Essentials of Genealogy - Getting Started with Your FamilyTree
Since genealogy is my hobby, my profession, and my passion, many people ask me how to get started. What are the essentials to doing a family search? Here are some tips that should help you discover your family under the best possible conditions.
Get organized: I started working on my family tree almost 30 years ago by writing down names on a brown paper bag. Now there are 20,000 people in my tree - about 3,000 proven to my satisfaction. Your tree may not grow that large, but organization is important regardless.
Gather information: Write down everything you know about your family or enter that information into your new software. Start with yourself; then your parents, siblings, spouse, and children. Initially, you want to record names, places, and dates of births, marriages, deaths and other events that you know about each person.
- Papers: I suggest that you get a three-ring binder with tabbed dividers to hold documents that you find. It doesn't have to be fancy, but you can add binders when one is no longer adequate. If you are like me, you may have to graduate to file cabinets later.
- Software: You really must have some sort of electronic filing system as well. There are a number of good software packages available at very competitive prices and some for free. There are good choices for both Macintosh and PC type computers. Just be sure that the software you pick includes these features . . .
- Gedcom file compatibility: Gedcom is a standard file format used by all genealogy programs and you can tell one of these files by the .ged extension associated with the file. If you get lucky and find a relative who has already done the work, you will want to import their data into your computer. For that reason, your software must be able to handle it.
- Footnoting: Even if you are only moderately successful, there will be a few hundred people in your family. Each of them will have multiple events that happened during their lifetime - birth, marriage, graduation, death, burial, etc. As a result, you will gather thousands of bits of information and it is impossible to remember where you got the information without the ability to add footnotes. These will tell you where you got the information, when you got it, and how reliable it is.
- Media features: While names, dates and places can be plenty satisfying, there is nothing like a photograph, recording, or movie to make your relatives come alive. Your software should allow you to save that type of information right along with the other information. This might seem like an optional feature, but you will be glad that you have it later.
- Internet publishing: Not everyone wants to put their information on the Internet, but this is a really good way to share your family with the world and find relatives that you never would have found otherwise. I found a photo in a shoe box that I inherited from my mother and on the back was written, "Uncle Alonzo's boy." Uncle Alonzo was one of my genealogical brick walls. I only had one other piece of information about Uncle Alonzo and included the photo of his son in my web site. Two years later, a man named David called me and said that he was Uncle Alonzo's boy - an exciting experience for both of us. Nearly all software programs include the ability to filter out living people so that you can publish with no worries of identity theft or other security issues.
- Online applications: Consider using a good online application to track your family instead of software. That type of system will allow you to update your tree from the library, your house or anywhere else in the world. This type of arrangement also gives you a built-in backup system for your data and puts you in a great position to publish your tree later.
- Interview your family: Talk to your family members to confirm and correct your information. Find out if they have documentation of the events that you have recorded like birth certificates, marriage licenses, church records, photographs or an old family Bible. Ask if they know someone in your family who keeps the historical documents or who has done a family history. Find out the basic information about their family - names, dates, and locations of events. If there are photos without names, dates and locations written on them - take some time to do this now. Buy an acid-free pen from just about any local store for this task. This is also a great time to record interesting stories about your family - either with a tape recorder or movie recorder. Notes are fine too if that is all you have available. Update the information in your software and footnote everything you enter - even if the source is 'Interview with aunt Agnes Boudreau 25 Aug 2005' - you must know later who told you that so that you can evaluate the value of the information you have.
- Search the internet: Initially you will want to try to find someone who has already done the work.
- LDS Church: One of the best places to get started is a site owned by the Mormon Church. Don't be put off if you are not a member of that church. Family history is an important part of their belief system and the data that they collect is available to anyone. Point your browser to http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Search/frameset_search.asp and enter the information that you know about your family; click search to see if they have any information about your family. Some of this information is public record information which is usually true and some of it is provided by members of the church which may or may not be true. Use this information as a guide so that you will know the names, places, and dates to do more research.
- United States : If you have solid information about a relative in the US, you should try href="http://www.usgenweb.org/ - a volunteer group that provides free information through a network of web sites that goes all the way down to the county level. I like their state search located at http://www.rootsweb.com/~usgenweb/newsearch.htm better than the rest of the site. They have a lot of census records which are great places to take your tree back one more generation. The most recent census counts are grouped by families so that you can see a person's parents and where they were born. One shortcoming of the usGenWeb is that you can't do a very specific search and the site doesn't know the difference between Smith and blacksmith. As a result, you will get a lot of hits that don't even apply to your family - tedious work that sometimes pays off. This is an issue with most web sites out there, not just usGenWeb. Just to compound the issue, most sites don't save your search criteria so that when check back to see if they have more information in a year or two, you have to go through the same long list again. Sigh.
One of the brighter spots on the Internet is at EllisIsland.org - a great site to search if your ancestors immigrated to the US via Ellis Island.
World: There are organizations in most countries that are similar to the ones mentioned in the US. Usually a search on Google for the word "Genealogy" and the name of the country will give you some good places to start looking. If you want to search the entire world, check out FamilyTrackers.com.
- Networking: There are a lot of networking and bulletin board sites available where people leave information about who they are looking for. The best ones will allow you to search specifically for name, date and location; others only allow you to search by keyword which usually gives you too many results to read. If the site you find is one of the latter, compose a short message about the person you are searching for and include the exact name, the exact location, and the exact time frame when you know they were there. Make the subject information very specific with name, date, and location so that people who are browsing will know if they should read it or not. Subjects like "My family" or "grandma" are just not very useful and almost nobody will read it. Instead using something like "Hall, William 1743 Rockbridge County, VA, USA." If the site you find allows you to search specifically enough, search it and read some of the posts there to see if you can contact a distant relative who can help you.
Join your local genealogical or historical society: Even if you are not really looking for relatives in your immediate area, the local society is a great place to learn, to network, and to make a positive contribution. You will meet wonderful people with vast amounts of experience who can mentor you and make you a better genealogist - and a better person.
Publish: Nothing is more satisfying than helping someone else find their roots and one of the best ways to do that is to publish your findings.
Searching strategies: As you work through your family, go back in time one generation at a time documenting everything as you go. Once you have followed a branch as far as you can, start searching forward in time from the oldest person you know about.
- Your tree: If you selected the right software, publishing your tree should be relatively easy - still a learning process for many of us. Make sure that you don't publish information on the Internet about people who are still living. If you are not sure if a person is still living, you can assume they are still living if they were born less than 100 years ago and don't have a death date in your software. The best programs will do this for you automatically once you set your preferences.
- Your sources: Another good thing to do is to publish your sources - the backup paperwork from your ring binder. This consists of birth certificates, deeds, census records, etc. Sites like usGenWeb and your local society are good places to consider when publishing records like these. Again, you should avoid publishing information about living people for security reasons. If you are interested in reaching a world-wide audience or in donating to your society, you should consider http://www.familytrackers.com/. You can charge for your information, distribute it for free, or donate proceeds to your favorite society.
Brick walls: When you can't find any more information about a person to determine their parents or other relatives, it's called a "brick wall." When this happens to you - and it will - don't give up. It is just a matter of patience, skill and luck. The best advice I can give you about a brick wall is to go back to the basics; look at the last place and time where you know this person was and start from there. Also, try to find genealogists who link to this person from a different line - your cousins. Even though you may not be able to prove a direct father/son relationship to your ancestor, you might be able to prove father/son/brother through one of your cousins.
Gene Hall is an avid genealogist with over 25 years of family-search experience and the CEO of FamilyTrackers, Inc. a World-Wide Genealogy Exchange located at http://www.familytrackers.com/
This article comes with reprint rights. You are free to reprint and distribute it as you like. All that I ask is that you reprint it in its entirety without any changes including this text and the link above.
This RSS feed URL is deprecated, please update. New URLs can be found in the footers at https://news.google.com/news
Piqua Daily Call
Troy resident wins top Art Hall awardPiqua Daily CallParticipants must exhibit at least one entry in each of several classes, including Needlework, Crafts, Hobbies and Baked Goods. Points are then awarded for each placing in the categories and the person with the highest number of points receives the honor.
Plant Happy Hour Feat. WildewoodMadison.comLush ferns, tropical monstera leaves, boho cacti…what's your plant lady style? Don your best greenery-inspired prints and join us for a fun spin on happy hour, surrounded by pretty plants! Kate Holl is a recent transplant (get it?!) from Nashville ...
Summer Centerpiece Workshop (register by Aug. 6)Madison.comCreate a lush garden-style centerpiece using locally and sustainably grown blooms from Sunborn Gardens, a flower farm and florist in Mount Horeb. Learn some of the beginning design techniques involved in creating a low garden centerpiece. All supplies ...
Paste Papers Workshop (register by Aug. 3)Madison.comA personal favorite! Explore the freedom of expressing yourself making creative papers for collage, scrapbooking, or as decorative papers for the book arts. This fun workshop is a little messy (bring a smock) and includes decorative techniques, few ...
City Library hosting a Clubs Day event for over 60'sScoop.co.nzSixty clubs and groups are participating and cover arts and crafts, hobbies, cultural, continuing education, home and garden, performing arts, technology and transport, and service. Future clubs days are planned: November 2018: "Outdoors, Sport ...
DIY Night at Toot + Kate's Wine BarMadison.comSome things were just meant to go together….like summer nights and crisp, refreshing wine, straight from a tap! Lucky for you, you can enjoy them both as we take the Craft Bar on the road and pop up at Toot + Kate's wine bar in Verona. Come and join ...
Taking time for myselfMyCentralJersey.comI got a note from a reader the other day, commenting that I haven't blogged in weeks and hoping that I"d get back to it soon. It's nice to be missed. But frankly, I probably won't be blogging much for the rest of the summer. I have some personal things ...
EveryWoman's Journal WorkshopMadison.comJournaling is commonly used in chronic pain management, recovery programs and adult learning, but journaling can also be used as a prevention tool. Proactive health journaling helps women translate personal reflection and feedback into actions that ...
Libraries Are for Everyone Drop-In ScreenprintingMadison.comStop by for this drop-in workshop and create your own screenprint of an inclusive "Libraries are for Everyone" image with text available in English, Spanish, or Arabic. Bring your own t-shirt/tote/material to print on, or create a print on paper. One ...
Make Your Own Lampshades
When redecorating your room, you may be faced with looking for new lampshades (or perhaps a lampshade you currently have has gotten damaged). So why not make your own!If your lamp currently has a lampshade on it, half of the battle is already won! You
have a base to start building your new shade.
Idle Hands Beget The Devils Work
As a southern girl, sewing was a rite of passage. You never questioned if you should learn, it was a matter of when.
Finding The Best Display Case For Your Treasures
Maybe you have a bunch of collectibles sitting in your closet gathering dust. Or perhaps you've been storing your fine China in the kitchen cupboards instead of a hutch.
Setting Up Your Display Case
One of the best ways to display photographs, memorabilia and other prized possessions is by using a display case. When properly done, a display case can showcase your collectables for all to see in an elegant manner.
An Interesting Look at the Cuban Cigar
Even most non-cigar smokers have heard some of the lore surrounding the Cuban cigar. Long revered as the finest and best tasting brands in the world, they have traditionally been extremely difficult to procure.
Airbrush for Profit - Sell Your Services to Colleges
Colleges, schools, university and the like are one way you can make money from airbrushing. Why they are a good market is that there are plenty of students to begin with.
A Look At Cigar Humidors
Cigar humidors are storage units designed to hold, preserve and display a collection of cigars. They come in varying shapes and sizes, and can typically be custom made to suit the tastes of the owner.
The Use of Color and Photographs in Your New Scrapbook
Color coordination and contrast will highlight and accent your scrapbook. A well thought out color scheme can help define the theme of a page, attract attention to specific items, or detract away from mistakes.
Turn An Arts And Crafts Hobby Into A Business
Are you searching for a quick way to make an extra income?Why not turn that Cooking Interest, Comic Book Collecting, or Your Retro Clothing Collection Into A Home Based Business Venture!Most people enjoy hobbies they have pursued with great enthusiasm for years. Even though they may find their leisure activities fulfilling and enjoyable they never imagined making money with a fun hobby!The world is packed with amazingly talented people.
Woodworking Beginners: Secret Tips To Start Right
Woodworking: Where To Start - Tips From Experienced WoodworkersWoodworking encompasses a broad area of skills, specialties, and applications. Some beginners take on too much too soon or blow their savings on expensive woodworking tools and machines that they don't know how to use and might not ever need.
Collecting Depression Glass - Where to Start
Okay, so you've been bitten by the Depression Glass bug, and
those pretty patterns and pastel colors beckon you from the
shelves of an antique dealer's shop, a friend's home, or
maybe you've even discovered this special glassware on the
Internet. How ever it's come about that you've developed a
yen for Depression Glass, you need to know where and how to
start collecting it - unless you're made of money, have
oodles of time on your hands, and don't care whether you
get the real thing or not.
Scary Halloween Crafts
Looking for some great Halloween crafts for your Halloween party, haunted house, or just for trick-or-treaters?A fun craft is something that can keep you occupied for hours on end especially if you enjoy it. Here are some ideas that will hopefully set you on your way in preparation for your next Halloween.
How I Spent My Summer Vacation
The song says it all, "Hot Fun in the Summertime." Our summer was certainly full of fun: outdoor barbeques, neighborhood cookouts, making ice cream, 4th of July parades, a trip to grandpa's house, sleeping late, moving my oldest daughter into her first apartment? It never seems like the season is long enough to do everything we want to do.
Rubber Stamps : 10 Great Tips For Making Multiple Cards
You know the feeling. The kids have tons of demands, vacation is just around
the corner, that big project at work is eating all of your free time.
Use Newspaper Clippings, Graphics, Kids Art, and Clipart to Enhance Your Scrapbook
A popular addition to scrapbook pages is newspaper clippings. Newspaper clippings of birth announcements, team photographs, or favorite celebrities add a personal touch to scrapbook pages.
Need A Scrapbook Journaling Idea?
Try using song lyrics in your next layout.Song lyrics can be a great source of title and page inspiration for a scraper.
A Look at Cabinet Humidors
Cabinet humidors are specially designed for the serious cigar aficionado. Much more of an investment than a small desktop humidor that can hold 100 to 200 cigars, cabinet humidors can be as small as a standing chest, can hold up to 8000 cigars or more, can measure as much as four feet wide by 20 inches deep and over six feet in height or larger and resemble a large bookcase, and can cost from the high hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars.
Old, New, Borrowed, and Blue: Unity Candle Craft Project
Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue. There are plenty of crafty brides out there looking for a unique design for their unity candle.
Family Fun on the Rails
Imagine your are five years old. As your family arrives at the train station, your hand slips free of your Mom's and you dash over to the tracks.
Rainy Day Fun - Crafts For Kids
Rainy days can be so boring for a child?and just as hard on moms. So we give some ideas to brighten your day and chase their rainy day blues away!Shadow puppetsIn a room that is fairly dark set up a flash light so it is facing a wall.