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Tips for the Beginning Genealogist
Genealogy 101
Tips for the Beginning Genealogist




Let me start by saying "Keep and open mind!"

Everyone remembers things differently...so don't start a huge fight because Aunt Suzie remembers an event differently from Uncle Howard!!! Write it all down, ask as many people's opinions as possible. You be the final judge...is this the direction I want my research to go?

Also, here's a BIG one...document everything!!!!! I cannot stress this enough!!! If some relatives don't mind giving you the original documents, great. If they live far away and want to mail them to you, DON'T. I don't have alot of faith in our mail system. Ask them to make a photocopy and send it to you. ~~ Just because they were lucky enough to get the original one time, does NOT mean it can happen again!!! People change jobs, letters get lost, you'd be amazed at what can happen. Protect your originals by making a photocopy from which to work and file the original at an off-site location.

~~ If you are going to use any of the genealogy software currently available...I have two things to say...first...backup your files FREQUENTLY...everytime you make a change is a really good idea. Second...print out all your information and make a second copy to be stored with your other orignals! ~~~ I know this seems to be an awful lot of work, but if you've ever had a computer crash and forgotten to backup your files...it can be a nightmare!!!

Now with that said...pencils ready? Let's begin!!!




Step One
My first suggestion would be to find forms that you feel comfortable using. There are a variety of them available...I have found these to be extremely useful and not too confusing. I believe they are public-domain so you can copy them as needed.

Genealogy Forms



Step Two

Record the story of your family. I like to use a high quality tape recorder or digital camcorder. I know some of our older family members might not like being recorded...but let's face it, we don't know how much longer they will be with us. And wouldn't it be wonderful to create a family video to show at reunions? To hear the old stories as told by the person who lived at that time...!! If you do chose to do this, record in a quiet, undisturbed location. While recording, speak in a clear and natural voice. Have a few key questions ready (to keep you focused), but let the interview go it's natural course...

Use some or all of the following guideline to assist you in compiling your family history:

  1. Names in full.
  2. Births - When (day, month, year) and where.
  3. Parent's names in full and names of grandparents.
  4. Pre-school period - earliest memories, recollections of parents, older brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, other relatives.
  5. Childhood memories - early friends; schools; teachers; advisors; adventures; dreams of the future.
  6. Young adulthood - thoughts on growing up; home life; high school days; choice of residences, college or work and the reasons for each choice; educational, governmental or military experiences.
  7. Courtship and marriage.
  8. Children - where born; church christenings or blessings, circumcisions, children's personality development as they grow; hopes and aspirations for the children; awards received.
  9. Vocations - jobs held; preparation for life's work; success in work, awards and special recognition.
  10. Church/Synagogue activities - positions held and services given.
  11. Political or Civic activities - positions in organizations held and services given.



Step Three
Don't forget to collect family bibles, diaries, diploma, awards, old letters, yearbooks, and other family records. Use a scanner and enter all of these items into your computer family history program.



Step Four

Here are vital records you will need to verify your research...

  1. Birth Certificates
  2. Church Baptismal Records
  3. Confirmation/Synagogue data
  4. Marriage Certificates, Wedding Records
  5. Death certificates, Sexton/Cemetery Data

And probate records...
  1. Court Records
  2. Wills, Inventories, Estate Administration
  3. Guardianships, Adoptions

Some miscellaneous records...
  1. Census Records; Federal and State, Special
  2. Church Records/Synagogue Records
  3. Immigration, Migration Records
  4. Land Records; Federal and State, Local
  5. Military Records
  6. Published Histories, Newsletters, etc.
  7. Social Security; Governmental
  8. Tax Records


Step Five

I know that this is quite a bit of information for a first lesson. However, it is necessary to really understand your roots. ~~ Go slowly...I started my research with interviewing my parents and grandparents. They had an incredible amount of information to impart. Next, was verifying everything. (I'm still in this stage!)

Stay organized...create a file for each of the surnames you will be researching. Color code if necessary. Try not to get bogged down by every name you come across. Pick a select few, preferably, follow your maternal and paternal grandparents lines.

But most importantly...don't give up!!! Sometimes you may hit a brick wall but...perservere...it is worth it! I think the biggest benefit I've received from my research is the family ties that have been reestablished...what a blessing!



"Do not underestimate the value your research will have on future generations!!!"





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Last update April 9, 2001