7 Creative Strategies for Researching Your Family Tree

Welcome to this blog post for the 22 Steps in Researching Your Family Tree

A year ago a study about ‘Largest-ever family tree’ was groundbreaking news and published in Science as researchers at the University of Oxford’s Big Data Institute created the largest-ever family tree. The study genetically linked more than 27 million people worldwide, both living and deceased. The family tree serves as a comprehensive map of human genetic relationships and helps to predict susceptibility to diseases such as COVID-19. The study’s innovative method matches data from multiple sources, incorporates millions of genetic sequences, and can even estimate when and where our ancestors lived. The map is not limited to humans and is valid for most living things, including orangutans and bacteria. The ultimate goal is to generate a single, unified map that explains the descent of all human genetic variation, making it a valuable resource for future research. This study is simply mind boggling and hard to wrap your head around the concept that we are all definitely related.

Imagine if your research could reach levels of this magnitude, it would be astronomical!

Americans are obsessed with genealogy, and this hobby has become a cultural phenomenon. What was once associated with Colonial Dames and retirees has become a mainstream interest, with genealogical subscription services and recreational DNA testing for ancestry now being big business.

In the past, lineage research has been seen as a tool to celebrate families, a means of enforcing higher social rank and even as a vehicle for racism. However, during the second half of the 20th century, the hobby began to shed some of that racism and nativism, and the pursuit of family history became the means by which a broader, multicultural swath of Americans could understand themselves and their ancestors.

With the rise of technology, genealogical subscription services and DNA testing, and popular TV shows such as “Who Do You Think You Are?” and “Finding Your Roots,” Americans have become a nation of archaeologists, excavating the past to better understand themselves. Americans look for their family histories because they are natural storytellers and want to know how their past fits into the narratives of their lives. They also want to see if there is precedent for their talents, and they hope that the past can elucidate the present.

Additionally, at present, the COVID-19 pandemic is fuelling even more desire to search, pointing to an upsurge in adoptees and others seeking their genetic kin. Americans may also be searching out of a sense of rootlessness, as time and assimilation have stripped their families of customs, language, and foods of the past. African Americans may be blocked from knowledge of the past by the paucity of records about their enslaved ancestors.

In short, Americans are invested in genealogy to better understand themselves and their past, which they hope will provide them with guidance and reassurance for the present and the future.

Are you ready to indulge in your genealogical research to new levels?

Genealogy research can be both fascinating and challenging, especially when searching for long lost ancestors. It requires a combination of patience, persistence, and creativity. Fortunately, there are various strategies that can help in the process of tracing your family tree.

In this article, we will explore seven creative research strategies to use when researching your family tree, including leveraging social media, searching for alternative name spellings, and DNA testing. We will also look at the benefits of digging into local history, joining genealogy societies, consulting with professional genealogists, and utilizing online resources.

These strategies can help you overcome common research obstacles and uncover new insights about your family history.

Researching your family tree can be a rewarding and exciting journey, but it can also be overwhelming and frustrating at times. If you’re struggling to find information about your ancestors, it may be time to try some creative research strategies.

‘7 Creative Research Strategies’

You can use when researching your family tree to find long lost ancestors…

1. Start With What You Know

Begin by compiling a list of all the names, dates, and places you already know about your family members. Ask your living relatives to provide any information they have and try to piece together a timeline of your family history. This can include any family stories, old photos, documents such as birth, marriage, and death certificates, or any other records that you may have. Organize this information in a systematic manner, such as creating a family tree or timeline, to help you see gaps in your knowledge.

Once you have compiled all available information, make a list of questions that you still need answers to. This can include specific dates, locations, and events that you would like to know more about. This will help guide your research and give you a clear idea of what information you need to find.

Next, verify the information you have collected through other sources. This can include online genealogy databases, census records, military records, church archives, and more. Be sure to cross-reference your findings with multiple sources to ensure their accuracy.

Finally, use the information you have gathered to create a research plan. Determine which resources you will need to access, and in what order, to fill in the gaps in your knowledge. This may involve visiting local archives or libraries, reaching out to distant relatives, or even traveling to the places where your ancestors lived.

By starting with what you know, verifying your findings, and creating a solid research plan, you can increase your chances of discovering long-lost ancestors and uncovering new information about your family tree.

2. Expand Your Search Beyond Online Databases

While online databases can be a great starting point, don’t limit your research to just what you find online. Visit local libraries, archives, and historical societies in the areas where your ancestors lived. They may have unique resources and documents that aren’t available online.

  1. Attend Family Reunions: Family reunions are great opportunities to meet relatives and extended family members who may have information about your ancestors. You can also learn about family traditions, customs, and stories that can help you understand your family history.
  2. Join Online Genealogy Forums: There are many online genealogy forums and discussion groups that cater to specific family surnames or geographic regions. Joining these forums can help you connect with other researchers who may have information about your long-lost ancestors.
  3. DNA Testing: DNA testing can help you identify relatives and ancestors who may not be included in your family tree. By taking a DNA test, you can learn about your ethnic origins, find distant cousins, and confirm relationships with other family members.
  4. Social Media: Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter can be useful tools for connecting with distant relatives and finding new leads. Join genealogy groups on Facebook, tweet about your research, and use hashtags to help others find you.
  5. Newspaper Archives: Newspaper archives are a great resource for finding obituaries, birth announcements, and other family-related news. Check local newspapers from the area where your ancestors lived to find information about them.
  6. Local Historical Societies: Local historical societies can be a great resource for finding information about your ancestors. Many societies have archives and collections of old photographs, documents, and other records that can help you piece together your family history.
  7. Public Libraries: Public libraries are a great resource for finding genealogical information. Many libraries have local history rooms and genealogy sections that contain books, microfilm, and other resources that can help you research your family tree.

3. Leverage Social Media

Use social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to connect with distant relatives and potential sources of information. Join groups focused on genealogy or specific locations to find others who may be researching the same ancestors or have information to share. Expanding on the strategy of leveraging social media for family tree research, there are several ways to effectively use platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to connect with distant relatives and potential sources of information:

  1. Join genealogy and location-based groups: Join groups focused on genealogy or specific locations related to your family history. This will enable you to connect with others who may be researching the same ancestors or have information to share. You can share your research and ask for advice, or simply browse through the group’s archives for useful information.
  2. Utilize search functions: Use the search functions on social media platforms to search for keywords related to your family history. You may find individuals who share the same surname or have connections to specific locations related to your family history.
  3. Reach out to distant relatives: Use social media platforms to connect with distant relatives who may have information about your family history. Even if you have lost touch with them, social media can provide a way to reconnect and gather valuable information.
  4. Follow genealogy and history-related pages: Follow pages on social media that share information about genealogy and history. These pages may provide tips and resources for your research, as well as information about upcoming events or seminars related to family history.
  5. Use hashtags: Utilize hashtags related to your family history and genealogy research to connect with others who are interested in the same topics. You may find others who are researching the same ancestors or have information to share.
  6. Engage with others: Engage with others on social media by commenting on posts, asking questions, and sharing your own research. This will help you to build connections and may lead to valuable information or advice.

Overall, leveraging social media can be a valuable strategy for researching your family tree and finding long-lost ancestors. By utilizing search functions, joining groups, reaching out to distant relatives, and engaging with others, you can connect with individuals who may have valuable information to share and further your research.

4. Search For Alternative Name Spellings

Names were often misspelled or changed over time, so try searching for alternative spellings of surnames or first names. Use wildcard searches or Soundex searches to broaden your search. When researching your family tree, it is crucial to keep in mind that names were often misspelled or changed over time, making it difficult to find your long-lost ancestors. One strategy to overcome this challenge is to search for alternative name spellings.

Here are some tips on how to search for alternative name spellings:

  1. Check for misspellings: Misspellings can occur due to clerical errors or a lack of standardization of spelling in earlier times. When searching for ancestors, try searching for common misspellings of names.
  2. Look for variations: Variations can occur when people anglicized or changed their names when they migrated to a new country. For example, a surname like “Schmidt” may have been changed to “Smith” in America. Try searching for different variations of the name, and you might find new information.
  3. Consider Soundex searches: Soundex is a system that converts names to a code based on the way they sound, rather than how they are spelled. It can be helpful when searching for names that have been misspelled, changed, or otherwise altered. Most genealogy websites have a Soundex search option.
  4. Use wildcard searches: Wildcard searches can help you find names that have variations in spelling or are misspelled. A wildcard character is a symbol that represents one or more letters in a name. For example, if you’re searching for the surname “McDonald,” you can use the wildcard symbol (*) to search for variations like “McDonnell,” “MacDonald,” or “McDonal.”
  5. Explore alternate first names: It is also common for ancestors to use different variations of their first names. For instance, someone named William might have gone by Bill, Billy, Will, or Willy. Consider searching for your ancestor’s name using all possible variations to maximize your chances of finding them.

In conclusion, searching for alternative name spellings can help you overcome the challenge of misspelled or changed names when researching your family tree. By being creative and using various search techniques, you can expand your search and uncover new information about your ancestors.

5. Dig Into Local History

Look for information on your ancestors in local newspapers, city directories, and other historical records. This can help you understand the context of their lives and may lead to new leads and discoveries. When researching your family tree, it can be helpful to dig into the local history of the areas where your ancestors lived. This can provide valuable context for their lives and help you uncover new information.

One way to start your search is to look for local newspapers from the time period your ancestors lived in the area. These newspapers may contain obituaries, wedding announcements, or other articles that mention your ancestors or their relatives. Some newspapers may also have archives that can be accessed online or through local libraries or historical societies.

Another useful resource for local history is city directories. These directories list the names and addresses of residents in a given area and can provide valuable information about your ancestors’ occupations, where they lived, and who their neighbours were. City directories can often be found online through genealogy websites or through local libraries and historical societies.

In addition to newspapers and city directories, there are many other historical records that can provide valuable insights into your ancestors’ lives. For example, property records can help you determine where your ancestors lived and who their neighbours were. Court records may contain information about legal disputes, criminal cases, or other matters involving your ancestors.

Finally, consider reaching out to local historical societies or genealogy groups in the areas where your ancestors lived. These groups may have access to additional resources or information that can help you in your search. They may also be able to connect you with other researchers who are working on similar family trees, allowing you to share information and insights.

6. DNA Testing

DNA testing can help you discover new branches of your family tree and connect with living relatives. Consider taking a DNA test and exploring the results to see if any new connections or matches appear.

DNA testing has become a popular tool for genealogists seeking to expand their family tree. By analyzing a person’s DNA, testing services can identify potential matches with other individuals who share genetic markers. This can lead to the discovery of previously unknown relatives and help fill in missing branches of a family tree.

There are several different types of DNA tests available, including autosomal DNA, Y-DNA, and mitochondrial DNA testing. Autosomal DNA testing is the most common type and can be used to identify matches across both maternal and paternal lines. Y-DNA testing is used specifically to trace the paternal line, while mitochondrial DNA testing traces the maternal line.

DNA testing can be particularly useful for individuals who have hit a roadblock in their research or have limited information on their ancestors. For example, if you are unsure of your biological father’s identity or are adopted, DNA testing can help you connect with potential relatives and uncover new information about your family history.

In addition to identifying potential matches, DNA testing can also provide insight into a person’s ethnic background and ancestral origins. This can help individuals better understand their family’s cultural heritage and historical context.

It’s important to note that DNA testing should not be the only method of research used when exploring family history. It should be used in conjunction with other research methods, such as those mentioned above, to corroborate information and avoid jumping to incorrect conclusions.

Overall, DNA testing can be a powerful tool for expanding your family tree and uncovering new information about your ancestors. If you are interested in exploring this option, it’s important to do your research and choose a reputable testing service that prioritizes privacy and accuracy.

7. Joining a Genealogy Society

One of the main benefits of joining a genealogy society is the access to resources. Many societies have their own research libraries, collections of records and documents, and online databases that members can use for free or at a reduced cost. These resources can include census records, cemetery records, obituaries, and local histories, among other things. In addition, many genealogy societies have partnerships with other organizations that can provide even more resources.

Another benefit of joining a genealogy society is the opportunity to attend events and workshops. These events can include lectures by experts in the field, workshops on research techniques, and field trips to historical sites and archives. Attending these events can help you learn new research skills and techniques, as well as connect with other researchers who share your interests.

Finally, joining a genealogy society can provide you with access to experts in the field who can help guide your research. Many societies have volunteers who are experienced genealogists and who are available to answer questions and provide guidance to members. These experts can help you with everything from deciphering difficult handwriting to breaking down brick walls in your research.

In conclusion, joining a genealogy society can be a valuable tool in your search for long lost ancestors. The resources, events, and experts available through these organizations can provide you with new leads and connections to help you build your family tree.

Abraham Uses the 7 Strategies

Abraham had always been fascinated by his family’s history. He had heard stories from his grandparents and other relatives about their ancestors, but he wanted to know more. He decided to embark on a journey to trace his family tree and discover more about his roots.

As he started his research, he quickly realized that it was not an easy task. He was faced with missing records, conflicting information, and dead ends. However, he was determined to persevere and use all the available tools at his disposal to uncover the hidden stories of his ancestors.

Abraham began his research by talking to his family members and collecting as much information as possible. He then turned to online genealogy databases to look for records such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, and census records. However, he often encountered missing or incomplete records, so he turned to his second strategy.

He decided to dig into local history by visiting the towns and cities where his ancestors had lived. He went to local libraries, historical societies, and archives to look for local newspapers, city directories, and other historical records. This helped him understand the context of his ancestors’ lives and often led to new leads and discoveries.

Abraham also joined genealogy societies to gain access to resources, events, and experts in the field. These organizations provided him with access to databases and resources that he could not find elsewhere. He also found support and guidance from other genealogy enthusiasts who shared his passion for family history research.

To expand his search, Abraham leveraged social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. He joined groups focused on genealogy and specific locations to find others who may be researching the same ancestors or have information to share. This helped him connect with distant relatives and potential sources of information.

Abraham also searched for alternative name spellings. He realized that names were often misspelled or changed over time, so he used wildcard searches or soundex searches to broaden his search. This led him to previously undiscovered records and helped him piece together missing parts of his family tree.

Finally, Abraham took a DNA test and explored the results to see if any new connections or matches appeared. This helped him discover new branches of his family tree and connect with living relatives he never knew existed.

Through his perseverance and use of these seven strategies, Abraham was able to uncover previously unknown stories about his family’s history. He discovered relatives he never knew existed, learned about the struggles and triumphs of his ancestors, and gained a deeper appreciation for his family’s heritage.


Tracing your family tree can be an exciting and rewarding journey, but it can also be a challenging and time-consuming process. The key to success lies in approaching your research with a combination of persistence and creativity, as well as utilizing various resources and strategies. The seven creative research strategies outlined in this article can provide a useful starting point for anyone looking to expand their family tree research. By leveraging social media, exploring local history, and joining genealogy societies, among other approaches, you can increase your chances of uncovering valuable information about your ancestors and their lives. With dedication and the right research strategies, you may be surprised by the discoveries you make about your family’s past.

What will you discover in your research?

Good luck on your genealogy journey! Hope you come back later to check out other blog article posts that may be of interest to you : )


In closing this blog post, if you have any questions, comments, feedback or would like to suggest any improvements, please don’t hesitate to send me a message or email. I value your input and appreciate your support in helping me to create more helpful and informative content for aspiring genealogists. Thank you for following along on this journey, and I wish you the best of luck in your own genealogical research.

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Published by Darrell Gibbs

A father of three children and five grandchildren who retired in 2015 and began a career as a non-fiction writer in genealogy resource ebooks for new family historians. Aspiring towards the future as a Historical Fiction Author of his premier book "Wessex Reign".

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