Genealogy will tell you who is who, where your ancestors were born, when they died, who they married, their children, and who their parents are, etc. So ask yourself a few questions before getting started:
• Why do you want to know about your family?
• Do want to know about how your grandparents lived, or where they came from?
• Are there things you do today that is a result of what someone in your family tree did?
• Do you love hearing the family stories and want to know more?
• Would you want to pass down the stories you heard as a child?
• Do you look like one of your ancestors?
• Do you have someone famous in your family line?
• Have you considered the costs and time associated with doing genealogy research?
• Are there some family mysteries you want to learn more about?
• Do you know how to get started and stay organized?
• What will you do with the information once you find it?
If you are just getting started the best thing to do is start with yourself and work backwards. Write your name down, your birth date, place of birth, your parents name, their birthdates, places of birth, etc. Start writing down what you know and if you don’t know, who would know the information. Start making your notes and asking questions to older family members! Think about who your oldest living relative is and find out if they open to chat with you about some family details. Give them a call, today!
If you are going on the journey of genealogy research, you need to become organized. Tony Burroughs’s (Black Roots p. 44) says, “Once the genealogy bug bites you, it will become an all-encompassing monster.” You will become obsessed! You can’t stop. You will suffer from the disease called the “genealogy pox”! A good resource to check out is Angela Walton-Raji’s video called “The Beginning Genealogist” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSRL–on6gs&feature=related)
She hosts over 30 informative sessions to help you get started.
If you are not organized you will become frustrated and waste a lot of time duplicating your research efforts and become a collector of paper. Consider the following 10 tips to help you organize your time and files.
1. Get everything in one place. Have a designated place, whether that’s a binder, folder or a filing cabinet, or a box.
2. Start by grouping what information you have, by surname/family — it’s the most basic piece of information you can have about a family member, and provides a natural way to organize.
3. If you’ve already done a bit of research, you may want to start a separate folder or box for each surname/family. Make dividers/sections for family information, census records, vital statistic records (birth, death, will, and marriage), military service, and public records (tax, inventory and land).
4. Use the standard genealogical charts and forms, which will become essential in organizing names, dates, places, events, and tasks. Ancestory.com has free downloadable charts. (www.ancestry.com)
5. Set up a “to do list” and stick with it, include items such as:
• Contact list
• Document list
• To do list, calendar
• Family tree charts, group sheets, census
• Oral history interviews, notes, letters, and documents: birth, death, will & marriage
• Photos, drawings, maps and newspaper clippings
• Discrepancy list, note the questions you have
6. Prepare an outline when you are planning a research trip. It does not matter if you are going to a library, courthouse or historical society; try to stay focused. If you see other names or events you need to research further, make a note on a post-it, or add to the “to do list”- date it and cite the reference. This will allow you to find it at a later time.
• Try carrying a small notebook for each person
• Stick to your to do list
• Have only one surname at a time on the to do list-with your questions
• Do not try to analyze your information -take it home and read, sort, make notes
• Continue adding to your “to do list” for the person or family you are seeking.
• Mark off a “completion date” once you have accomplished the task
7. Join and participate in a local genealogy group or genealogical society
8. Attend genealogy training and conferences
9. Share your experiences, read genealogy blogs and articles
10. Ask for help when you need it…there might be other family members or researchers researching with the same questions.