Easy Steps to Start Your Genealogy
Genealogy, often misspelled as ,
is the study of someone's heritage and recording their lineage. Researching your
ancestry is detective work. Finding that one source that helps us go one generation
deeper, or helps to uncover a new family fact is very rewarding. To get started
with discovering your heritage, follow these steps:
Start with what You Know
Record important information for yourself, your parents, and siblings. This includes:
birth, marriage, death, graduations, military service, residence, stories, pictures,
and everything that can be found. The next steps are to organize, analyze, and assemble
all the documents and family facts. This can be overwhelming, especially as you
start to add more information and more family members. Genealogy programs are great
with organizing information. They allow users to attach documents and media files
to multiple people, and they make it easy to change and add information to your
Interview Your Relatives
As a next step, reach out to relatives. Parents and grandparents are often helpful
with heritage and folklore. Interview all your living relatives. Talking with aunts,
uncles, cousins, and close friends can produce pictures, documents, and stories.
Not only will you learn about your ancestors, but you may learn something new about
your living relatives.
When you speak with each person, it is important to ask questions that don’t
just focus on when and where births and deaths occurred. Try learning more than
just dates and places. Find out about the personalities of your ancestors, and what
their lives were like. It is important to relax and take time when interviewing
relatives to learn as much as possible.
Gather Family Genealogy Details
You may or may not have relatives that can help with your heritage quest. Even
if you do, how much do they remember? What do they have to share? Don't rely
solely on stories. Genealogists should back up their ancestry with documents to
support their heritage. Find various like: social security, death records, census records,
obituaries, birth announcements, family letters, wills, etc. Start your to build a reliable tree. Using a variety
of sources helps to build a solid family history.
Although scouring the Internet can be a fast way to find data, the information
turned up may not always be the most reliable. Beware of databases, indexes, trees
and documents that are found on the internet. Verify all documents that are not
original sources, before adding them to a family tree. Sources that are not original
may have errors as the person doing the copying and typing can make mistakes.
Record Relationships and Kinship
Finding the right historical records to establish biological kinship is essential
to building a reliable family tree. Ideally original records are the best, since
the data within those sources are not tampered with and you can see the details
first-hand. Finding vital documents, and last will and testaments usually contain
the most reliable family history information. This is because these types of documents
contain facts that are recorded by someone with first-hand knowledge, which tends
to be accurate.
Finding facts through websites and databases where the information is transcribed
from original document should be used with caution, as errors can and do occur while
copying data. Genealogists must skillfully assemble their findings and analyze the
data for evidence in order to build a case of identity and kinship for the people
listed in their tree to create a cohesive family genealogy.
Through your research, you may find someone that claims they are a relative. If
you desire to meet them, be careful and conduct a people search to make sure they do not
have a criminal record.
Get Organized, Stay Focused
Create a task list for your family genealogy. Add as much detail as possible with
what is known and what has already been tried. Research takes many years and there
will be times you get busy with other things and your hobby will be put on the back
burner. If you created and maintained a task and research list it will be easy to
pick up where you left off; it will save you from redoing research that was already
When planning a trip to a historical society or library find out as much as possible
before making the trip. Know the hours of operation, what records they have, and
plan for what you want to accomplish. Time might be limited so make the most out
of your visit. When looking through books and films, take the time to record everything,
stay organized, and stay focused. Upon returning home, you will be better prepared
to analyze and evaluate the data.
We all run into issues where we need to reference the original document and if
the data gathered doesn’t make sense, what is copied may end up as erroneous
data. Worse than that, is if you get home and try to sort through your notes and
copies, and can’t make heads or tails of the information, the time and money
spent might not yield the same results as being organized and staying focused. Building
a solid family genealogy with sources requires many hours of research. Some search
efforts will help further your genealogy and some will not. Documenting all findings,
whether successful or not, will help to pave new search ideas as well as keep you
from doing the same research again in the future.
Share with Family
Keep your relatives up to date on all of your discoveries by sharing your results
through an online genealogy tree. As you add new details, it may help jog the memories
of your relatives to uncover and fill in missing family history information.