First and Foremost: BE SKEPTICAL of any data you find. There is a LOT of faulty data floating around – I’ve even contributed to this phenomenon myself. ALWAYS apply solid methodology to your research and doubt first.

Google Search – try typing the name of your ancestor into a Google Search. Use quote marks to narrow your results: “George Allen Beard”. Using quotes will narrow your search to only results that contain EXACTLY what you typed. For that reason, it’s also good to search for alternative spellings: “George Allan Beard” and “George Allen Baird” and “George Allan Baird” and “George Beard” for example. You can further narrow your Google search with a date: “George Allen Beard”+”born 1856”. You may be pleasantly surprised with what you find this way.

Check out “hints” – Many online services like Ancestry and MyHeritage offer helpful research hints, usually in the form of a special icon ( uses a green leaf, for example). These can be VERY helpful. Don’t trust them to be correct – remember, they are JUST HINTS – instead, apply solid Research Methodology to them as described HERE.

Early US Census Analyzer – get help with those early US censuses. Beginners, especially, will find this primer useful.

Let your software help you. uses little leaf icons to indicate hints. has a similar indicator – as does most genealogical software. Sometimes software hints offer a shortcut in research efforts. Remember: even when software offers a hint, it’s is just a hint – be skeptical.

FREE Automatic File Backups and Shares

I’ve invested decades in researching, recording, and organizing my family history. I don’t want to lose my data to digital corruption in the form of hardware or software failure, user error (me hitting the delete key inappropriately!), or natural disaster. Local backup is essential but it doesn’t really help unless you use it faithfully and often. Today, the internet has come to the rescue, providing automatic and free cloud backup services that do the job well with little to no fuss. I recommend using online storage AND making local backups – you can’t be too careful with your precious data.