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Step 2.    Decide what you want to learn and start your search

Choosing where to begin

Look at your charts to see what data is missing. If you like, use a highlighter to indicate the missing information. It could be part of a name, or a date or place of birth, marriage, or death. When you have decided what you would like to find out, prepare a research log on a separate form or within your genealogy program. Here is an example of an entry in a Research Log.


Click here for a blank Research Log.


Tip: It’s a good idea to look for more than one source for any piece of information. For example, if you find Great-Uncle John’s birth date is 12 June 1900 in a family Bible and on a birth certificate, you can be almost certain that it is correct.


Interviewing your family

Interviewing relatives is a good first step in finding out about family members. Prepare ahead of time a list of things you want to know, and try to ask open-ended questions. For example, “Did you go to school in Eagle Hill?” requires just a one-word answer: yes or no. “What was it like when you went to school at Blueberry Mountain?” is an open-ended question which requires more information.


Using an audio or video recorder is a very good way of getting a permanent record of people’s answers. Make sure to: ask permission; note the date, place, and names at the beginning of the recording; hold the interview in a quiet place.  Here are samples of questions you might like to ask.



Now make a list of some other questions that pertain to your family.



You may have relatives who can’t be interviewed in person and with whom you need to correspond by letter or e-mail. You may also need to write to repositories asking for information; these letters will be more businesslike in tone. General tips for correspondence are:



Example 1: Asking a relative for information

 (address and date, or e-mail header)

Dear Aunt Margaret,

As you may have heard, I am gathering family history information. I have some questions that I hope you can answer. My Dad always said that Grandfather Evan Jones came to Canada in 1890 to work in the coal mines. Do you know anything of his immigration, such as the name of the ship or the exact day that he came? Also, do you know if any others of his family came with him? Thanks very much for your help.



Example 2: Requesting information from Archives Canada

 (address and date, or e-mail header)

Library and Archives Canada
395 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0N4
Textual Records Reproduction Services Unit

Dear Sir or Madam,

In researching my family history I discovered a record on the Ingeneas database that refers to my ancestor, George Bridges. Could you please send me a copy of the following page: RG5 A 1, vol.156, p.85857, Reel C-6884 (Upper Canada Sundries, 1835, Civil Secretary’s Correspondence, England to Hamilton, passages at Prescott)? Enclosed is a cheque for the appropriate amount.


Gordon Jones


Using one of the above ideas, write a letter or message of your own requesting information about one of your ancestors.


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