Getting Started with Genealogy June 2012 version

How do you get started?

    1. Identify known family information – write what you already know – check with relatives – interview relatives and neighbours (how?  – look for directions and questions on the Research wiki at FamilySearch.org under Learn –  has anyone done research on your family?  (see Website #2 below)
    2. Decide what you want to learn – look at your pedigree chart – set a research objective.
    3. Select records to search – what types of records are available for your locality in the time period you are searching? – where can you access them?
    4. Obtain and search the records – keep a record of your findings in a research log
    5. Evaluate and use the information – is this my ancestor? Record the information. Share what you have found.
    6. Do more research or set a new goal.

Go to a Family History Centre and get a copy of “How Do I Start My Family History” (includes a blank pedigree chart) – and for personal help! – you can also look in the Research Wiki under Learn at http://familysearch.org – the same section of the website has free research courses and discussion forums (where you can ask questions).

Tip #1 Is this my ancestor?  Consider the following:

  1. Is the possible match person living in the right place to be my ancestor?
  2. Is this event in the right time period to be within the lifetime of my ancestor?
  3. Is the possible match person too young or too old to have been my ancestor?
  4. Are names of children associated with the possible match consistent with what I already know about the children of my ancestor?
  5. Do the ages of the children seem logical, or are they too young or too old to be my ancestor’s children?
  6. Is this the right spouse?
  7. Are the economic conditions of this person consistent with the known family history?
  8. Do the relatives and associates of your ancestor appear in records with the possible match?
  9. Is the possible match person affiliated with the church you know your ancestor belonged to?
  10. Could the possible match person, living in a neighboring county, be my ancestor?  County and electoral district boundaries changed over the years.
  11. Why is the name of the possible match person spelled differently from my ancestor’s name? The name of a person was commonly spelled differently in different documents.

Tip #2 Make a decision about your possible match – choices:

  1. Confirm the person as your ancestor.
  2. Suspect that the person may be a relative with the same name.
  3. Eliminate that person as your possible ancestor.
  4. Decide that there is not enough information yet to confirm or eliminate this person as your ancestor.

(From “How to Recognize your Canadian Ancestor” in  the research wiki at FamilySearch.org)

Tip #3 Select a genealogy software program to record, and organize your research – & print reports. There are even several very good free programs available – some people like Personal Ancestral File (available as a download from familysearch.org) – also Rootsmagic, Ancestral Quest, Legacy FamilyTree have free versions – there are many choices.  Take a test drive before deciding – matter of personal choice!

Using the Internet for Family History – tips and strategies:

  • The Internet is a wonderful tool with which to do family history.
  • There are some very good sites and some not as good, so be selective
  • Just like printed materials, being on the Internet does NOT mean it is true!  VERIFY any information you obtain from the Internet unless it is from a scanned copy of an original record.
  • Remember that indexes, and typed copies of originals are secondary sources
  • Unless it is a scanned copy of an original document it is not a primary source
  • You always need to look at the original whenever possible
  • You can’t do all your research on the Internet (yet!), so recognize that you will need to use a library and archives at some point
  • Use “Find on this page” (Ctrl + F), found under the “Edit” to search for a specific word, such as a surname or place, on a web page
  • Keep a list of the addresses of web sites you have visited, along with what you found there – the Internet is very changeable, what is there today may not be there tomorrow – if what you found vanishes try the Internet archive and WayBackMachine at http://archive.org
  • Consider how you can save the information you find (Hint: take a screen shot – for Windows computers I use the free version of Screenhunter http://www.wisdom-soft.com/products/screenhunter.htm – beware of being sold a version and watch to see that you only install Screenhunter and not all the tools it tries to foist on you – with the program running in the background press Function F6 to activate the selection tool – and on a Mac I press Command and Shift and 4 together then select which part of the screen I want to capture.  )
  • Be aware of spelling variations and nicknames – e.g’s James may be Jas, William may be Bill or Will or Wm.  Just because you know how the name is correctly spelled does not mean the person who wrote or transcribed the record will have it right!  Try to work out how it was written in the record.  Could a birth in Middlesex be transcribed Mexico?  Could Bethnal Green become Green Bethnal?  Be careful in the use of Mc or Mac.
  • When was the website last updated?  This could be a problem if you are looking for the latest information and the web site was last updated in 1999.

Types of web sites:

How to site – help with doing your research – Wiki.familysearch.org – great tool for finding how to do research – for many countries

Research done by others and sharing your research

    1. Familysearch –  Use link to Trees to get to Pedigree Resource File and Ancestral File http://familysearch.org
    2. World Connect – free trees at http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/
    3. Family Tree Search Engine at Genealogy In Time Magazine (Canadian!) http://www.genealogyintime.com – searches over 3.5 billion records at various sites
    4. Ancestry  http://www.ancestry.com/  $ – has a trees section
    5. MyHeritage http://www.myheritage.com  – has free or pay to use services – can do quite a bit for free!  Includes a free genealogy program to download (Family Tree Builder) as well as the online tree
    6. Do a Google Search – do the above searches first.  Search by name and place

Databases – original images and transcripts – some are free, some are pay to use

Search engines – learn how to be good at searching

Maps

Directory/Gateway sites

Archives and Libraries

Surname and locality interest lists

Family History or Genealogy Societies – publications and surname interest lists

Scandinavia

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