As the New Year approaches, we all make resolutions. If finally finding those elusive East European ancestors is on your list, here are 13 easy ways to get started.
- Plant your family tree online. Sites such as Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com and WikiTree make it easy to upload and share your family tree, and connect with others researching your surnames. A few words of advice: Always read the terms of service, and be sure to cite your sources for the uploaded data.
- Search for immigration records. Port of New York records can be found by searching free resources such as the Ellis Island Database (index and images available; you must register with a username and password), and Castle Garden (index only, no images). Remember to check other ports too. Subscription site Ancestry.com has passenger lists for all major ports.
- Reach out to relatives. You never know who holds the missing pieces of your family history puzzle. Social media makes it easier than ever to connect with cousins and find long-lost family—do it before it’s too late!
- Record family stories. Family stories help you go beyond the names, dates, and places. Apps such as Saving Memories Forever make it easy to do at home, during holiday gatherings or reunions, or even on the go.
- Join a genealogical/historical society. These organizations offer untapped resources and networking opportunities. Find one that interests you on Cyndi’s List, or the Federation of Genealogical Societies.
- Find new resources at FamilySearch. With millions of records online that can be viewed for free—including many for New York, and for countries such as Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and Ukraine—this site is a fabulous resource.
- Dive into databases. Many archives and organizations are digitizing records and putting them online. Examples include: Acta Publica and Prague City Archives (Czech Republic) Estonian Historical Archives (Estonia), Geneteka (Poland) Latvian State Historical Archives (Latvia).
- Hit the stacks! Not everything is online. Public and university libraries have books, manuscripts, microfilmed records and other special collections worth searching for information you might be missing. New York researchers should check out the holdings at the New York Public Library and Cornell University, as well as search WorldCat to locate other libraries and collections.
- Search newspapers. Historic newspapers are a goldmine for genealogists. Many are now online. Get a list at Online Historical Newspapers. New York researchers, try Old Fulton Postcards.
- View maps online. In order to be successful when researching “across the pond,” you’ll need to pinpoint your ancestor’s town or village of origin. Start by using maps such as those available for free on the Federation of East European Family History Societies website.
- Dabble in DNA. DNA testing can often help to solve family history mysteries, especially if your paper trail runs cold. There are different types of tests. Find a list of companies and test comparison charts on the ISOGG wiki. Just be sure you understand and abide by New York State Law (see The Legal Genealogist).
- Find a buddy. No genealogist is an island. Partner with a family member or fellow researcher to set goals, track research progress and bust those genealogy brick walls.
- Explore learning opportunities. There’s always something new to learn, whether it’s at your local society’s seminar, a national conference, or online. Check Conference Keepers and Geneawebinars for free webinars.
However you choose to research your New York Eastern European ancestors in 2013, I wish you an abundance of genealogical successes!