2021.05.18 – Ask Others for Help


Ask Others for Help
By Dale E. Lee


  • Family History Libraries
  • Genealogical Societies
  • Social Network Groups
  • Internet searches
  • Physical Record Repositories
  • Help Desks
  • Books
  • Professional Genealogists
  • Educational Institutions


After obtaining whatever information you can from sources near to you first, start expanding your network. Get referrals from Family members to others involved in Family History. Then get information from those people to get referrals to additional people. And so on. Expand your contacts beyond your immediate family.

Remember, you need to be thinking about sources that may not be readily apparent. Act like a Detective, don’t just absorb what you’re given. Look for clues and follow them to find additional clues and people to talk to. You may be able to find the missing Family gold mine.

Some sources of information may need to be examined from more than one points of view. Just because you don’t see the gold at the mouth of the mine, does not mean it is not there. Using a geiger counter can help find radioactive materials, but not necessarily gold. Use the right tool for the objective.

The following is a discussion of ways others can help you search for Family History truth, from the least expensive to the most.

  • Family History Libraries

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has proven to be an important source of information. They have many facilities throughout the world which offer free assistance to all who come, regardless of affiliation. You can determine the nearest location by using the Family History Center Locator at https://www.familysearch.org/help/fhcenters/locations/. Even South Korea has multiple locations available. Although not all Family History Consultants are professionals, they can be beneficial in your research.

The Church has agreements with many of the major online repositories and can offer services you may not be able to get to unless you are a paid member of those repositories. So while you are physically at the Family History Center, you can gain access to information you may not be able to otherwise.

You can also go to the Family History Center in Salt Lake City. It holds genealogy records for over 110 countries and territories. It has 1.6 million rolls of microfilmed records onsite and almost double that amount offsite. According to Wikipedia, it has “727,000 microfiche; 356,000 books, serials, and other formats; 4,500 periodicals; 3,725 electronic resources including subscriptions to the major genealogical websites“. And of course it is adding to its collection almost daily.

  • Genealogical Societies

There are also many different Genealogical Societies available to assist you. Genealogical Societies are useful once you exhaust your immediate resources and have run into roadblocks that you cannot personally solve. They are there to help support you and may be able to point you in the right direction. A reference is almost as good as the solution itself if it leads you to solve the problem.

Some of the well known National and International Societies are: the National Genealogical Society (NGS), The Federation of Family History Societies (FFHS), and the Genealogical and Heraldic Office of Belgium. There is even a society called the Genealogical Society of South Africa. Wherever in the world you reside, see if you can locate a Genealogical Society near you. They can lead you to a treasure trove of information you may not have known was available.

If you don’t have one near you and you are enterprising enough, create one, or encourage others to create one by crowd funding it!

  • Social Network Groups

There are many social media organizations and there are more being created as we speak. Some of these organizations have Groups to help others obtain information about their ancestors. For example if your ancestors come from Austria, you may want to find a group that caters to Austrian Genealogy.

These groups can be helpful. If you live outside of the country, it may be difficult to travel there. But there may be members in the group who live and have grown up in that country and may be willing to help you search for a particular ancestor by going to the county record repository or the cemetery where you believe your ancestor was buried.

They may also be able to give you tips about how to research in that country. Sometimes the name of what you think is a city may, in reality, be a parish or other religious area. This can save you hours of looking for the wrong information and can turn out to be a way around that suborn roadblock you’ve been having.

  • Internet searches

Yes, I know the use of internet searches is obvious when it comes to research. But they are evident in a not so obvious way. Although internet searches can be invaluable in pointing to sources of information, they are not so valuable in finding you particular ancestor unless your ancestor happens to be famous. There is so much information in the world that there is not enough disk space to store it all, and even the data stored may be on page 100,000 of your search results, or may not be available to the public through the internet.

Try running searches on specific ancestors going back in time in your family lines. You’ll find some of them, but may also find people with duplicate names, wrong places, etc. So internet searches are not as valuable in finding specific people as finding repositories and sources of information about those people.

Knowing where to look is a large part of the battle. If you can narrow down the number of county record repositories your ancestor could potentially be found in, it will help speed up the effort. Be creative. Think of all the ways you can use the internet through indirection to get to the final goal. And remember to record your efforts in a log so you don’t have to redo them at a later point in time.

  • Physical Record Repositories

Physical Record Repositories, such as County Records Archives, may also be important in your search. Physical Record Repositories are those repositories that store physical documents, books and other artifacts, such as newspapers about historical information.

Most Physical Record Repositories allow you to access their materials by physically going to their locations. Some will also let you to do searches on physical documents remotely, by having their staff do the physical search and report back to you on their results. Some will even issue a certificate of their findings. If you receive a certificate, realize that it may not be a copy of the original document, but a certificate by the researcher of the information they found.

Understand that there is no such thing as a planetary physical record repository at this time. Records were either kept or not kept depending on the culture and circumstances. And records were either maintained in good repair or not, depending on the circumstances and needs. So when you are searching for records, you first need to ask someone where those records can be found.

Physical records can be found in many places. They can be found in State Archives, County Archives (Birth, Marriage and Death), libraries, criminal history repositories, national archives for military records, County property records, Corporation Commissions for Business Entities, National Archives (Census records), etc. Some of these repositories may even have transitioned their records to digital form only at this point.

  • Help Desks

Most people currently recognize the ability of Online Repositories to store and search for digitized records. However the organizations that maintain those repositories may also offer help in understanding how to do research. They have guides, tips, wikis, and help desks which help resolve issues you run into. The help desk function is to help solve technical problems in accessing data, not functional problems in finding your ancestors, but they may suggest places to look for the information on their website if you ask kindly.

Some Online Repositories even have credentialed Genealogists who will review the information submitted to the central genealogical database and reject or modify it if needed.

Don’t feel intimidated in using these ancillary resources. The end goal is to find and resolve roadblocks as you run into them. They can’t resolve your issue, they may be able to refer you to someone or some group that can.

  • Books

Books can be a great help in finding out what others already know. They are a bit more expensive than free but far less expensive than wasting countless hours on research which has already been done.

One person didn’t think much had been done on her Father’s line, but found a Family Organization for her ancestor and was able to purchase a book that contained hundreds of descendants from a common ancestor.

She went from thinking little had been done, to being able to trace her ancestry back to the early days of America. Don’t assume books have not yet been written. They may just be waiting for you to discover and save an enormous amount of wasted time and effort.

  • Professional Genealogists

Once you have exhausted the less expensive means, you may find that a stubborn roadblock remains. At this point you may want to think of paying a Professional Genealogist to research for you. Although expensive, it may be worthwhile to get past that stubborn roadblock.

Remember, you may not need to pay for the expense of the Professional Genealogist by yourself. If you have or can form a Family Organization, you may be able to spread the expense of a Professional Genealogist across the whole organization.

If you do hire a professional, make sure you do your due diligence in who you pick. Ideally you will want someone that lives in the area, understands it well, and can show evidence of experience in that line of work. You don’t want someone that has no experience in the line of research or country you need, even if they are a good genealogist.

Just as with all professionals in all lines of work, you cannot expect that a Genealogist knows everything there is to know of the history of all countries in the world. That is unrealistic, and similar to hiring a podiatrist to solve a brain tumor.

  • Educational Institutions

Probably the most expensive route of all is to become credentialed as a Genealogist yourself. Although this is an admirable goal, you need to weigh it on a cost benefit analysis. If you love Family History, want to help others while at the same time furthering enhancing your research skills, and you have the means to do so, by all means do it. But if not, you’ll want to weigh the amount of time it takes to obtain your objective, against the time you have available.

Several institutions offer educational opportunities, some of which provide certifications, and some which do not. If it is your goal to obtain a certification, it is essential to review the courses taught to be sure they will give you the training that will meet your objectives. For example, if you want to learn how to research South America, you may not be interested in English Heraldry.

As with everything else in Family History, let your objectives drive your training, not your training limit your abilities.

Seekerz LLC, © 2021

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