tracing family history

Tracing Family History Services with a Professional Genealogist

80% of the research we conduct is for individuals looking for answers in tracing their family history. Specifically, US based research is top in tracing family history research but we also specialize on international research.

When it comes to researching United States based family history research, no-one is better at RecordClick then Nancy.

Nancy is one of top United States professional genealogist specializing in tracing family history.

We decided to sit down with Nancy and ask her some really useful questions. Questions that a website visitor might have when visiting our website or someone who might want to learn more about tracing family history process.

To start the question and answer period Nancy said she’s really busy helping customers so we are only permitted to ask 10 questions. 🙁

We asked Nancy 10 questions.

What is domestic tracing family history genealogy research?

Domestic tracing family history genealogy research is not a term that is commonly used in the USA, but technically speaking, it is an individual tracing family history within a particular country by someone in that country. In the USA, it is researching within the USA.

Tracing Family history is what individuals are trying to trace in their ancestral line. So most people who have begun researching are obviously already family with the term.

How should a researcher approach tracing family history?

The approach would depend on the goals of the research. Within one’s own family, the goals may be multiple or singular and could include items such as

  1. Establish eligibility for membership in a lineage society;
  2. Participate with a contribution to the local historical society;
  3. Create and publish the family history for future generations;
  4. Establish a relationship with someone of historical nobility; and
  5. Establish and locate living relatives.

There are many other goals that one may have for tracing family history, and these are just some samples.

There is a saying that unless you study the past, you cannot understand the future, and this has driven many to learn about their family history.

In order to decide one’s approach, one must first ask himself – What is my goal? What do I want from this research? Once the goals are established, you are ready to move forward with creating your plan for research.

Where should a researcher start tracing their family history?

Let’s say that your goal is to create and publish the family history for future generations. In genealogy, we always start with the known and move towards the unknown.

For someone who is just beginning the research on their own family, it is best to start with yourself. Gather all of the pertinent items you have on yourself – birth certificate, baptismal certificate, marriage certificate, newspaper items, photos, diplomas, degrees, etc. Do the same for your spouse and your children.

Then, begin moving backwards to your parents, and do the same for them. If your parents are still living, be sure to interview them – and ask good questions! A book of good genealogy interview questions – Ask Lots of Questions, Get Lots of Answers… by Louise St. Denis is a great book for interview questions.

Tape record your interviews! Continue in this pattern for the next generations. Contact as many living relatives as you can, obtaining copies of documents, and interviewing them. If they don’t live within a reasonable distance for travel, send them a letter, enclosing a questionnaire and a self-addressed, stamped, envelope to return it to you.

Don’t forget the aunts, uncles, and cousins!

How far back can someone trace their family history?

In the USA, research is somewhat limited by time, as the USA is a young country when compared to other regions of the world. Many of our ancestors arrived in the USA in the 1800s, meaning that we have less than 200 years of research that can be done on the family in this country.

There are some families in the USA that can be traced back to the 1600s or some that came on the Mayflower and landed in 1620. But for most of us, our ancestors arrived in the 1800s or later.

Once immigration has been established, and the documents related to it have been retrieved, if continued research is desirable, we must begin research in the country of origin outside the USA.

We internally make the switch from domestic tracing family history research to international tracing family history research at this point.

How to organize genealogy research?

There are several ways to organize family history, and each individual needs to choose what works best for them. Many use genealogy software and keep everything digital. Some prefer to use a binder system keeping all of their materials in binders.

Another option that some use is to maintain a system of file folders and envelopes with all of their research materials. Storage of all of your materials is essential, and you must have sufficient space for bookcases, file cabinets, storage boxes, etc. to not only store your materials, but to be able to find things when you need them.

Each individual researcher must choose for themselves what is the best organization system for them.

What major physical resources are available in each state that genealogist use?

The answer to this question would require enough space to fill an entire library. Each state in the USA is different, and the resources are different for each state in the country.

Start with tracing at a State Archive Near You

The State Archives in each state usually have historical records. In some states, The State Archives is the key place for research and holds the majority of historical records, but some states are set up where each county holds its own historical records, and the State Archives itself in those states does not have some of the most needed historical records for genealogy research.

In each USA state, it is necessary to first research the resources available in the state and where those resources are held. Every state in the USA also has its own privacy laws.

These laws restrict who is eligible to apply for a copy of a record. Privacy restrictions are usually based on one’s relationship to the individuals listed on the document and the age of the document.

For example, U.S. Federal Census records are restricted for 72 years from the date of the census. Since the census is recorded every 10 years, the most recent year available to the general public is the 1940 Census. The 1950 Census will not be released until the year 2022.

What types of research materials are available to a researcher?

  • Census Records,
  • Tax Records,
  • Land Records,
  • Probate Records,
  • Vital Records,
  • Cemetery Records,
  • Social Security Records,
  • Church Records,
  • Newspapers,
  • Court Records,
  • Bibles,
  • Immigration Records,
  • Naturalization Records,
  • Military Records,
  • Published Histories,
  • Maps,
  • Directories, etc.

There are many, many other resources, such as personal letters, diaries, employment records, school records, and this list could go on forever. Many family trees have been posted online on sites such as, and while posted trees often contain valuable information, the information in a posted tree should never be assumed to be correct or accurate.

These trees often contain errors or incorrect information. If using a posted tree to learn information, it is important to search for evidence that proves the information on the tree is correct.

What are some available internet resources for tracing family history?

All of the resources mentioned above have availability to some extent online. The key to internet research is knowing how and where to find the things on the internet.

Some internet sites are free, and others require a purchased subscription to access data. As the number of available sites is in the thousands, it is best to visit a site such as Google, and enter a search for what you are searching for – example, New York Birth Records.

A list of sites affiliated with New York Birth Records will display, and one can move forward from there.

What is the estimated costs of paying for records domestically?

Every resource center establishes their own rates to purchase a document. Some places charge a fee for the record, but also charge a fee for their time.

The facilities that charge for their time will charge for their time whether a record is found or not. There is no set rate scale and the fee is different for every record and the office holding the record. Some records are available online at no cost. Others must be ordered and can cost as little as a few dollars to as much as $100 or more for one record.

Sometimes, if you can visit a resource facility in person and do the research yourself, then fees are minimal, as you may only have to pay $.25 to copy a record that you found in your research.

Some facilities will allow you to take photos of documents, and there is no charge for this. Others will not allow cameras or digital equipment brought into the research room. For when you can’t visit a facility – a good example is New York City.

If you need a probate file, the fee for them to search for the file is $90. If they find the file, the copy fee is $1.00 per page. A 50-page file will cost you $140.00. If they don’t fine a file, you still pay $90 for the search.

Can you offer any advice or tips for individual tracing their family history?

Many libraries, genealogy societies, and historical societies offer genealogy classes for beginners on how to get started and organized. I would recommend one of these classes for someone who is just beginning.

It is important to keep a record of every resource you search in your research.

Organization is crucial. For most of us, tracing our family history research never ends. I began my family history research in 1976, before we had home computers. I have been researching my family over 40 years, and I continue with it today.

It’s the story that never ends!

If you need help with your tracing your family history research we can help; Nancy can help.

We can customizes your family search for the genealogical research you need, for your time frame, and for your budget. Contact us today to get started or view more services