BASICS OF GENEALOGY: Get ready before starting – data sheets, family tree software, pedigree sheets – all online


START WITH ONE SURNAME AND COMPLETE IT BEFORE YOU START ANOTHER.  This will help  you understand how the records fall together.  Once you become a “PRO” at it , then you can spread out and work on as many SURNAMES as you like…..

Gather all the family information you can from living relatives.

Don’t spend a lot of time when you hit a roadblock

Don’t assume that the information you have found is correct. A lot of information that is online is from family members who have loaded it without any documents or backup to prove that it actually goes with the name it is under.   The original census records way back when were taken by hand so many things were recorded improperly such as spelling of names, dates of birth, place of birth,etc.   You will come across many of these errors as you search  for your family lines.

Don’t give up


Online access to hundreds if not thousands of sites, message boards, forums, us and foreign records, etc.

Family Members- especially the older ones.

Trips to local libraries, local, state, and national historical libraries and associations, this includes cemetaries, town halls, churches, etc.

US census, Canadian Census, Ancestry Library, Family Search, Cyndi’s List for Genealogy, Ellis Island Records, Passenger Lists, Military Records, Church Records, Foreign archives, US National Archives, and the list goes on forever. Just remember to be specific for your particular search and be as specific as possible when you set up your search criteria.


I have been using this search method for many years and it has helped me trememdously in finding many records that I did not think existed. Also it narrows down the number of search records that you have to look at, which is a big help. Don’t get frustrated with it, it takes a while to get it right…..

First thing to do: If your search screen has “Show more options” on it, click on that to list more options on the screen. Now there is a line next to it that says “Match all terms exactly” with a small box on the left side of it. Click the box and a checkmark should appear. Now go back to the selections boxes for name(s), DOB, etc.


The * can be used with both first and last names. You must use at least 3 letters before or after the *. I am listing examples below:

Using the * at the front end:

Example – *ser  – This will bring up any name that ends in ‘ser’ Balser, Bolser, Paser, etc

Using the * at the back end:

Example – Bal* –  This will bring up any name that starts with ‘Bal’ Balser, Balsor, Baltzer, Ballentine, etc

Example – Using the * in the middle:

Example – Hen*son –  This will bring up any name starting with Hen and ending with son

Henderson, Henryson, Hendonson, Henason, etc.

Example – He*n –  This would bring up any names starting with He and ending with n. It would probably be a pretty big list.

Using the ? is fairly simple.  A single character is represented by question mark “?” (e.g., “Sm?th” equals both “Smith” and Smyth” in your search).

I would recommend using a year of birth with any search  (if you know it or approximate) with a + or – 2 year window. This will help narrow any searchs and bring down the amount of records that you have to look at. Like I said earlier, don’t get frustrated. Play with it until you are comfortable with the searches. Try it out on one person using several different searches and see what you get. It will help you understand how the search works. Than you can include more search info to cut down the number of records even more.

Good luck and happy searching. Let me know if any of this search method helps you out…



About johnbalser

I was born in Farmington, Maine in April of 1948. I lived on several farms in Maine, located in Chesterville, North Jay, and Limerick, until the age of 10. I moved to Durham, New Hampshire when I was in the fifth grade and later relocated to Manchester, New Hampshire where I resided through High School. I enter the Air Force in 1966 (two months after high school) and served one year (1968-1969) in Vietnam. I returned to school in the early 70's and received a BS in Business Management from New Hampshire College while working in the computer industry. I continued my computer career through 1990 at which time I left the computer industry and opened up my own business in the New Hampshire seacoast area. I remained self employed for 17 years. In 2007, I took a position with the Department of State, Passport Services, located in Portsmouth, NH. I continued there until my retirement in April of 2014. I did not finish my first book, Mystery on Macomber Hill (A Baker Boys Adventure), until I retired. I am currently writing a second book titled, ME, MYSELF AND I. It is a story about a boy who was raised in an orphanage, got adopted, and continued on into manhood. But wait, there was one small problem. While at the orphanage he developed a "VOICE" in his head that stayed with him right into manhood. They shared the good and bad times while the VOICE seemed to get him in trouble , more often than not. Hopefully it will be completed by year end. I haves been married for 45 years. My wife, Linda, and I relocated to Milo, Maine in July of 2014 to enjoy our retirement. I am an avid genealogist and have spent over 20 years researching my family history with my sister. I also do genealogy research for other individuals. My wife and I enjoy traveling and site seeing with our new family addition, Sprout, an Australian Cattle Dog that we adopted from a shelter in October of 2014. I hopes to continue writing other books in the Baker Boys Adventure series.
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