Back to Basics: Getting Started in Family History Webinar Weekend - July 24-26

Back to Basics: Getting Started in Family History Webinar Weekend - July 24-26

Our second webinar weekend in July starts this Friday with the Getting Started in Family History 12-class series by Cheri Hudson Passey. Six of these are existing classes from the library being made free for the entire weekend. And six of the classes are brand new being released for the first time. Each of these classes is 15-20 minutes long.

All the classes will be available from Friday, July 24 through Sunday, July 26, 2020 by going to This is your chance to learn how to uncover your family history! Already a genealogist? Share the link with your family and friends and help them catch the genealogy bug too!

Getting Started in Family History by Cheri Hudson Passey

Getting Started in Family History - 1 - Home Sources

The best way to get started in family history is to discover the items you already have in your house. This first class will teach you what to look for that you don't realize you already have.

Getting Started in Family History - 2 - Forms

Forms are one of the tools that help you keep track of your family information as your gather it. Learn what forms to use and best practices for filling them in.

Getting Started in Family History - 3 - Family Stories

One of the greatest sources of clues when getting started in family history is to draw on the stories passed down through your family. Learn how to find these stories and what to do with them.

Getting Started in Family History - 4 - Documents

In part 4 of our Getting Started in Family History series, we take a look at documents and how to find them.

Getting Started in Family History - 5 - Vital Records

In part 5 of our Getting Started in Family History series, we take a look at vital records and how to find them.

Getting Started in Family History - 6 - Census Records

In part 6 of our Getting Started in Family History series, we take a look at census records and how to use them.

Getting Started in Family History - 7 - Cemetery and Church Records

Learn how to make the most of church and cemetery records as you begin your genealogy search.

Getting Started in Family History - 8 - Online Research: Finding family on the Internet

Learn how to search digital records online to uncover your family history.

Getting Started in Family History - 9 - Researching On Location

Not everything is found online! Learn where to look for records that are kept locally or in special collections.

Getting Started in Family History - 10 - Research Plans and Logs

Learn what genealogy research plans and logs are and how they can help you keep track your research.

Getting Started in Family History - 11 - Staying Organized

The best way to ensure success in genealogy is to stay organized. Learn how to organize your paper files, computer files, books and much more!

Getting Started in Family History - 12 - Avoiding Mistakes

There are some common mistakes that beginners make when starting genealogy research. This webinar lists the most commone ones and how to overcome them.


View all of these classes July 24-26, 2020 for free at



5 Ways to Find Out Your Grandparents' Names

5 Ways to Find Out Your Grandparent's Names

Unless you are a genealogist or were very close to your grandparents, there's a good chance you don't know your grandparents' names. Surveys have shown that many Americans don't know who their grandparents were. If you are older when you start your family history journey you might not have family to ask. Here are five easy ways to find out your grandparents' names which will help to begin your family history journey.

1. Grandparent's obituary

If you don't know your grandparent's name, how on earth are you supposed to find their obituary?  Easy, depending on the date, it's very likely that either your parent(s) or you yourself are named in the obituary. Search Google for your parent's name and the word obituary. Any obituary that they are listed in should turn up in a Google search. If your mother's parents died before the 1980s and you are having trouble locating an obituary try searching for the more traditional Mrs. plus the husband's name (ie. Mrs. John Smith). If no obituary turns up in Google, try a newspaper research site such, or the newspaper search on (Please note that these sites are subscription based.)

2. Parent's marriage certificate

You parent's marriage certificate might name both the parent's of your father and your mother. Unfortunatley, this is not consistent in all states in the United States. If you don't have a copy of your parent's marriage certificate, you can write and request it. You'll need to know the location they were married. In most cases in the United States you will write to the county for a copy of the marriage certificate. But if your parents were married in New England then you'll need to write to Town Hall. Do a Google search for Vital Records for the town or county. The government office will then provide instructions for how to obtain a copy of the certificate.

3. Parent's marriage announcement

There's a good chance that even without your parent's marriage certificate you can locate a copy of their marriage announcement. Most couples through the years have listed engagement or wedding announcements in the newspaper. Most marriage announcements list the names of the parents for the bride and the groom. You can try a Google search but in this case you'll probably want to try the newspaper sites (listed above) directly.

4. Parent's death certificate

If you've had a parent die, his or her parent's names will be listed on death certificate if known. You can request a copy of your parent's death certificate from the government office in the location where your parent died. As mentioned before this will most likely be a county office, unless you they died in New England and then you would write to the Town Hall.

5. Social Security Application

When a person applies for a social security card, the name of both their mother and father is included. While it's not likely that you have a copy of your parents' social security card applications lying around, you can apply for the information. You can make an online request for the original application of a deceased person through the Freedom of Information ACT.  

Bonus - Parent's birth certificate

The vital records - birth, marriage and death certificates - are all important sources for discovering your roots. Your parent's birth certificate, just like their marriage and death certificates, will provide information about who their parents were. The exception to that is if your parent's were adopted. In that case, depending on individual state law, the information may not be available to you. Contact the government offices where your mother and father were born for details about how to get copies of their birth certificates.

What to do next

After you discover your grandparents' names you will be curious about the rest of your family history! The next step is accessing U.S. Federal Census records to start building your family tree. Depending on the age of your parents, you will look for your parents or grandparents in the 1940 U.S. Federal Census. There you will find either your parents or your grandparents or both. Families are shown as a whole - both parents and children - and that's how you'll know you have the right family. From there you will use the U.S. Federal Census to go back in time (by 10 years each time) and as you do you will discover your grandparents as children in the household of their parents. From this you will discover your great grandparents' names! 

Learn more about getting started in Family History Research by watching the six-part Legacy Family Tree Webinars Getting Started in Family History series.


Marian Pierre-Louis is a genealogy professional who specializes in educational outreach through webinars, internet broadcasts and video. Her areas of expertise include house history research, southern New England research and solving brick walls. Marian is the Online Education Producer for Legacy Family Tree Webinars where she produces online genealogy education classes. Check out her webinars in the Legacy library.

Tuesday's Tip - Options: General Settings (Beginner)

TT - Options - General Settings

Tuesday's Tips provide brief how-to's to help you learn to use the Legacy Family Tree software with new tricks and techniques.

Options: General Settings (Beginner)

In Customize Legacy we went over some general information about the Options menu. Today we are going to look at the specific options in Options > Customize > 1. General Settings.

1.1 Program Startup (gbl)

1.1 Program Startup (gbl)
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This controls what happens when you start Legacy. The Splash Screen is simply the Legacy logo that displays until the file has been fully loaded. It lets you know that something is happening.

The Starting View is which view Legacy will open to. This is a simple drop down box where you can choose. Since I normally work off of the Family View that is how I have mine set.

Family View


1.2 Starting Family File
If you have more than one file you need to tell Legacy which one you want it to open when you start up the program. You have three choices. You can see that I have mine set so that it automatically opens the last file I was working with. You can tell Legacy to prompt you with a list of files to choose from each time you open the program. Or, you can tell Legacy to always open a specific file.

1.2 Starting Family File (gbl)
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If I click the down arrow next to Always open this file you can see that I have 3 files to choose from plus an "Other Files" folder that has a lot more. It will always open up to the folder that you have set as your default (another setting we will be getting to!)

Michele's Files
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1.3 Starting Family (gbl)
So far I have told Legacy which file I want to automatically open and I have told it which View I prefer. Now I am going to tell Legacy which PERSON I want it to open to. You can see that I have it set so Legacy will go back to where I left off.

1.3 Starting Family (gbl)
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Some people prefer to start off with a specific couple each time, usually yourself. If you choose to Display Preferred startup family you still need to tell Legacy who that startup family is.  You do this on the main ribbon at Options > Set Startup Family. When you click this icon you will be given two options. You can use the current couple on your screen or you can select from the Name List.

Set Startup Family
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1.4 Starting Ribbon Tab (gbl)
There might be one toolbar that you use more than the others so you will probably want it to be the default starting toolbar. You can see that I have chosen My Toolbar which I have customized to have the icons I use most. You can also select Start with ribbon minimized which will give you more screen space for the family information that is being displayed. I like having the ribbon displayed so I don't have this checked.

1.4 Starting Ribbon Tab (gbl)
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1.5 Tagging Options (gbl)
This is where you turn Tagging on or off. Tagging is VERY important to me so you can see that I have Tagging turned on.

1.5 Tagging Options (gbl)
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You can specify which Tags you want to display on the Name/Search Lists. I have it set to show all 9 Tags. When you click Tags to Show on Name List you get this dialog box. You can show all 9 Tags or show only 3 tags. If you choose 3 you can tell Legacy which 3 you want to see.

Select Tags to Show
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1.6 Show Popup ToolTips (gbl)

1.6 Show Popup ToolTips (gbl)
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There are two different kinds of popup tips. You will see these when you mouse over something. Tooltips popup on Legacy features to give you a hint about that feature and Quick Name Lists pop up when you hover over a person's name. Here is an example of each. The first is an example of a Tooltip and the second is an example of a Quick Name List.

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Quick Name List
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I have ToolTips turned off because I don't need them but I have Quick Name Lists turned on because this is a great shortcut so that you don't have to click on another screen for the information.


1.7 Popup Information Boxes (gbl)
This option goes along with Option 1.6. 1.7 controls HOW these boxes pop up. I have mine set to pop up simply by hovering the mouse cursor over the spot where I want more info and it will pop up after 1/2 of a second.

1.7 Popup Information Boxes (gbl)
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1.8 FamilySearch (ff)
Checking this box turns on the syncing arrows that you see on the Family View and the Pedigree View.

1.8 FamilySearch (ff)
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If you have this turned off you will still have access to all of the other FamilySearch tools. Here is what it looks like on the Family View. Since both of my arrows are green this person is in sync. For more information about how to work with FamilySearch please see our FamilySearch Training.



1.9 LDS (ff)

If you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and you do Ordinance work for your ancestors, you will want to turn this on. I am not a member of the LDS Church so I don't have it checked.

1.9 LDS (ff)
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If you click the Set LDS Options button you can customize how things are displayed on your screens.

1.9 LDS (ff)
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We have covered every option under 1. General Settings. Next time we will go through 2. Data Entry.


Find tech tips every day in the Facebook Legacy User Group. The group is free and is available to anyone with a Facebook account.

For video tech tips check out the Legacy Quick Tips page.  These short videos will make it easy for you to learn all sort of fun and interesting ways to look at your genealogy research.

Michele Simmons Lewis, CG® is part of the Legacy Family Tree team at MyHeritage. She handles the enhancement suggestions that come in from our users as well as writing for Legacy News. You can usually find her hanging out on the Legacy User Group Facebook page answering questions and posting tips.

Finding Genealogy Clues in Coroner’s Records

Did your ancestor meet a tragic or untimely death? Perhaps you tracked down his or her death certificate and it included a notation about an autopsy, and/or a medical certificate of death, with the signature of a coroner or medical examiner.

Death certificates are staples of genealogy research, but many times there is more to the story. Coroners investigated all types of unexplained deaths from drug overdoses to drownings, mishaps to murders, making their records useful for learning more about an ancestor.

A coroner is a public official whose primary function is to investigate by inquest any death thought to be of other than natural causes or occur under unusual circumstances. Sometimes an elected position, the Office of the Coroner dates back to the Anglo-Saxon Common Law system of government, making it the oldest administrative office. This is sometimes an elected position, and the individual may not have a medical background. The powers and responsibilities have changed over the years.

In general, coroners look at all available information to determine the cause of death (natural or not), decide whether to order a post-mortem examination (autopsy) if there are questions around the cause of death, and hold an inquest if the post-mortem shows the death was due to something other than natural causes. The purpose of an inquest is to find out the facts not for judging who was to blame. In many areas, the Office of the Coroner was abolished and replaced with the office of the Medical Examiner. Medical Examiners are appointed to their position and almost always are physicians (learn more here).

Bain News Service, Publisher. Coroner Israel L. Feinberg. , . [No Date Recorded on Caption Card] Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, (Accessed May 08, 2017.)


In addition to detailing specifics about an ancestor’s demise, coroner's records can also reveal plenty of genealogy research clues. Typically, a coroner used a standard pre-printed form. The contents and format will vary by locality and time period may include some or all of the following:

Inquest form (details on deceased). If the coroner determined the cause of death was criminal negligence or murder, he held an inquest.
• Testimony/ies: During an inquest, the court appointed jurors and called witnesses to testify.
• Affidavit (testimony/deposition). Some of these witnesses may have been relatives, and in addition to their names and relationships to the deceased, the records might include their addresses.
• Postmortem findings (autopsies).
• Necrology report; Pathology Report, Toxicology Report
• Proof of identity

How to Locate Coroner’s Records

Coroner and medical examiner files generally are open to the public. If the ones you need are not, family history research may be a legitimate reason for access (check the local laws). Here are a few suggestions for starting your search.

First, check home and family sources (documents, photographs, etc.) and ask relatives if they can remember details about any unusual or suspicious deaths.

A quick Google search on the county and state, plus “coroner case files” or “coroner records” will usually turn up a website for the coroner or medical examiner office in the jurisdiction where the death occurred. Use online databases provided by the county or other government office. Sites such as Cyndi’s List and USGenWeb are also great resources for finding other websites. Also, the Online Searchable Death Indexes and Records site by Joe Beine offers a quick glance at different types of death records available online for free or in subscription databases. The site is organized by state and under Indiana has a link the Monroe County Indiana Obituary Index, which includes a downloadable PDF file of The Monroe County Coroner’s Reports (1896 – 1935) in a summarized table format. Below is a sample page.

[Image courtesy of Monroe County Public Libary; accessed 17 May 2019]

For older records, consider searching at state, regional, local or university libraries and repositories, or genealogical and historical societies. For example, I have had success with locating coroner case files for several ancestors in the Allegheny County Coroner Case Files housed at the University of Pittsburgh. You can view samples of their case files here.

Also, consult the FamilySearch Wiki online (do a keyword search for “Coroner’s Records”) to find digitized records now available online, or links to other FamilySearch Historical Records Published Collections. And don’t forget to check the Family History Library (FHL) catalog for microfilm available for viewing at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City (do a place search for the locality and look under vital records. For example, this digitized image from Coroner's records, Waterbury District, 1917-1931 (New Haven, Connecticut) on Family Search offers details about Irving Webster, who died on 1 January 1931 in New Hartford, from “a saw wound of the skull by being struck by a flying fragment of a circular saw.”

[Image credit: FamilySearch <accessed 17 May 2019>.


Scour historical newspapers for articles about your ancestor. Check websites such as to learn about disasters or tragic events, or search for blogs that discuss murder, suicides and other suspicious deaths in a locality. Google Books can turn up unusual record sets or books. For example, I found an eBook History of Pittsburgh & Environs and in it there is a photograph of, Samuel L. Jamison the Coroner for Allegheny County in Pittsburgh, whose signature appears on reports I located for two separate ancestors.

Researching Coroner's records may take some extra time and effort, but if you are lucky to find a file or report for your ancestor, there may be useful genealogy clues included to help you solve some of those family history mysteries.

To learn more about this record set, you may wish to check out my webinar on “Cause of Death: Using Coroner's Records for Genealogy” (available for subscribers in the Legacy Family Tree Webinars Library).


For over two decades, author and instructor Lisa A. Alzo has been educating and inspiring genealogists around the world to research and write about their ancestors. She has presented 45 webinars for Legacy Family Tree Webinars. Lisa coaches aspiring family history writers through her online courses at Research, Write, Connect



Maximize Your Immigration Research with MyHeritage

Passenger lists provide genealogists with key information about an ancestor's arrival in the New World. Once located, these records can help us discover an immigrant’s original name and potentially assist with determining an immigrant's place of origin.

The MyHeritage Immigration & Travel Collection includes passenger arrival records, naturalization records, border crossings, emigration records, passports, and convict transportation records. You will need a subscription or free 14-day trial to view your search results.

I started working on my genealogy in 1989 to learn more about my maternal grandmother, Verona Straka, and eventually published her story in my book Three Slovak Women. My early research involved family documents and interviews with my mother. My mother shared a story about how my grandmother was detained at Ellis Island for health reasons and almost did not make it into the United States.

At that time, I had no documentation to prove this story. In the old days of genealogy research (before online databases), obtaining a ship's manifest required a several step process of submitting forms to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. I did eventually track down the passenger list showing my grandmother's arrival in New York on 8 August 1922. There was a notation "hospital discharged" above her name, which meant she had spent time in the Ellis Island hospital upon arrival, and confirmed what my mother told me.

One of the benefits of indexed online immigration records is the possibility of more than one type of record turning up in the search results. So even if you have located the manifest for your ancestor through correspondence (as I did), via microfilm, or by using free sites such as The Statue of Liberty Foundation Ellis Island Database, FamilySearch, or subscription websites, it is worth searching for your ancestor’s name in all available immigration record collections.

The New York Passenger Lists on

I typed my grandmother's name into the "Ellis Island and Other New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957" database collection on, and found her arrival record listed on the first page of results. This database contains over 113+ million records. My grandmother arrived in 1922 and the manifest spanned two pages consisting of 33 columns. MyHeritage has also indexed the answers to two vital supplemental questions: The name and address of the relative or friend whom they were joining in the USA (added to the form in 1897) and the name and address of their closest relative or friend in their home country (added in 1907), yielding an additional 26.6 million names to this database (see the post "New: Ellis Island and other New York Passenger Lists" from November 2017 on the MyHeritage Blog for details). So be sure to look for your ancestor’s name in these columns too. With a different search, I found my paternal grandfather listed as the "Relative joined in the U.S." on the 1920 passenger manifest for his sister. This is a great way to perform cluster and collateral searches.


Another benefit of searching for New York passenger lists on MyHeritage is being able to view a two-page manifest such as the one listing my grandmother as one whole image and not have to move forward or backward to see each individual page as with other databases (MyHeritage took the 2.2 million paired images and married the pages together resulting in 1.1 million stitched images). To learn more about this particular indexing project, watch the free Legacy Family Tree webinar “Find Your Immigrant Ancestors AND Their Relatives in the NY Passenger Arrival Records” by Mike Mansfield.


One More Result: My Favorite Ancestor Find

In addition to the main arrival record I located for my grandmother, one of the results returned was for a Record of Detained Alien Passengers for the Orduna, arriving in New York on 8 August 1922. This record is my favorite ancestor find because it not only confirmed a family story, but also gave me additional insights into the immigration experience of my maternal grandmother.

In her article "A Guide to Interpreting Passenger List Annotations" Marian L. Smith, Historian, U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, explains the purpose of the Record of Detained Aliens form:  "Passenger list annotations from the early 1890's indicate that some immigrants were held or detained for further questioning, but there are no additional records on the microfilm about the detained immigrants. Beginning in 1903, at New York (Ellis Island), new forms came to be filed with each manifest and bound in the manifest volumes. One of these is the list or Record of Detained Aliens. Information on the record helps to clarify why a given immigrant was detained, how long they remained in detention, and how the case was resolved."  An electronic version of this article is found on the JewishGen website.

When I viewed The Record of Detained Alien Passengers for the Orduna, my grandmother's name was listed along with her cause of detention (Hosp. on arrival), the date and time of her discharge, and her next of kin, "Mother, Maria, 129 Crawford St. Duquesne, PA.” The “next of kin” information is actually incorrect as Maria was my grandmother’s sister, the mother of her niece, also named “Maria Straka” who traveled with my grandmother and also appears on the main passenger list. Passenger lists were prepared at the port of departure. The wrongly noted “next of kin” information” offers a good example of why we should always carefully evaluate any record we obtain about an ancestor.


Searching Other Ports

If your searches in the New York database collection are unsuccessful, you may be looking in records for the wrong port. While millions of immigrants arrived in the United States at the port of New York between 1820 and 1957, it is quite possible your ancestor landed elsewhere. The Immigration collection on MyHeritage also includes searchable indexes and/or records for the ports of Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, and Atlantic and Gulf Ports, as well as other collections such as Port of New York, Index to Discharged or Deserted Crew, 1917-1957, and United States Passport Applications, 1795-1925. For tips on immigration research, watch the free Legacy webinar "Following Your Family's Immigration Trail on MyHeritage."

Of course, your mileage and search success with immigration records may vary. But, as with any genealogy site, you should keep checking MyHeritage for new and updated database collections. You never know where you will find that new clue about an immigrant ancestor.


For over two decades, author and instructor Lisa A. Alzo has been educating and inspiring genealogists around the world to research and write about their ancestors. She has presented 44 webinars for Legacy Family Tree Webinars, include nine on Writing and Publishing. Lisa coaches aspiring family history writers through her online courses at Research, Write, Connect 


More "Bonus" Webinars - Getting Started in Family History Series cont. by Cheri Hudson Passey

More "Bonus" Webinars - Getting Started in Family History Series cont. by Cheri Hudson Passey

This Friday we have some extra bonus webinars for our members!   Enjoy the next three parts of a new series for absolute beginners by Cheri Hudson Passey. If you have family members that show a hint of interest in family history but haven't gotten started yet, this is the series for them. These classes are also shorter than our normal webinars, ranging from 15-29 minutes. If you're not a member, remember the webinar previews are always free.

Getting Started in Family History - 4 - Documents

In part 4 of our Getting Started in Family History series, we take a look at documents and how to find them.

Getting Started in Family History - 4 - Documents



Getting Started in Family History - 5 - Vital Records

In part 5 of our Getting Started in Family History series, we take a look at vital records and how to find them.

Getting Started in Family History - 5 - Vital Records




Getting Started in Family History - 6 - Census Records

In part 6 of our Getting Started in Family History series, we take a look at census records and how to use them.

Getting Started in Family History - 6 - Census Records



About the Presenter

Cheri Hudson PasseyCheri Hudson Passey is a Professional Genealogist, Instructor, Writer, and Speaker. She is the owner of Carolina Girl Genealogy, LLC which provides research services as well as instruction and coaching through her Genealogy 1-on-1 classes. She is a graduate of ProGen 25. Cheri writes the Modus Operandi column for Going In-Depth Magazine and is the host of the weekly genealogy chat show GenFriends.She also is an instructor with The In-depth Genealogist Academy. Cheri enjoys volunteering and serving the genealogy community. She is a former President of The Grand Strand Genealogy Club and currently serves as Program Chair. She also volunteers on committees for the Association of Professional Genealogists and the Federation of Genealogical Societies.

See all webinars by Cheri Hudson Passey in the Legacy library.

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