Where Do I Start With My Family History?

I have had a number of friends who have recently asked me about doing their genealogy. Usually, the comment that I hear is, “I have no idea where to start!” or “All my ancestors are gone” or “No one really remembers anything in our family.” And my all time favorite line especially when it comes to Irish records, “all those records have been destroyed so we’ll never know!”

Well I am here to tell you that even if no one remembers who your great grandparents were, all is not lost. As a matter of fact, there are many records that are available which will help you in your research.

So, let’s take one of the questions I hear often, “I have no idea where to start!” Simple answer, start with yourself! Put your information down first. Add your name, date of birth, place of birth and if you want baptismal information. Remember, there will come a time when someone someday will want to know about you! Add whatever information you would like to add such as your schooling, interests, and perhaps where you vacationed and your occupations.

Most of us know who our biological parents are and perhaps have some record of their lives. If they are still alive and you don’t have much information to start, ask them questions about their parents, dates of birth and death and where they may have grown up. Obviously, if you are adopted, the search may be more difficult but depending upon the state you were born, there are some options as well.

Once you have some information gathered, keep them organized by using a pedigree and family group chart either going the paper route that you can get copies of at many libraries or download online or using one of the computer programs that are available. I use Family Tree Maker but there are others that might work for you as well. You might find at this point, you may have already collected enough information to post two or three generations or even more than that.

Start looking at some of the online free sites such as familysearch.org or National archives (nara.gov). You can probably find some valuable information from records such as the U.S. Census. Pinning down a location of an ancestor from a census enumeration will then allow you to search county history books from that region, obituaries and even vital records such as birth, marriage and death certificates. Church records from that region would also be a valuable source. I would not begin to check any overseas records until you have exhausted almost all possibilities in the U.S. first. There are a number of other online sites such as Ancestry.com, Findmypast.com and Myheritage.com which may also be helpful although you will need a subscription for these sites.

Many believe that Irish records no longer exist and your chances of finding anything are slim to none. That rumor is absolutely not true. Not all records were destroyed in the Four Courts Fire in Dublin in 1922. We are now discovering some copies of church records that were never sent to the Four Courts for archiving and a few censuses prior to 1900 still exist and are now showing up online. There are also a number of census substitutes that are also available online that were also archived outside of the Four Courts building.

What might also be helpful for the new researcher is a workshop or course which is provided by many libraries and even some societies provide an online workshop. Some programs such as the National Institute for Genealogical Studies also provide certificate and non-certificate programs and courses for the family historian. If you’re ready to take that trip to Ireland, the Ulster Historical Foundation also provides two Family History Conferences each year from its office in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The conference includes research at the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland and a day trip to Dublin for researching at the National Archives of Ireland, Registry of Deeds and the National Library of Ireland.

Well, that is a lot of information but once you get rolling, many of these records will become very familiar to you. Just remember, the key to starting your family research starts with YOU!

Importance Of Genetic Testing

Genetic testing consists of a range of tests on samples of DNA taken from hair, blood, saliva, amniotic fluid and other tissues. A few hundred hereditary tests are being used as of now, and more are being developed.


These are the various areas where hereditary tests play a prominent role:

• To discover the possibility of an unborn child inheriting a hereditary disease.

• To check if the individual has an ailment and if he or she can pass on the said hereditary malady to their posterity.

• Genetic tests are proposed for screening fetuses for detecting possible diseases.

• There are various diseases in our body whose symptoms aren’t externally visible. Through DNA tests, such hidden disorders can be spotted, and a course of treatment can easily be determined.

• Genetic tests are additionally recommended to affirm a malady. There are cases wherein a symptom might not be enough to warrant a particular illness. Genetic tests, therefore, allow you to be on the safer side of things.


Genetic tests are of utmost importance in situations like:

• Identifying the medical problem

With the aid of genetic screening test, physicians can identify a gene that’s “off-colour”; i.e. the genes which are/might be the reason for the medical ailment that you are suffering from. For example, liver issues can be associated with changes in the MTM1 gene and threatening hypothermia can be due to mutations in RYR1.

• Course of treatment

Genetic testing is presumably one of the innovative and most encouraging fields in medical world. With the advent of gene testing, the new treatments are even more specific and accurate as they are based on exact mutation within a gene, particularly in cancer treatment. Furthermore, in the pediatric world, there are medications for kids with cystic fibrosis that works for kids with particular changes in the CFTR quality. This is the world of genetically personalized medicine, and it’s now available in your clinics and doctor’s facilities. This testing guarantees effectiveness of the treatment.

• Prenatal Testing

Pre-birth genetic testing has always been a controversial topic. Prenatal genetic diagnostic testing largely affects an unborn child. For e.g., tumours like Retinoblastoma can be fostered due to changes in the RB1 gene. Do you know that such tumours can obscure a child’s vision shortly after birth if it isn’t immediately dealt with? During such unfortunate turn of events, treatments can commence right after delivery.

• Family planning

Genetic diagnosis can help the individuals in comprehending how certain disorders are passed on to generations. With genetic tests, families are aware of the potential risks of having a child with disorders. This valuable information guide people in making the right decisions about having kids.

• Research

This is yet another highly debated topic. Genetics is an exciting field that is waiting to be explored. As the individuals who undergo genetic tests rise, the insight gained can be enormous which leads to the inception of new drugs and cures.

Genetic tests can sometimes surprise you and may lead you towards more questions. It is necessary that you consult healthcare professionals and genetic counsellors and work together. Sometimes genetic screening can be conducted on a large number of individuals to reveal the people who are at high risk of having specific disorders. Genetic screening and testing often work hand in hand to save lives and one should not undermine it. As mentioned, prenatal diseases and puzzling ailments can be effectively diagnosed for a happy and healthy future.

Have an Ancestor Who Was in the Civil War? There Are Ways of Finding More About Him

Many veterans who served in the Armed Forces are buried at National Cemeteries throughout the U.S. This includes those who died or served during America’s Civil War in the 1860s. Perhaps you have recently discovered that your ancestor was a Civil War veteran. Perhaps he died in one of the battles during the war. Or perhaps he serviced during the war and mustered out and lived to file a pension in the late 1800s. Perhaps he served on the confederate side. So how do you find out where he served and perhaps if he is buried at one of the National Cemeteries around the U.S.


There are several avenues available for searching for that Civil War ancestor. The 1890 Census provided a schedule for veterans from the Civil War who filed for the veteran’s pension. Although most of the population census from 1890 was later destroyed in a fire, there is still a good portion of the veteran’s census that has survived and is available to the public. It’s called THE SPECIAL CENSUS SCHEDULES OF SURVIVING UNION CIVIL WAR VETERANS OR THEIR WIDOWS, 1890. This schedule does contain the name of the veteran, or in the case of the widow, the name and rank of the deceased veteran. It also mentions the unit and regiment of the veteran and where this individual is living at the time the census was taken. If the veteran was wounded while in service, the schedule may also contain the injury sustained while in combat. These records are on microfilm at the National Archives and may also be purchased through NARA.gov. You can also find these records online at Ancestry.com. You must have a subscription to view these records.

The National Park Service has developed an index of those who were served in the Civil War. The site is called the Soldiers and Sailors database and contains an index of those who served in the Army and Navy and on both sides of the conflict as well as information on National Cemeteries, battles and even Confederate prisoners who were held at a few selected camps. https://www.nps.gov/civilwar/soldiers-and-sailors-database.htm.

There are over 100 National Cemeteries throughout the U.S which is the final resting place for those veterans that lost their lives during battle or who are now buried after serving their country. One of the more interesting of these cemeteries is Camp Butler National Cemetery just outside Springfield, Illinois. According to the cemetery’s website, it was founded soon after the start of the Civil War and served as the second largest training camp during the war. The site is named after the Illinois State Treasurer at the time William Butler. General William Tecumseh Sherman was sent to Springfield to select and develop the new training camp. He and Butler identified the location northeast of Springfield.

A portion of the site was also used as a POW camp. Many Confederate prisoners lost their lives as a result of disease and extreme weather conditions throughout the year. The Camp Butler website indicates that roughly 700 Confederate prisoners died as a result of the small pox outbreak of 1862. Soldiers not only from both sides of the Civil War but also from the Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, Korea, and the Vietnam wars are buried at this site. The Cemetery has since been honored by many organizations and in 1997 was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. To find out more on this Cemetery and to see if you have an ancestor buried there, check their website: https://www.cem.va.gov/cems/nchp/campbutler.asp. The National Cemetery Administration under the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also has a Nationwide Gravesite Locator which contains the burial locations of veterans and their families who are buried at National and State veteran cemeteries. The listing also includes veterans who are buried at private cemeteries when the grave is marked by a government grave stone.