Pt 1 Ancestry Research

How to Begin Genealogy Research

    1. Decide what you want to know. Start with a simple chart of parents, grandparents, etc. You can download free, printable charts and trees to use, or you can opt for a software program like Family Tree which simplifies and develops your tree, helping you to note discrepancies in dates, duplicate individuals, and so on. In my next post, I’ll provide a list of links to websites specializing in family history and genealogical research.
    2. Find out what has been done already. Ask relatives if anyone has worked on the family tree; if so, ask for a copy and talk with the researcher. Go online and look for other family trees for your specific family. You’d be surprised what you can find that can be invaluable.
    3. Envision the overall research project. Do you just want a family tree of your surname? Or do you want to know about people in all the lines–your father and your mother and their parents and their grandparents, etc. Do you want to flesh out stories and facts to make your history come alive? What is your purpose?
    4. Consider possible end products. For example, creating a tree at and sharing with others; writing an entire family history; applying for membership in the DAR/SAR (Daughters of the American Revolution/Sons)?
    5. Make a list of necessary equipment, people, and materials. Computer with internet access, paper and pens, etc. Are there family journals or certificates or pictures that can be sources of information and inspiration? Will you involve family?
    6. Estimate how long your project will take. I went into this blind. I just wanted to know who my people were and how they fit in the fabric of America and the world. I had no idea I’d still be searching some 40 years later, with over 16K people in my family tree.
    7. Make a sequence of tasks and list when you will need to complete them. If that works for you, use it. I simply choose a person or a surname line and pursue that as far back as I can, gathering primary and secondary sources and verifying info as I go.
    8. Estimate the costs. You can do a terrific project for the cost of pen, paper, and a few other items; or you can go whole hog by hiring a professional to do it all. That last eliminates the fun of it.
    9. Identify and contact possible sources of funding. Relatives, friends?
    10. Conduct background research. See earlier steps.
    11. Conduct primary source research. I’ll explain the difference between primary and secondary in my next post.
    12. Periodically review what you have found, where you are in your budgeting of time and funds.
    13. Keep citation information, and file everything. This can make or break your project. Having information is great, but being able to locate it when you want it is the gold.
    14. Evaluate. When you hit a brick wall, try maneuvering over or around it. More on this later.
    15. Create an end product. It can be a couple of pages with names, birth and death dates and places or a 300-page book, or anything in between.
    16. Store your primary sources and a copy of your end product archivally. More later.

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