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Upper Ottawa Valley Genealogical Group

Suggestions for beginners



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  1. Talk to your parents and grandparents before it is too late! [Actually that's good life advice too!] They will have family facts and family myths that will be invaluable. Your family may have an old family bible, with the births and deaths and family events written in beautiful copperplate. Write down everything they tell you or whatever information about the family that you can find, however seemingly trivial.
  2. Record everything you know, including sources. Organize it in a chart; a family tree or pedigree chart.
  3. Try to find or calculate the dates and probable places of births, marriages and deaths. How old were you when you last saw your grandmother and how long after that did she die? Look at the backs of old family photos; they often record names and dates of value to your searches.
  4. Get in touch with your extended family: cousins, uncles, and great aunts. Have a list of questions or a chart they can fill in. To jog their memory, ask questions about the ancestor's work, character, residence, the church they attended, when they came to Canada, and from where, etc.? Ask to see old photos and find out about the people depicted. Take notes of conversations with these helpers; better yet, record the conversation on a tape recorder. Ask them to prepare a talk or paper on their particular branch of the family and anything they know about other branches. You may be happily surprised how cooperative they may be once over some initial reluctance.
  5. Look for detail: lot, concession, township, or town; parish; employment; military service; dates and places of birth, baptism, marriage, and burial. It is particularly important to be sure of the religion and name of church or parish where any of these events occurred, or the name of the regiment, or the name of the employer, or the like. All these places keep records which can be invaluable in later searching.
  6. Look for church and cemetery records.
  7. Government records can be very helpful.
    • Census: Canadian census 1851-1901 lists both parents and all children and others living in the home. This is where you need the address information.
    • Wills and probates - Most 20th century records are in the county court archives; 19th century records are on microfilm in the Ontario archives.
    • Land records are in the County registry office. There you must have the lot and concession numbers, or lot and plan numbers, or at least the town or city street number.
    • Township records may provide land grant and other information, including examples of signatures. Also, land assessment rolls can be as valuable as ownership records.
    • The Canadian Archives may provide early land grant information.
  8. See the description of the material available at Family History Centers at LDS churches [see the main menu of this homepage]. The LDS also Family History Centers maintain an index to millions of family history records called the International Genealogical Index. This index can be reviewed using their computers or on microfiche.
  9. The most important tip for a beginner is; nothing is unimportant! If it has to do with your family, record it and its source.


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