Genealogy is a fun and challenging activity. If you are just starting out in your genealogy journey, there are a few tips that you will find handy. In this article, we discuss how to start your search
If you are just beginning to research your family history, there is a lot of fun, sadness, frustration and triumph ahead of you. Hang on, as we outline the basics of starting your family history research.
Your first step should be to write down all that you can remember about yourself, your parents, brothers, sisters, children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and great-grandparents if you are able. This should include names, dates of birth, marriage, death, places in which they lived, occupations, schools they attended, whether they were in the military, and any other similar information you can think of.
As you record this information, be sure to keep it organized. If you don’t have a system for storing and looking up the information and sources you find, you will create headaches for yourself later. You will undoubtedly need to reference most of the records you uncover in your research, so save yourself headaches and get a system going for looking up all your family info.
Once you have recorded all the information you know, interview your family, asking the same information about them. Start with the oldest relative you can find. This first stage in your genealogy search is geared toward researching people who are still alive, including yourself. Many people think of genealogy research as learning about ancestors long deceased. This is indeed part of it, but in order to make the most of our research, we need to have a solid foundation. This foundation is a broad knowledge of our closest relatives.
The best way to collect information is with a healthy dose of skepticism of all facts you uncover. You should seek to prove all of your data with documentary evidence. This will make things much easier as you go along. Proving your ancestry provides you with solid direction, allowing you to spend your time researching people that are definitely part of your ancestry. Why waste time researching people that may not be related to you? Solid evidence saves you time in the long run.
Keep in mind that many types of documents can be used for genealogical purposes. Generally documents that were created close to the event they describe are the most accurate. For example, a death certificate is not usually an accurate record of birth information, as sometimes that information is provided by someone who does not remember the birth information of the deceased individual correctly.
After you have completed documenting all of your living relatives (for some people, this could take a long time), you can move on to your deceased relatives. Start with birth, death and marriage events, and try to find documentary sources for all the data you record. When possible, try to match the person up with pictures, stories, and other events from their lives, such as places they lived, friends they made, letters and diaries they wrote, occupations, clubs or organizations they were involved with.
The process can be tedious, or frustrating, but I believe that is one of the biggest reasons people embark on researching their families. Indeed you will run into many “Brick walls”, but that is just a part of your journey. If all of the information came easily, it wouldn’t be fun. I enjoy a good challenge, and researching my family provides just that, as well as the joy of learning about who you are and where you come from. If you are a new genealogist, you have much to look forward to, and many wonderful people to meet along the way. After you have been at it for awhile, you will begin to connect with relatives you didn’t know existed.
Good luck with your searching, and enjoy every minute of it!
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