There comes a time in most genealogical searches when the answers no longer reside in your home country. Immigration and migration have been common occurrences throughout human history, which means your search for a complete family tree will likely hit some snags along the way. The good news is there are some valuable tools for searching international records and as long as you understand the potential for mistakes, you can go a long way toward filling in the blanks.

English: Example of 1891 Census in England and...

Example of 1891 Census in England and Wales Source: The National Archives, London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Census

Most countries of the world have compiled census data over the years, though some such as Algeria and Afghanistan have only been compiling data for the last few decades. Many more, however, have been keeping at least minimal records since the late 1800’s and before.  One thing you should keep in mind is the fact that all census takers have one thing in common, they are human! This means there is a margin of error you will likely have to deal with.

Tips for Searching:

Following Leads

Which international records do you need to search for your ancestors? As you can imagine there are millions of names listed in these resources and searching through a random database on a hope and a prayer would be the proverbial needle in a haystack scenario. First, you should begin to establish some kind of trail, in other words, your great, great grandfather Joseph Smith’s trail goes cold, but you know from local records or stories from the family that he faced prison time in England. You also know the last records of him are from 1862, which means he will not be found among the records for the Australian penal colonies, because the last convicts were transported there in 1859.

Family Members

There are two things you should know when it comes to talking to family members about genealogy. Number one, many of them may lack your enthusiasm for the project! If your aunts and uncles have begun avoiding your phone calls, this is a hint. Number two, when you do find a source that is willing to talk, pay attention! There is nothing better than first hand information handed down from the elders in your family.

Online Resources

Genealogy is easier today than it has ever been, thanks to the internet. There are literally millions of records available online, and many more than that available in hard copy. Several international records sites offer-photocopied records upon request and there are of course the paid ancestry research websites. The best advice for utilizing this resource is to start with the free services first, gather as much information as humanly possible before determining which online subscription service will best serve your needs. No point in paying for a service that does not go back far enough or has no records from your current country of research now is there?

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Filed under: Starting Your Family History

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