Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Family History Month - Start at the Beginning

One of the many issues with the ability to open an account and start building your family tree online, is that this process completely negates the basic building blocks of genealogy research. We wouldn't read a book written by someone who had never learned grammar or spelling, so why do we think it is alright to pay attention to family trees built by people without learning the basic skills of genealogical research?

Start at the Beginning:

Start with yourself. Document everything you know - your full name, date and place of birth, date and place of baptism, where you went to school, where you worked. If you are married, document how you met, when and where you married. Who was in your wedding party, where you had your reception, honeymoon and any other details you can think of. Document your children - their birth dates, and places, weddings etc.

After you have exhausted all of the information for yourself, start working your way backwards - your parents, your siblings, your grandparents, their children etc.

Search One Line at a Time:

Stick with one line at a time. This will help you to stay focused and to ensure that you fill in as many details as possible. Once you have exhausted the line, move to the next line (generally spouse of the line you are pursuing)

Talk to Older Relatives:

Older relatives are a wealth of information, either first hand, or stories that have been passed down through the generations. Ask as many questions as you can. See the blog post on interviewing older relatives for what to ask and how.

Take Notes:

For all of the details of weddings, births, relationships/courtships, work, school etc, use the notes tab in your family history software

Use a Paper Form FIRST:

Even in this electronic age, paper is always best when starting your family tree. Have one family group record for each individual branch of your family (parents, children). Once you have collected all of the data on a paper record, you can start entering it into your software program.

Organize Your Research:

Start at the beginning and organize, organize, organize. Make file folders for each individual family and place the file folders in an expandable folder for each branch.

Cite your Sources:

Start right from the beginning to cite your sources. Document where you found the information, and where others can find the same information. List the name of the document, the website or archives that you recovered the document from, and any document number that is assigned to the document. Have this information on your paper record and in your software program.

Visit a Genealogy Society or Family History Library:

Genealogy is all about connecting. Connect with others through your local genealogy society or Family History Library. The volunteers there are ready and willing to help you. Take advantage of that. The societies often have workshops where you can meet with others and learn from experts. Take advantage of their large collections of documents,  files, obituaries, newspapers, cemetery records and all of the wonderful bits and pieces that they have to offer.

Search the Internet for Learning Opportunities:

Find webinars, workshops, conferences and choose as many as you can afford. Genealogists are great at sharing what they know and they want you to do well in your research. If you are able to attend a conference or workshop in person, do so. The connections you make through networking will be invaluable in your research.

Most of all, have fun.

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