Use common abbreviations such as b = born, m = married, d = died.
  5. Remember that spelling was optional: First names and surnames were often misspelled on Census forms. I’ve come across an example where Minteer was misspelled as Menten – quite a misspelling! Don’t discount a source just because the name is slightly different.
  6. Don’t get frustrated: Researching your family’s history can be fun, rewarding and frustrating! Family lines may seem to stop. Take a break. Try researching a different branch of the family. Then come back and try again.

Library Resources

The library offers a number of genealogy resources for free! Most of these resources require a library card to access at home.

  • Ancestry.com: The world’s largest online resource for family history provides over 1.2 billion records in more than 3,000 databases. Must be used inside Heights Libraries buildings.
    • To access Ancestry.com:
      • Go to www.heightslibrary.org
      • Click on E-Media ­> Research Databases.
      • Scroll down until you see the subject list and click on Genealogy.
      • Click on Ancestry Library Edition.
  • Biography and Genealogy Master Index: Indexes current, readily available reference sources, as well as the most important retrospective works that cover individuals, both living and deceased.
  • Cleveland Necrology File: The Cleveland Necrology File contains local cemetery records and newspaper death notices for 1833, 1847-1848, and 1850-1975.
  • HeritageQuest Online: Use HeritageQuest Online to find ancestors, trace their paths across America, and learn what life was like in the areas where they settled.

Other Resources

Genealogy is a popular topic and there are lots of online resources available for free!

  • Family Search (www.familysearch.org):  FamilySearch is a nonprofit family history organization run by the Church of the Latter-day Saints.  Their huge online database of genealogical and historical records is
    continually growing and free to use! They also offer searchable family trees, which allow you to see what others have found out about your ancestors.
  • USGenWeb (http://usgenweb.org/): A free genealogy database organized by state and county. Each state has its own genealogy website. The OHGenWeb site has information on all 88 counties, in addition to census records, tombstones, deeds, local courthouse and government offices, historical maps, surnames of others researching similar family names, possible ancestor photos and or historical landscapes.
  • The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation Passenger Search (http://www.libertyellisfoundation.org/): This is a free searchable database of all passenger lists of more than 51 million immigrants who came through Ellis Island and the Port of New York from 1892-1957.  The database continues to grow as more records are becoming searchable.
  • Find a Grave (www.findagrave.com):  Find A Grave is a unique resource whose goal is to “find, record and present final disposition information from around the world as a virtual cemetery experience.”  Users are able to search for a particular ancestor and can find the location of the cemetery, pictures (of the person and the tombstone), and obituaries.

Can’t find who you’re looking for? Want to learn more about searching these resources?

  • Family Search has a Learning Center with numerous videos on getting started with genealogy.
  • Family Search also has a Research Wiki (https://familysearch.org/wiki/en/Main_Page) includes thousands of articles on genealogical resources.
  • Locate local Genealogy study/research groups. Many communities have such groups of people who enjoy conducting genealogical research and may have some ideas to help you along the way.

Heights Libraries is offering a variety of genealogy-related classes and programs this summer, including:

  • Learn about the genealogy resources offered by the library in the Genealogy Drop-In Session on Thursday, May 4 at 11 a.m. No registration required.
  • Genealogy Online discusses tips and tricks for getting started researching your family history and using online resources like Ancestry.com. Held on:
    • Thursday, May 25 at 7 p.m.
    • Friday, June 2 at 11 a.m.
    • Friday, July 28 at 11 a.m.
    • Friday, August 25 at 11 a.m.
  • Digitize and preserve your family photo and small document at Scan Your Family History on:
    • Friday, June 9 from 1 to 5 p.m.
    • Friday, June 23 from 1 to 5 p.m.
    • Friday, July 7 from 1 to 5 p.m.
    • Friday, July 21 from 1 to 5 p.m.
    • Friday, August 4 from 1 to 5 p.m.
    • Friday, August 18 from 1 to 5 p.m.

Registration opens two weeks before the date of the class. Sign-up for these and any other computer classes at heightslibrary.org or by calling (216) 932-3600.

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