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I am looking for information for the following surnames:


Tomlinson (my sister's married name)

I grew up on the east coast, and I think most, if not all, of my still living relatives probably still live in New Jersey or Pennsylvania. My family and I were never close (to say the very least), and I lost track of them years ago.

I am a neonate at genealogy, so please be understanding in feeding me any information you may have.

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Start by going to and start a tree (or two if these names are not connected by direct descendancy) using the latest person you know by each name as the "home person", then work backwards to see what comes up in terms of public records like census,SSDI, obituary, death records, birth certificates, immigration records,marriage records, draft registrations, military records. etc..

You will need to register at Ancestry to do this, but it will not require a paid membership. If you end up "hooked" and want to access the information available in online databases (ie, images of original census records, birth certificates, other member trees or One World Tree data) directly through, you will end up needing a paid membership. Some databases such as the Social Security Death Index can be accessed directly but I have found that using is the best way to at least get a good start. You can try the church resource, which will enable you to download some public records (ie here again, the SSDI) using the GEDCOM program, to access some compiled information which has been voluntarily submitted by LDS church members, and/or to find where this information is located on microfilm at the church's family history libraries. I actually started at and got as far as the SSDI, period, for the initial names I entered, so I went to and it was like discovering gold. Much more information is directly and easily accessible via at moderate cost for a paid membership ($20/mo for US records). I have used for about two years and have found that ultimately that $20/mo has saved me hundreds in allowing me to directly view/download public records I would normally have to pay to get a copy of, not to mention saved me time and money I would have spent on travel to search records in places like New Jersey and South Carolina.

Neither of the names you cite are unusual, just mentioning them here is not likely produce any information except where to go to find out more.

Another good place to look (although ultimately you'll end up being directed right back to are the State and County USGenweb sites. If the family names you are searching were prominant, and/or early settlers these county websites can provide histories and some biographies, but in any case they will refer you directly to the address(es) to which you may apply for the specific vital records you are searching. Here again, many of these public records are accessible online through; I personally exhaust the sources before paying to have any public record mailed to me, so I do not do this often.

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Idacat, I disagree with you on this. is not for the novice who is just starting out. It also costs.

For the novice they really need to start with the basics, to start at the beginning with your immediate family. Go here FamilySearch
at the left click on Family Group Sheet, then when it comes up, download the .pdf file. It will be a copy of a Family Group Sheet. Fill it out starting with your Father. Put in all the information you know. Now you need to get confirmation of that data.

You will need copies of marriage, birth, death, divorce certificates. Chances are your parents have them, now you just need to make copies of them. On the back of the copies, write where you got them from: Copy made from Mom's copy- __________(then date you made copy).

I scan all of my documents of proof into my computer. I have yet to learn how to transfer all this to my PAF program- but I do have it scanned to a folder labeled Genealogy Documents.

I have seen quiet a few computer Genealogy programs and I prefer PAF, mainly because it is FREE, it is LDS based and it is user friendly. - Family History and Genealogy Records You can download it from here. You will need to fill out this form first- but it is asking for nothing more than your name, and email address.

I can not stress enough the need to document all of your data. This comes because I have a cousin who went berserk and submitted nearly a thousand names to the Temple, and it turned out it wasn't even our family! I spent two years correcting my data base that she had entered in. Yes, I made the HUGE mistake of letting her download her Gedcom into my PAF-

Now, when I receive a Gedcom from a relative, I down load it into my Cousin PAF. This is a PAF program I have installed just for looking over the data without it going into my Certified PAF. IF their certifications prove to be correct, then I will transfer correct data into my Certified PAF. So on my computer I have two PAF programs. One labeled Cousins and the other labeled CERTIFIED. Once I have the data I want out of Cousins, I empty Cousins.

Back to the beginning- you are filling out Family Group Sheets- putting in everything you know about each member.

To help you with this, do a Time Line on each person. Start with yourself. Start with the year of your birth, then add each year to this year-2008. Now you want to write in special events, world events, etc. I put in the births, deaths, marriages of siblings, cousins, relatives. I also put in the Seattle Worlds Fair (I lived there, went to it), grammar school years Start/Finish, Jr.High start/finish, High School start/finish. I put in when I went to camp, vacations I took with relatives, baptism, etc.

Now do your Dads, Moms, siblings. Go on and do your Grandparents. A lot of this will be repetitions, put it in anyway. Put in the major wars too.

Also put in the city/states/countries where every one lived in the appropriate years.

I highlighted the census years. I only did the 10 year census'. 1880, 1890, 1900, 1910, etc. If a grandparent was born in 1865- then I did the first census of 1870.

Now, everything you have written down is considered Family Lore. Why? Because it was told to you. You may have been present when your baby brother was born, but it is still Family Lore. If you have a copy of his birth certificate- then you have Certified Data.

You will need to certify/prove all of the data you have. Your first step is your parents. Ask if they have copies of birth/death/marriage certificates. If they do, then make copies of them. On the back of your copies write that they are copies of copies, and the date you made the copies. I put my certificates into plastic sheet protectors (ones that are Archival approved) and then I scan them into my computer.

I have also scanned all of my Family Group Sheets into my computer too. If your Grandparents are alive, ask them if they have copies of birth/death/marriage certificates. Also take a stack of family group sheets with you when you ask, and sit there and fill out the forms with them. I also suggest you take a tape recorder, extra batteries, and extra tapes and tape the entire visit.

My Grandma was a fountain of Family Lore. If only I had taped her- but from what I could remember, I still was able to connect with some Aunts and Uncles, who gave me some more information (and copies of certificates) that allowed me to connect with cousins I didn't know existed!

The time line also gives you a better perspective of what was going on in your life, and the lives of your family/ancestors.

Keep your Time Line and your Family Group sheets together. Iggy's time line with Iggy's FGS and Dad, Mom, and siblings Time Lines. Dad's time line with his parents and siblings time lines and FGS, Mom's time line with her parents & siblings etc. Each group in it's separate folder. Not only the hard copies, but also on my computer.

I have everything put into my PAF - Personal Ancestor File - program. You can download that from here: - Family History and Genealogy Records
It is created by the LDS Church. I prefer it because it is FREE, it is LDS Based and it is extremely user FRIENDLY. I have seen many other genealogy computer programs, I have attempted to help friends and family with them, and I recommend that they all switch to PAF. Even my atheist cousin who is the source of all of my Mom's side of the family genealogy proven data, switched to PAF. He is 70 years old, has been doing genealogy only on an old computer for many, many years, and now prefers PAF.

You will need to fill out the registration. All they ask for is your name and email address.

Once you decide to download PAF, or any other genealogy program, I suggest that you go to the nearest Family History Center and talk with the Family History Consultant there. Take any classes they have- some may cost, but usually it isn't more than to cover the cost of making copies.

Read through the Family Search site. FamilySearch
Download the .pdf files.

Before you go to any other genealogy web site, start with the basics.

I know you said that you are an excommunicated member. The Family History Center is open to everyone. The Family History Consultant is there for everyone.

I want to stress again the need to verify all of your data. Here is a web site that pretty much explains why. -

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.............Idacat, I disagree with you on this. is not for the novice who is just starting out. It also costs.

For the novice they really need to start with the basics, to start at the beginning with your immediate family. Go here FamilySearch....................

I started with FamilySearch. That's how I ended up using Ancestry. I do the work on Ancestry, then print it out (group sheets and pdf's of hard records) from there. Using FamilySeaqrch I was able to access exactly.........SSDI records for the two generations preceding mine, with one of four grandparents being absent even from that, and those had to downloaded using GEDCOM rather than directly viewable.

You do need to be a paid Ancestry member to directly access and download hard records/documents. In the long run this $20/month has been much more efficient and economical for me, and I suspect for the majority, when you compare it to sending away to multiple agencies, states, cities, and counties and paying a fee for documents you can download in PDF form directly using Ancestry. Ancestry will also reference you to microfilmed records.

Not to mention the fact that has the potential of putting you in contact with others researching the same lines. For me this has been a journey of discovery and I am now active in the family associations of three of the lines from which I am descended.

I see, and the direct access of records in online databases (which have grown exponentially just in the years in which I've been doing genealogy) as the future of genealogy, and downloading reams of FGS's, penciling them in, then sending away to Morris County, or where ever, for a marriage certificate, or a probate record, etc., as the past.

As for a beginner, well, perhaps beginners should try each way for themselves, then decide. Personally I don't think there is much doubt, and I think that is fairly obvious in the difference needed to basically reach the same end given the "old" way and utilization of online databases via

I DO defintely agree about "family lore" even if there is no crazy cousin, but, unfortunately the history of LDS genealogy is littered with people whose sole goal was not "family history", but the mass gathering of names for temple work, giving LDS genealogy a pretty bad rep among serious genealogists. JMHO, it's up to "us" to change this.

Edited by Idacat

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