Coast Live


Expert advice for tracing your family tree beyond DNA tests on Coast Live

Posted at 4:44 PM, Mar 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-07 16:44:40-05

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Recently retired librarian Trish Little Taylor has taught classes on genealogy and has been helping people trace their family history for many years and she is with us on Coast Live with some advice on how we can get started.  DNA testing is popular she says, but it only tells you where your family is from, no who they were.

Here are some tips from Trish... is probably one of the best known and most widely marketed web sites. There are over 16 billion records United States census records 1790 to 1940, Vital records for all fifty states, Military services records such as World War 1 Draft records, Immigration records, City directories and special collections. So for the newcomer to family history research this is a very comprehensive site. The down side is that it can also expensive for a personal subscription but by going to the local public library, the new researcher can use this resource for free. All of the Tidewater public libraries have the library edition which means the database must be accessed in the library with a valid library card.

HeritageQuest Online provides access to genealogical resources including United State Census, Freedman’s Bank Records, Revolutionary War Pension Records as well as access to indexed and scanned family history books. It is available in most of the area public libraries and while it can be accessed from home, it must be accessed by using a library card.

Family Search is a database created and for the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons). It has many of the same resources as Ancestry but it contains additional records.  There is also a section of scanned records that are waiting to be indexed.  These documents are searchable and you can download them. This tool can be used for free from home.

Find a Grave is a way lot locate the ancestor’s grave. By entering the family name you can locate other member of that family in that cemetery. There is a picture of the headstone and the grave stone.  Often the names of other families members will be listed along with their dates.

Library of Virginia is the holder of the public records of Virginia. If you are looking for wills, deeds, vital records, state and local newspapers, this is the place to go.  There are many digital databases which can be accessed from home. There is a fantastic digital collection of pictures. High school yearbooks from Portsmouth have just been added and are also available on the Portsmouth Public Library’s Local History website.

Your local library is one of the best for local history. There local resources such as newspapers, city directories, church histories and pamphlets for special ceremonies, and of course, books by local families on their ancestors. Also there are knowledgeable people who can assist the new researcher in the quest for family history.

    - Trish Little Taylor