View Full Version : Finding one's relatives in the US

13-01-11, 09:58
3517This question is more of general interest and not a question with an actual person to find.

I have noticed that many of you members are very, very good in the detective work finding immigrants and their decendants. Thus - my question is:

What is your recommendation to people that want to search for lost souls in USA and Canada?

Websites you use? What organizations to contact? Churches? Administration? What do you use to help tracking people? What should one avoid and why? Do you use records and websites outside the USA and Canada? Genealogy groups?

Karen Douglas
13-01-11, 15:47
Hi Haase,

In response to your question, I have several sources I use when trying to locate genealogical information on an individual. They include: Churches, Funeral homes, Scandinavian organizations in various cities - and Google.

Since each search is different, sometimes I have also contacted local libraries and museums in the city in which the unknown individual may have lived. Many of them have Archives or Local History rooms. I also use the State Library of Michigan, which houses City Directories, Telephone Books, and newspapers from every county in the state. Some of the information is available online.

Churches, however, seem to be the most helpful. To give you an example, several months ago I was trying to help an individual locate a relative. I was given a name; the city in which he lived; and the approximate time he lived there. I went to the city’s website and obtained the name of all the Lutheran churches in that area. Then, I went to each church website and read its history online. One seemed promising. I emailed the pastor of that congregation, telling him what I was trying to do. I asked him if I could come and view the old church records. He emailed me back immediately, telling me he, too, was interested in genealogy. To save me a six-hour drive back and forth across the state, he volunteered to go through the books himself and mail me copies of all the records. And he did! That was service above and beyond the call of ministerial duty! Thanks to him I was able to go on to obtain the naturalization records of the individual in question at the State Library.

Funeral homes have also been very helpful to me. A few months ago, I was given some names, the approximate Upper Peninsula of Michigan location of the family, and an approximate death date of one of the individuals. The churches I considered as possible resources did not have websites so email was out. I contacted one of the funeral homes in the area, asking if they perhaps handled the funeral service for the person in question. Two days later, a gentleman emailed me back with a "surprising" response. That funeral home had NOT handled the service, but he had gone on to find out which one DID - and provided me with the address and phone number! He also sent me two other addresses where I could obtain a copy of the obituary and other information about the family.

Hope this helps, and as always, I will be happy to try and assist anyone trying to locate family in Michigan.

Karen ☺

Karen Norwillo
13-01-11, 16:49
I do my initial research on Ancestry.com, then follow up with clues from there. I also have had good results using the Genweb for a particular state if known, ex. PAGenweb, Pennsylvania Genweb, then click on county, if known. They often have records that aren't on Ancestry. I use churches, local genealogy and historical sites, libraries, churches, RAOGK (Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness) I'm a member for my county, funeral homes, Find-a-Grave (lots of cemeteries on-line)

14-01-11, 09:05
Ok, your messages were clarifying, just the experience I'm looking for. I'm trying to get a grip on how you wonderful people do it, learn from you. The problem for a person over here is that many of us really have no clue of how everything is organized over there, what is where - and of course what is available on-line vs. what must be ordered and paid for.

If I look at the immigrant and ask what and how you do it when you are looking for the individual that is supposed to have emigrated from Finland and you want/need to track him/her to his/her arrival and thus "do the correct connection". - And of course the other way around - an individual arriving and you want to track his moves before he/she "settling down" and eventually even is found in a census. This seems to be tricky especially because of the name changes upon arrival in the US

What web sites and organizations, collections have you been using and getting the best results in these your hunts? How do these changed, anglified names in the records impact your detective work?

18-01-11, 13:09
One of the key issues that initial posters don't usually realize is the time frame in question.

Someone may ask about family in the USA or elsewhere, and that someone might be in Finland.

Often times, we are lost to figure out if they are looking for information from Finland or from the USA / Canada.

Even when someone asks for information or leads back to Finland, there is no information provided.

This is what I usually say to people: "sometimes, it is easier for us to work backwards, so please provide what you already do know".

It throws people off, but that is what we all do, work backwards.

Sites that I use are:

Institute of Migration / Siirtolaisuusinstituutti

For me, my specialty can be Washington State, so the digital archives are a must [too bad Oregon has not been proactive about this!]

I also use the Ellis Island site in conjunction with the Migration Institute, but it is only good for the lucky ones that actually came through Ellis Island.

Additional information is often found via the LDS church, but one must be creative in spelling sometimes.

I'm sure that there are several that I've forgotten, but someone else will probably think of it before me.

Great resources like our members here in the USA / Canada / Finland / Sweden and elsewhere are the most reliable for backup confirmation.

Karen Norwillo
18-01-11, 16:40
I agree with Ilmari. If I am lucky enough to find the person on the Migration List, I take my clue from their destination. Unfortunately, too many just say Amerikka or NY. Then I go to Ancestry or Ellis Island to find their arrival. That will usually give a more definitive destination. Then I will usually go to Ancestry for the census check, starting with the nearest census after their arrival. I will check with the Genweb for that state, historical and genealogical societies for that state, county. If the state is fortunate enough to have their vital records on-line, I check those. WA, MN, OH,MI are a few that have excellent records on-line. I agree with Ilmari again, most times it's best to work backwards from the present with the known and then follow the clues backwards. When posting a request, give all the absolute facts first and be specific as to what you are hoping to find. Deaths Certificates of Finns in various WA and OR counties is a wealth of info for that area.