Tree of Life

What is the USBH Project and why should you care?

USBH stands for United States Black Heritage, a project on WikiTree. Its objectives are:

  • To collect in one place information and resources to assist in building and documenting African-American Genealogies.
  • To create the largest online public database of connected African-American families.
  • To bring together WikiTreers interested in connecting African-American families to the Global Family Tree.
  • To process all types of documents regarding free and enslaved ancestors with the goal of creating their profiles and connecting them to their descendants.
  • To provide and maintain a logical and organized structure to help individuals identify their ancestors and celebrate their history.
  • To improve all profiles of ancestors with Black heritage, which may include biography building, sourcing, and making correct connections.

It’s a sub-project under the United States Project and the Global Black Heritage Project. See the quarterly newsletter or USBH Project calendar for more information about activities and how to get involved.

Continue reading What is the USBH Project and why should you care?

How to find or confirm a last name at birth

A last name at birth (or LNAB) is the surname given to a child when they’re born and the culture you’re born into usually determines the name. In the US, England, and many places formerly colonized by England, your LNAB is usually your father’s surname even if your parents were not married at the time of your birth. In places formerly colonized by Spain, people generally have multiple surnames: one from their mother and one from their father. Puerto Ricans, for example, give children a first name + a middle name + the first surname of their father + the first surname of their mother. I’m going to be specifically writing about people named according to US convention, but the tips can also be applied to most “Commonwealth” countries.

If you just want the list of possible sources for someone’s LNAB, click here.

I usually have no idea what a person’s mother’s LNAB is when I first start out because I usually research people born before 1930 in the southern US. The earlier they were born, the more difficult it is to find the information. Before about 1920 many locations in the southern US didn’t create birth or death records and didn’t record the names of the parents on marriage records.

Sometimes you get lucky and there is a relative of the person living with the family in a census record. If it’s their father or a brother that’s easy. If it’s their mother you have to be careful to make sure she didn’t remarry. If it’s a sister you have to check to see if she’s single or not (though it’s possible the sister changed her name back to her LNAB after a particularly bad marriage).

After searching for census records, I search for the person’s death record (it’s not guaranteed to list the parents because it depends on the informant’s knowledge) followed by a U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index record (it usually lists the parents but can only be found on Ancestry or MyHeritage) and then search for an obituary. If I don’t have any success with either of those, I turn to records for the person’s children: the death record, the U.S. SSA Claims record, a marriage record. Sometimes there will be a birth record (Virginia and South Carolina in particular) or a christening record (Texas has a lot of these).

These tips can also be applied to those assigned male at birth. I’ve run into two instances so far when the LNAB of a male wasn’t clear. One example: I was creating the profile of a man on WikiTree based on his FindAGrave profile that read “Liddell Sanders”. When I did some research on him to find at least one other record, I discovered his obituary. It also used the name Liddell Sanders, but it listed his parents as Sonny Ashmore and Liddell S. Williams. I found a third record from the U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index on Ancestry and discovered that his mother’s LNAB was Sanders. It also recorded (male) Liddell’s actual LNAB as Ashmore. Liddell Ashmore changed his surname to Sanders sometime after he came of age but before he married.

Here is a list of sources that may record a LNAB in order of ease of access. Whether or not any of these types of records actually exist depends on the era the person you’re researching lived in and where they lived. FamilySearch offers free access (though some collections are only available to access from a Family History Library or Affiliate Library). Ancestry and MyHeritage require a paid subscription to access most records. and GenealogyBank require a paid subscription for all access unless you can use a free trial. Check your local library to see if they subscribe to a genealogical records website. Here in Michigan, I can obtain access to MyHeritage and other databases remotely through the Library of Michigan.

  1. Census records. Sometimes a male sibling, single female sibling, or the person’s father is living with their family. Their mother could also provide the LNAB, but she could have remarried so be mindful of that.
  2. Marriage records. It varies widely in the US by location and time period, but the names of the bride and groom’s parents can sometimes be found on marriage records. Caution: the surname of the bride on the record may not be their LNAB because they could have been previously married.
  3. A national death index. U.S. Social Security Death Index records don’t list parents.
  4. Their memorial. FindAGrave and BillionGraves both provide free access to memorials. Sometimes the memorial page will have a photograph of the actual plot and/or the person’s obituary (and the person’s LNAB).
  5. State/local death index. They don’t provide as much info as an actual death record, but they sometimes list parents.
  6. State/local death record. These aren’t guaranteed to have the information because sometimes the person giving the information for the record had no idea who the deceased’s parents were.
  7. Obituaries. You usually have to have a subscription somewhere to access the full-text of the obituary unless the person died after about 2005 (use a regular search engine in that case). The quality of the computer-generated summary varies. You don’t always need the obituary of the person, sometimes a sibling’s or parent’s works as well.
  8. Other national records. U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index records often lists parents but it can only be accessed via Ancestry or MyHeritage. (See note below.)
  9. Cemetery records.
  10. Birth index. They don’t provide as much info as an actual birth record, but they sometimes list parents.
  11. Birth record.
  12. Court and other legal records.

Note: FamilySearch has a collection (United States Social Security Numerical Identification Files) that includes U.S. SSA Claims information for people (and usually their parents’ names). It seems to be a new collection. I’ve only found one person in it whose SSA Claim record I also found on Ancestry. There wasn’t a result for this person’s sister who also had a SSA Claim record on Ancestry. The FamilySearch collection records include more info than the Ancestry ones such as previous residences.

Vintage Georgia postcard with the words "Greetings from Georgia" on it over an illustration of the state capitol. The words "Georgia" are decorated with illustrated scenes from the state.
“Greetings from Georgia..”

Georgia Genealogy Resources

I have a special interest in Georgia genealogy because my maternal grandmother was born in Georgia and, so far, her branch is the one I’ve been able to trace the farthest on my maternal side.


Image of books on a computer monitor

The American History and Genealogy Project: Georgia American History & Genealogy

This website contains information on Georgia’s history along with various Georgia records (births, deaths, marriages, censuses, etc.).

Image of books on a computer monitor

The Digital Library of Georgia

An initiative of the University of Georgia Libraries that has over 1,000 collections related to Georgia and Georgia history. The site also provides access to thousands of collections from partner institutions.

Image of books on a computer monitor

FamilySearch: Georgia Genealogy Resources

A list of collections, strategies, and other resources to aid your research from the FamilySearch wiki.

Image of books on a computer monitor

FamilySearch Digital Library: Georgia Genealogy Resources

The FamilySearch Digital Library is separate from the searchable records and wiki sections. Here are search results for the publicly available digital books and documents related to Georgia genealogy (over 40,000). You must be logged in to FamilySearch to view this page and some resources may only be viewed at a Family Search Center or Affiliate Library.

Image of books on a computer monitor

Lowcountry Africana

While most of the records on this website are related to South Carolina, it also covers Georgia and northern Florida. It focuses on people with Gullah-Geechee heritage. The site also contains research strategies and full-text historical texts.


4th and 5th great-grandparent possibilities (update)

Ancestry updated my ThruLines again, but decided to use different tree sources for the incorrect suggestions in it (the names and photos are different but they’re the same people as before). Rachel Flood Logan is new, but she’s set in someone’s tree as the mother of Andrew Logan (who is the father of my 2nd-great-grandfather Henry Logan’s enslaver Tyler Logan), so she’s not a match, either. You can’t reject a suggestion yet, but you can hide suggestions generated from a DNA match’s tree by hiding said match. I can’t find Hannah Trimble from the first screenshot so I can’t be sure how accurate the suggestion was, but I doubt it was at all. Hannah Trimble was probably set as Andrew Logan’s mother in someone’s tree.

ThruLines screenshot from 09/04/22
Screenshot of Ancestry ThruLines 4th and 5th grandparent suggestions for Miyako Jones with the eliminated people
Ancestry ThruLines possibilities for Miyako’s 4th and 5th great-grandparents with Andrew T. Logan, Nancy Ann Meriwether, Zachary Meriwether, and Jane Lewis eliminated from consideration.
ThruLines screenshot from 09/11/22
Ancestry ThruLines possibilities for Miyako’s 4th and 5th great-grandparents with Andrew Francis Logan, Francis Logan, Rachel Flood Logan, Ann Nancy Meriwether, Zachary Meriwether, and Jane Lewis eliminated from consideration.

Francis Logan is the father of Andrew Logan, by the way. If a suggestion is marked as “private” that means the tree it was generated from is private if the person was born or died a long time ago.

Ancestry also created a suggested ancestor chain from someone I actually share DNA with to the aunt of Tyler Logan (Rachel). And it’s wrong. The DNA match confused a black Caroline Meriwether with a white one. The white Caroline is the one related to Tyler Logan. ThruLines is only as good as the trees it uses to make suggestions. Also, the odds of me sharing DNA with a 6th cousin is extremely low.

The Harriet Newell in that chain is also wrong, but it’s using the Harriet from a different person’s tree than my DNA match (whose Harriet is correct). The other person confused black Harriet Alexander with white Harriet Newell. (One ancestor chain can be built from multiple trees.)

I don’t doubt that the DNA match and I are related, but I have no idea how at the moment. I can’t even determine which side of my family we’re related on because I can’t identify either of the DNA matches we share.

Ancestry ThruLines suggestion from a DNA match to Tyler Logan’s aunt Rachel Flood Logan.
Colorful plastic clamps
Photo created by jppi –

WikiTree Tools

I use several different tools when working on WikiTree profiles. Most are web browser extensions. I mainly use Chrome for working on WikiTree, but that’s primarily because I use Firefox for regular browsing and I’m a tab hoarder. Most of the below extensions are available for both Chrome and Firefox (and many Chrome plugins can be installed in Edge and Opera and some others). Here is a non-comprehensive list of WikiTree apps and browser extensions.

Browser Extensions

These are installed from your browser’s web store. See: Instructions for Firefox; Instructions for Chrome; Instructions for Safari.

  • The WikiTree Extension
    • This is a mega extension that combines the functionality of multiple other extensions (parts of WikiTree BEE, all of the WikiTree+ extension, all of WikiTree AGC, and parts of others). If you also have WikiTree BEE installed the duplicate features shouldn’t conflict with each other. I’m not sure about the others.
    • It’s currently available for Chrome and Firefox with a Safari version to come.
    • Note: it can’t create a new profile on WikiTree from a profile or record on another website. See WikiTree BEE or WikiTree Sourcer for that function.
  • WikiTree AGC
    • It cleans up profiles that were imported from a GEDCOM file (which is created by family tree software or by exporting your family tree from a website) and still has the “junk” in it. AGC stands for “Automatic GEDCOM Cleanup”.
    • Available for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.
  • WikiTree BEE
    • I primarily use it to auto-create WikiTree profile biographies from vital data (i.e. name, birthdate/birth place, parents, etc.) and to change the way profiles look. It can also:
      • Can use a record from FamilySearch, Ancestry, FindAGrave, and others (NOT a profile) to fill in fields on the WikiTree new profile page. (Chrome only)
      • Create citations for records from FamilySearch, Ancestry, and many other sites.
      • Can change the way profiles look to make them easier to work with (color-coding, child and sibling lists, etc.).
      • Adds a toolbar to the top of the profile with buttons for showing family timeline, ancestors, and more.
      • Adds a location helper (will color code and move to the top the ones that also match other relatives).
      • Adds a Google search box to the bottom of profiles.
      • Adds helpful buttons and boxes to the G2G forum pages.
    • Available for Chrome and Firefox.
  • WikiTree Sourcer
    • Automatically creates inline, narrative, and source citations from certain websites (I use it for FamilySearch and Ancestry). Can also:
      • Create a WikiTree table from a census record (Build Household Table).
      • Search for similar records on other sites when used on a record page.
      • Can create a WikiTree profile from a profile page on FamilySearch, Ancestry or FindMyPast, or from a record page on FamilySearch, Ancestry, FindMyPast, and others.
      • Can update the data on a WikiTree profile using data from a profile or record on another site (MergeEdit).
    • Available for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.
  • WikiTree X
    • Extracts data from profiles on other websites (FamilySearch, Ancestry, and several others) and automatically inserts it into the appropriate fields in the WikiTree profile creation form.
    • Only available for Chrome.
    • Note: no longer being maintained. WikiTree BEE and WikiTree Sourcer can also perform the same function, but not the same way.

WikiTree Apps

These are web apps that work in most (maybe every) web browsers.

  • Family Group: Gathers data for all of a person’s immediate family together on a color-coded and organized page including source lists and research notes. This helped me figure out that I had included a child twice in a family (he was recorded by two different names in censuses and Family Group made it easy to see there was no census overlap between them). You can also get to it by using the tree icon on the WikiTree BEE profile toolbar (it’s made by the creator of WikiTree BEE).
  • WikiTree+: A complex app/service with lots of features that differs from the standalone browser extension. It produces suggestions for profiles, analyses, reports, and has a robust search function. It can be used to find people who are missing parents, children, etc., display quality suggestions for the profiles that you manage, and much more.

Others (not WikiTree specific)

  • MyBib: Free Citation Generator
    • An extension that generates citations for webpages in a variety of styles (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc). Citations can be saved to a project.
    • Only available for Chrome, but there are a variety of similar plugins for other browsers.
  • tab2wiki
    • A web app that creates a wiki table from spreadsheet data. You can copy and paste data from Excel, Google Sheets, and others. It works for any site based on MediaWiki (the software that runs Wikipedia and the base of the software that runs WikiTree).
  • CSV to Wiki Table Converter
    • Similar to tab2Wiki but specifically for CSV data (various delimiters). It also has no wiki table display options (you can add them manually later).

Resource Suggestion

    This will close in 0 seconds

    Manage your cookie preferences.