Diving into Your Family History: Tips and Tricks

Dear followers and fellow family history researchers,

I’m pleased to offer you a second blog post in my series of posts that provide a few tips, tricks, and other information that I hope will be helpful for those who are interested in discovering their family histories.

Today I went to the Mennonite Heritage Museum because my grandparents and great-grandparents were Mennonite, and I had a few questions about where my ancestors grew up that I couldn’t find answers to on the internet. The ladies I talked to there passed on these tips, and I thought I would pass them onto you as well.

1. Know your geography

If any other cultural group is similar to the Mennonite cultural group, you may find that there will several places across the globe that have the same name. For example, today I learned that there are at least a dozen cities with the name “Reinfeld” across the globe (at least two in Russia, and one in Saskatchewan, Canada). Knowing the city in the right country your ancestors spent time in is a good place to start and will avoid headache and confusion later on.

2. Carefully consider the information provided in obituaries

While I highly doubt family members would purposely print false information about where a loved one grew up or spent time, sometimes the information about geography printed in an obituary is not entirely correct or complete because family members may not realize that there are more than one cities named Reinfeld, Russia, to take the above example. It’s just another thing to keep in mind while doing your research.

3. Be wary of common names

If you have any Dutch or Mennonite heritage, you likely have someone in your family line with the name “John”. What I learned today though is that there can be up to five generations with the same first name! And furthermore, because healthcare for pregnant mothers and newborns was not nearly as advanced in the late 19th to early 20th century as it is today and infant mortality rates were significantly higher, sometimes families would have multiple children of the same gender given the same name who would pass away in infancy or childhood because they really wanted to have a child with that particular name. This would explain why you may find multiple “Mary”s or “Peter”s all in the same generation in the same family.

Here are also a short list of resources or places I would check out as you continue to work on your own family history project:

  • If you know your cultural heritage, look up if there’s a museum about it. I cannot stress the importance of visiting a museum and talking to the people who work there enough! They have a wealth of information and also have access to different records and books and genealogy software for your use and are very helpful! If there is a museum about your cultural heritage but not within a reasonable driving distance for you, perhaps their website may have some information, or at the very least a contact name and email address for you to get in touch with if you have questions.
  • If you have any Mennonite heritage like me, check these websites out!

All the best with your projects!




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