How To Get Started Researching Your Family Tree

If you want to branch out your family tree, look no further than your local library branch.

Your search to build out your family tree from twigs to trunk can be done with the Elkhart Public Library and your library card. To get started, utilize these resources. 

Collect what you already know

Before you start your research journey, take note of what you already know. Search your basement for records, ask your family about their knowledge of your ancestors, and collect this information in a central location. Something as simple as a name, date or city can be a start.

Now that you’re aware of the information already at your fingertips, you can broaden your search and use documents to corroborate stories that have been passed down through generations. 

Take advantage of librarian assisted research 

Reference librarians are here for you and love helping people find what they’re searching for. They can help refer you to resources and help you figure out where to go next. Reference librarians can also help you interpret what you find and piece together the puzzle. 

Visit Ancestry.com and other websites 

Head to one of our five branches to access Ancestry.com Library Edition for free. If you have an EPL library card, you can also access Heritage Quest in the library or from anywhere you like. These websites include lots of data like census records, military records, maps, photos, city directories, and much more. 

Other websites exist to help you build their family trees and can be accessed for free, like RootsWeb and USGenWeb Project. To learn about more genealogy research tools, visit our Digital Library page. 

Utilize local history resources

Yearbooks

Local yearbooks can’t be checked out, but are available upon request at our downtown location on the second floor. If your family doesn’t have local roots, libraries across the country keep records and yearbooks. 

Grave markers

Grave markers can help you uncover new facts about your ancestors like the cause of death, hobbies, details of military service, and more. 

City Directories

City directories can help you track your family from year to year. They’ll help you find addresses, occupations, marital status of your family members, and more. 

Birth and death certificates 

Birth and death records can help you learn more about your ancestors and the lives they led. For birth and death certificates, contact the Elkhart County Health Department’s vital records office, and for information about marriages and dissolutions, reach out to the Elkhart County clerk’s office. 

You can also take a look at the collection of records the Elkhart County Genealogical Society has published of numerous Elkhart County funeral homes. 

To get started, get a free Elkhart Public Library card. You’re eligible if you live inside the city limits of Elkhart or in Cleveland, Concord, or Osolo townships. Start the process on our website or stop by one of our locations. 

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