Finding Your Ancestral Village: Strategies and Tools to Pinpoint Your Family’s Place of Origin

Most genealogists hope to “cross the pond” as quickly as possible—but to do that, you need to know the name of the town or village where your ancestor lived. This course will teach you how identify your ancestor’s place of origin, show you the key tools you need to do so and give you an overview of the factors that likely influenced an immigrant’s decision to leave home. Each of the four lessons includes an assignment designed to help you progress in tracking the ancestral village of your immigrant ancestor.


  • Key immigration time periods and the factors that influenced immigrants to leave their homelands
  • Historical geography, how outside forces influenced place name changes, and terms you need to know
  • How ethnicity and religion can help you track your ancestor
  • Key tools for locating your ancestral town, such as atlases, gazetteers, maps and online resources


$99.99 ($89.99 for VIP)

Course Length:

4 Weeks


Lisa A. Alzo

Start Date:

There are no sessions currently scheduled for this course. It is available as an Independent Study course, and as part of the Immigration Master Class course.



  • To succeed in this class, you should have already identified which ancestor immigrated. If you haven’t yet determined the immigrant generation in your family, consider taking the previous course in this series, Tracing Immigrants.
  • This course assumes you understand the basics principles of genealogy and have done some investigation into your family history. If you are a total beginner, consider taking the Discover Your Family Tree course before enrolling in this class.


Lesson 1: US Immigration History

  • Periods of immigration
    • Before 1790
    • 1790-1820
    • 1880-1930
  • Why our ancestors immigrated
    • Push factors
    • Pull factors
  • Quiz

Lesson 2: Finding a Town Name

  • Before you begin: key research principles
    • Three keys to success
    • The genealogy research cycle
  • Sources to check
    • Home sources
    • Vital records
    • US censuses
    • Naturalization records and passenger lists
    • Obituaries
    • Military records
    • Social Security
  • Additional tips and strategies
  • Exercise

Lesson 3: Hurdles of Historical Geography

  • Place-based terminology
    • Challenge #1: Is your place actually a town?
    • Key terms to know
    • Resources to research jurisdictions in your ancestral country
  • Language and spelling stumbling blocks
    • Challenge #2: How do you spell that?
    • Resources to resolve mispellings
  • Boundary changes
    • Challenge #3: Where was the town when your ancestor lived there?
    • Study the history of the area
    • Learn alternate names
  • Exercise

Lesson 4: Locating Your Ancestral Town

  • Gazetteers
  • Mapping Resources
  • Exercise

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