Are you planning to track down information online about your family history? Do you have users coming in asking for a good starting place? The good news is that thousands of digitized records from hundreds of sources have become available online to aid researchers in building their family tree. And new sources and records are being added every day to accessible databases. The challenging news is that there are thousands of digitized records online. The bad news? The information, gathered from court records, newspapers, passenger lists, census records, and historical society collections, can be fraught with errors and eccentricities.

Why do your grandmother records have seven different spellings of her first name?
Why can’t you find your aunt Peggy’s birth certificate?
Why can’t you find the record of your mom’s entry into the United States?
And what do you do when you find four men named Nathaniel Payne within three generations of brothers and fathers? And previous amateur researchers have reproduced mistakes in their own records and shared the errors until they became the new canon, so that dates and places are applied to the wrong Nats?

Based on 45 years’ experience, here are expert tips for getting started researching your family’s history, including tricks for verifying contradictory information (aka “family confabulations”), record-keeping, creating your own digital records, free versus fee-based sites, the debate about online DNA, finding lost but living “twigs and branches”, and building a family team.

– Record those family stories today. Don’t wait.
– Build your own databases of family information.
– Share family stories, documents, and photos digitally for future generations.
– Accept that family stories have power, but that does not mean they are accurate.

Original broadcast November 25, 2020 

Presenter ~ Pat Wagner

Pat Wagner has been a trainer and consultant for libraries since 1978 using e-mail, platforms, and now social media to serve clients across the United States (and the solar system) who she has never met face-to-face.. She presents at state and national library conferences as well as working with libraries of all types from Alaska to Florida. She has been a frequent visitor to Florida libraries and was a facilitator for the Sunshine State Library Leadership Institute for several years. Pat focuses on skills needed to support better productivity and workplace relationships, from personnel issues to strategic planning. She is known for her practical and good-humored programs.