Christy's Page of Genealogy Tips
I am only an amateur genealogist but I have done it long enough to
know what works and doesn't work for me. I hope these tips will
help you out as you begin researching your family tree. Feel free
to drop me a line if you have any questions that I don't cover here.
If I can help, I will do so and may even add that tip to my page.
Also, if you have a tip that has helped you out or a great link, let
How To Get Started
- Visit the Web - You are already taking the first step. The web is a great resource for information. I have found so many things on the web. I posessed some information that I believed to be true, but I still needed confirmation. I found a distant cousin on a message board and she confirmed the information I had. Be sure and check out message boards, personal homepages, Social Security Death Index, and general genealogy sites. Each site can offer new leads and different tips. I have added links to some of my favorite sites above.
- Talk to family members - Your own family is the best source of information. Ask about dates of important family events (e.g. births, deaths, marriages, military service, etc.) Also ask about any interesting stories.
- Visit genealogy libraries - Where I live, our library has a pretty good selection of census, cemetery, birth, death, marriage, land, and military records. If you don't know where to start, ask the librarian. Also, as genealogy becomes more available on the web, libraries are offering FREE access to certain databases. My library has access to Heritage Quest through their homepage. They also have access to Ancestry.com Library Edition. All you have to have is a library card!
- Visit or call cemeteries - A lot of cemeteries have an attendant on duty and he/she can help you locate a relative. I was looking for one of my husband's set of great-grandparents and did not have anyone to ask. I called a lot of cemeteries before I finally found them in a cemetery just down the road.
- Do not make assumptions and call them facts - That is what I did with the above situation. I assumed that they had to be buried in one of the smaller towns in the area. Low and behold, they were right under my nose (so to speak).
- Check with smaller county courthouses - If you have some basic information, the smaller county courthouses will often do look-ups for you if the clerks have the time. Some will let you come in and do some of the looking yourself. If you want copies of the record, you can usually get a photocopy for a small fee. You can try calling the larger courthouses, but typically they are too large and too busy to do genealogy look-ups. If there is information you need from a larger courthouse, generally they will require you to request an official copy of the record for $10.
- Make copies of records - If at all possible, get copies of all the information you find. That way when someone asks you for proof of your find, you can produce it.
- Look for proof - There is a problem with this in some of my family trees. I have found information that has no proof to back it up. For example, someone might have in their records that George was born in 1693 and married Sally. Another might say that George was born in 1703 and married Catherine. Both sources got their information from someone else. No one is able to produce actual proof.
- Use DAR, LDS, family books, and other "proven" files as guidelines only - DAR and LDS files and family books are great finds for the genealogist. These records can give leads that would have been difficult to find. Be aware that these same great leads can be filled with contradictions. In my family, there is a big controversy over the date of one man's birth. The DAR has let many members in based on one date of birth, yet they have placed an entirely different year of birth on a gravemarker which is 15 years later.
- Look for all possible spellings of names - Don't limit yourself to the current spelling of your name. The spellings of family names changed for many reasons. Sometimes, if a person could not spell his own name, the person writing it would spell it how it sounded. Also, look for nicknames in records. One family member in my research showed up on three different census records with three different names. They all were part of his name, but one was first name, one the second, and one a nickname. It all depended on who took the census and who gave the information.
- Don't get discouraged! - That's easy to say and hard to do sometimes. Have fun. You wouldn't be doing this if you didn't enjoy it. Remember that it can take many years to find one bit of information that will make all the pieces fall in place. In the meantime, happy hunting!
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