The National Institute for Genealogical Studies


The National Institute for Genealogical Studies - LEADERS IN ONLINE GENEALOGY EDUCATION

Growing Your Genealogy Business

When, why, and how to grow your genealogy business are important questions to tackle. These questions may always be in the back of your mind, but unless you formally address them periodically, you may never take the necessary actions, or you may find your business growing in a way you do not like or are not prepared for. Some small business owners are content, and rightly so, with the size of their business, which suits them perfectly. Growing your business is not a requirement.


The bigger your business, the less personally involved you can be in all of its operations. Thus, a bigger business requires different ways of doing things, more structure, and organization.  As you grow your business consider:

  • creating a team  that can  give you valuable advice
  • hiring an assistant
  • committing to a growth strategy

Following good business administration practices as shown throughout the course, Business Skills: Business Administration will help you maintain an awareness of just where you stand and help you reach your goals.



Creation of Vital Records in the United States

Creation of Vital Records in the United States 

In order to understand where vital records can be found and what they can tell you about your ancestor, it’s important to understand a little history of these records. 

Birth Records 

Birth  records were slow to be brought into compliance within the states.  Some states were very slow to adopt the statewide recording for vital records.  Georgia and New Mexico were the last two states to adopt a statewide policy in  1919.  However, Texas took until 1933, to meet the 90% (of records being recorded) completeness standard.  

The  earliest birth records reflected the child’s name; that is if the child was named at the time of birth. It will include the names of the parents and the date of the child’s birth. It might also ask where the parent was born. If a baptismal record is located it will state the date of baptism in the church record, not the date of birth.

Marriage Records 

Marriage records are kept by the county in which the ceremony took place and typically by the state as well. If you have a copy of a marriage license application, note the questions answered. Consult the Red Book, found on the RootsWeb Wiki  for years when marriage records were kept by the county and state your ancestor lived in.

Used with permission Angela Rodesky

Divorce Records 

Some people feel that divorce records are a vital record but they are really a court record. However, they usually do contain vital record information that would be considered reliable, but in need of documentation. When doing family history research, this record should not be ignored as it might lead you to further research opportunities.

They Aren’t Perfect 

Are vital records perfect? No, realize that people can falsify records on purpose, as well as by accident. There are many reasons for having incorrect information on birth, marriage, and death records. What reasons would there be for incorrect information?  

  • A distraught spouse will respond incorrectly to a question; such as, “mother’s maiden name” either because they are guessing or just confused.  
  • A respondent may fail to fill-in “all of the blanks.” 
  • The clerk wrote the information incorrectly. 

It’s also very important to remember spelling does NOT count before about 1910! Think up every possible way one can spell a surname and use those variations when you search online databases.  

With our United States: Vital Records course you will learn more ways to view and access these vital records and more. Learn more about the course and register on our website. 

Understanding & Using US Vital Records

Understanding & Using US Vital Records  

Vital records are the most important documents needed as you begin to prove your family lineage. It is necessary to know when vital records started for the researcher’s place of interest because not every state began keeping records at the same time. The records created in the last century can provide detailed information about a person. Whether a birth, marriage or death record, all ask for the full name; date and place of birth; parents’ names; and in some instances, even more in-depth information about the person.

Used with permission Angela Rodesky


Most states were not instantly compliant in collecting vital record information. Many took years to come into compliance. Just because they started keeping records in 1910 does not mean they kept ALL records. Nor does it mean that ALL people were willing to have their vital information recorded.  

All vital records are not created equal! Success will depend on the time frame and the area you are searching. With our United States: Vital Records course, we will give you the tools needed to understand and use vital records.  

Know Your Evidence

Evidence is what we use to answer our research questions and establish conclusions. Once we have evaluated and analyzed the data we find in various sources we need to determine if the information helps to answer our research question. If it does, we use it as evidence to answer our question and support our conclusion. Evidence is classified as direct, indirect, or negative, and each type can be used to draw conclusions.

Direct evidence is that which completely answers the question. For example, if our question is “Who were John Smith’s parents?” and we find a church baptism record that states he was the “son of Ebenezer Smith and Mary Jones,” this would be direct evidence.

Indirect evidence is the complete opposite in that it doesn’t completely answer the question. For example, if our research question was “When was John Smith, son of Ebenezer Smith and Mary Jones, born?” and the same church baptism record only provides a baptism date, we could consider this indirect evidence. Although he would have needed to be born before that baptism date, the information does not provide his actual birth date.

Negative evidence is a situation where information does not exist where you expect to find it. For example, you have tracked a man in the census from 1880 through 1920, each time living in the same town in New York, but cannot locate him in that town come 1930. This absence of information could lend itself to the conclusion that the man died between the 1920 and 1930 censuses or that he relocated.

When assembling evidence to answer our research question, we tend to make assumptions based on the information we have collected, our general knowledge, and or research experience. Therefore, it is important to remember that we can make assumptions that are incorrect. That’s why we offer our Skill-Building: Breaking Down Brick Walls  course, to help you with your evidence and avoid brick walls.

Who’s the Informant?

Once we verify the type of source we are looking at we need to evaluate the information found in that source. Then, after all of the information we have obtained from our sources has been evaluated and analyzed, it becomes evidence to help answer a research question.

According to the Evidence Analysis Process Map, information is based on the informant’s knowledge of the event and whether that knowledge is primary, secondary, or undetermined.

Used with permission. Angela Rodesky.

Primary information is that which is provided by someone who participated or witnessed the event. For example, the marriage date on a marriage return completed by the officiant would be considered primary information, as the officiant was present and performed the ceremony.


Secondary information is that which is learned in a manner other than being a participant or witness to the event. For example, if a wife provides her husband’s birth information on his death certificate it is considered secondary information since she was not present at her husband’s birth.

Used with permission. Angela Rodesky.


Undetermined is when the informant is not identified. A common example is the information supplied for household members on the US Federal Census prior to 1940.

Evaluating and analyzing genealogical documents is a challenging task. But when we take the time to properly do it, we are able to correlate all of the information and use it as evidence. Our Skill-Building: Breaking Down Brick Walls course will give you the tools needed to accomplish this and more.

Genealogical Sources

Sources are the foundation of our research. They are the places from which we get information that provides evidence to form a conclusion. Examples of sources include, documents/records, books, photographs, artifacts, websites, newspapers, video or audio recorded interviews, and people. Sources are classified by type;  original, derivative, or authored.

Used with permission. Angela Rodesky.

Original sources are considered the first interaction of a record. For example, the first recording of a birth shortly after the birth occurs.

Derivative sources include transcriptions, abstracts, and translations. For example, using the birth record scenario above, if we requested this record from the county recorder’s office they may extract some of the information from the register and type it up on a certificate form. This certificate would be considered a derivative source since it was created based on the original register.

Authored sources are works that are created based on other sources and the author’s analysis of those sources. Sources such as family histories, local histories and case studies, would be considered authored sources.

Used with permission. Angela Rodesky.

While original sources are preferred, they are not always possible to obtain. It’s important to fully understand how to evaluate the sources used by family historians. Learn more about sources in our Skill-Building: Breaking Down Brick Walls  course.

Save on Eastern European Certificates


Ready to explore your Eastern European roots? Now’s the time to take advantage of our sale.

Get 20% off  any ONE Eastern European Packages including:

Eastern European Certificate in Genealogical Studies-40 Courses-Complete
Eastern European Certificate- Basic Level-9 Courses
Eastern European Certificate- Intermediate Level-9 Courses
Eastern European Certificate-Advanced Level-7 Courses
Eastern European Records- Complete-11 Courses
Eastern European Records- Basic Level-4 Courses
Eastern European Records- Intermediate Level-5 Courses
Eastern European Records-Advanced Level-2 Courses


Enter Code 20RT18EE at checkout. Save up to $570.00!


Hurry! This discount ends on August 26, 2018 at midnight (EDT). Only one discount code can be used per person.

SAVE on DNA Courses

“Dna” by dream designs/Courtesy

Ready to take the plunge into learning more about DNA? Now’s the time with The National Institute’s DNA courses. And we have a discount for you!

Hurry! This discount ends on August 26, 2018 at midnight (EDT). Only one discount code can be used per person.

How About A Discount?

Image courtesy of digitalart at


Louise is gone.

Well more accurately, she’s at the FGS Conference. So let’s give out some discounts for courses!

Genealogy courses + Discounts = More genealogy!

Let’s start with a few discounts for those of us who aren’t at FGS 2018.

Hurry! This discount ends on August 26, 2018 at midnight (EDT). Only one discount code can be used per person.

Your German Migrant Ancestor

Pens at Ellis Island, Main Hall. New York Public Library. Flickr the Commons.


By Jean Wilcox Hibben, PhD.

If your ancestor was an auswanderer – one who left the area now called Germany – with a group of other like-minded individuals, he/she was an emigrant and might be found in any number of locations.

You are probably already familiar with the phenomenon of “push-pull” when it comes to emigration/immigration. North America was hardly the only option for those seeking a better life. For some, it was a “stop along the way,” giving them a chance to perhaps make some money or reunite with family before traveling on to Canada and Nova Scotia, South and Central America, the West Indies, Asia, and even Africa. All of which eventually had German settlements. Possibly, after coming to North America, some of your ancestors elected to return to one of the ports of call along the way on their initial trip. But, of course, large numbers of German immigrants populated the big cities in Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois, Wisconsin, etc. And full colonies of Germans began to populate the Southern states, such as the Carolinas and Georgia, and throughout the Appalachian territory.[1]

In 1822, a German encyclopedia explained German emigration as follows (giving us a perspective of how this phenomenon was viewed in the first quarter of the 19th Century):

It was not overpopulation alone which was the essential cause of emigration, but rather the hopelessness that conditions would ever improve, the fear that still more adversity was approaching, and the total lack of trust in the government to provide any relief.[2]

In the approximately 40 years between the 1840s and 1880s, four million Germans emigrated to America and between the 1880s and the 1920s, another four million Austro-Hungarians joined them. The former group was fleeing recession and political unrest while the latter group departed to remove themselves from poverty and oppression. [3] So between the 1840s and the first quarter of the 20th century, Germans, or those from that general area of the world, contributed the largest number of immigrants to the American economy, workforce, and military.

For researchers in North America, there is a tendency to focus on Germans who settled in specific communities in most of the earliest states as well as the ones who gravitated towards the west, many making up some of the first residents in the most western territories and states. But Germans emigrated to other locations as well and your family research may need to include some of these places to find correlating lines, the location of departure for your North American German immigrants, or even living cousins who can provide needed family information. Unfortunately, passenger departure lists have not survived as well as the lists of arriving passengers in the port of disembarkation. Hamburg has the most complete departure lists, but, many found less strict port departures, such as LeHavre, to be preferable when leaving German communities. Many traveled a great distance to avoid the “red tape” involved in emigration, leaving from locations as far away as the Netherlands (Rotterdam) and Denmark (Copenhagen).[4] If you are fortunate enough to have found your ancestor on a passenger list as an immigrant, that document should identify the port from which the ship sailed, giving you a possibility of finding your ancestor listed on a departure list, if it survived. Keep in mind that as more people departed their home country, the information on the lists, as well as the requirements for emigration, became more detailed and strict.[5]

So when did the emigrants leave? Certain events caused the exodus to occur more heavily in some time periods than in others. To understand the timeline, it helps to understand those events:

  • From 1683 to 1820: destinations were North America, England, Scotland, Ireland, Southeastern Europe, and Russia. Following the Thirty Years’ War, Germans were affected by both religious persecution and economic stress making departure look like a better alternative.[6]
  • From 1820 to 1871: destinations varied and were caused by the continued economic issues as well as agricultural and occupational hardships. The government supported the exodus, especially by the poorer class, even though many left to evade military conscription.[7]
  • From 1871 to 1914: destinations varied. The German Empire had been formed and even more of the population evacuated, especially since the process of traveling to other countries had become less costly, even though the requirements to get permission to leave were more stringent (specifically in Hamburg).[8] Likely, communication from family and friends who had already made the journey enticed those who were feeling the financial stress “at home.”
  • From 1914 to 1945: in North America because of the passage of the Immigration Act of 1924 (limiting the influx of immigrants, including Europeans) into America, numbers were reduced.[9] While this did not have an immediate effect on immigration in other countries, it did change the destinations of many Germans. The desire was to escape the political situation and for those concerned about World War I many sought asylum in neutral or more politically favorable countries.[10]


**Excerpted from the course Germans Outside of Germany by Jean Wilcox Hibben, PhD.

[1] Marianne S. Wokeck, Trade in Strangers: The Beginnings of Mass Migration to North America, University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State Univ. Press, 1999, pp. 221-230.

[2] Allgemeinen Deutschen Real-Encyclopädie, as quoted in Sigrid Kiedel, Bremerhaven: Die Stadt am Meer, Edition Temmen, 1999 and reprinted in “Mischmasch,” Der Blumenbaum 20:4, April-May-June, 2003, p. 186.

[3] Richard L. Hooverson, “Musings and Gleanings,” Heritage Quest, May/June 2001, quoted in “America’s Melting Pot,” Der Blumenbaum, 20:4, April-May-June, 2003, p. 158

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] “Immigration Act of 1924,” Wikipedia ( accessed 6 June 2017).

[10] “Germany Emigration and Immigration,” FamilySearch Family History Research Wiki ( accessed 6 June 2017).

%d bloggers like this: