Where do you start?
Genealogy is like a big Jigsaw Puzzle! If you don’t put the pieces together correctly, you’ll never see the full picture. So where do you start? This is the most common question asked. The answer is start with yourself and work backwards. Don’t get tempted to skip a few generations and run the risk of researching the wrong line. It’s better to be methodical and approach your research step by step. That way, you’ve less likely to research someone who isn’t your relative.
A simple but effective way to research your immediate generation is to construct a chart of your family as far as you can go. Then interview and ask your relatives, especially parents and grandparents to fill in the gaps and add more information. This will kick start your research and probably provide about 100 years of history. Be sure to document this well. In particular, identify each person with personal information such as the following:
- Important dates such as their birth, death and marriage (if applicable)
- Their occupation and interests
- Their relationship to other members of the family
- Their birthplace address and other places of residence
To make this task easier, download a free Pedigree Chart and Family Work Group Sheet here! http://www.genealogy4beginners.com/
- A Pedigree Chart allows you to list your pedigree such as your parents, grandparents, great grandparents and so on.
- A Family Work Group Sheet allows you to record the information of your entire family.
You need to print multiple copies of the above charts. Purchase a 3 ring binder to store the information. The charts will save you a heap of time and effort because it organizes your information in an orderly and simple format. You will soon notice what important information is missing and what is incomplete. Don’t worry this is perfectly normal. This is where the fun begins as you begin to research more carefully. Organizing your information this way will help you avoid the pitfalls that most people face. It will help you establish the proper groundwork. Take small steps; don’t go too far back yet. Be very sure about the information you have before you take the next step. Otherwise, you will end up researching the wrong ancestor. I recommend you document all your research so that you don’t go over old ground.
So, how do you fill in the gaps from your charts? I suggest you circle any missing information to highlight the gaps. As already mentioned you start with yourself and work backwards. You should bring together and document your own life first. Gather any records such as education, photographs, birth certificates, marriage, journals, and family bibles and so on. Then do the same thing for your parents, grandparents etc. All these documents could be a great source of information, providing important dates of events, places of residence, occupations and so on. It will bring your family history alive. If you’re visiting relative’s homes, be sensitive to their feelings and respectful. Ask permission to obtain copies of any documents, such as wills, Birth, Death and Marriage certificates. Official documents are a great source of information. They provide names, dates, places and information about other relatives. Involve them in your project. Explain you are personally interested in their personal history and tracing your roots.
Family documents, photographs and other documents can provide valuable information and point you to the right direction in your research. Often photos and documents have dates and places written on the back of them. This can guide you to where to search for official records. Open your mind; often deceased ancestors have left many sources of information such as scrap books, old family bibles, wills, Birth, death & marriage certificates, letters, postcards, journals, military records, Biographies and so much more.
As you speak to your family find out where relatives were married and buried. Churches and Cemeteries can be a good source of information. When visiting the cemetery photograph the tomb stones of your relatives. They usually provide accurate dates and sometimes may reveal names of relatives you never knew existed. Often family members are buried in the same plot or nearby. Nearby unmarked graves may indicate children that died in their infancy? Contact the cemetery administrators for more information.
Summary of sources to research:
- Birth, Death & Marriage Certificates
- Family Bibles
- School Reports
- Scrap Books
- Military Records
Be patient, persistent and don’t completely rely on people’s memories. They can be inaccurate. The most reliable information comes from primary official sources, but you should have an open mind. You never know where you could pick up a lead. Keep all information no matter how insignificant it may seem. Often a piece of information that doesn’t initially fit makes perfect sense later when new pieces of information become available. Then the jigsaw puzzle begins to reveal its full picture. Finally, be organized and keep detailed accurate records.
Your next step will be to utilize community, state, national and worldwide resources. If you need help and want to save a lot of time and money check out my Genealogy Starter E-Book. It contains valuable information on how to start your Family History, outlines a 5 step quick guide, reviews the best internet sites, shows you where to get free Computer Genealogy Software and outlines numerous resources worldwide to do your research. Go to http://www.genealogy4beginners.com/