The Journey of a thousand miles begins with one step . . . How to begin your research.

Today I want to talk about how to start your genealogical research.  I’ve been researching for many years and people always ask me, “How do I start?”  The beginning of your research is such an exciting time. You have everything to learn and no bad research habits to break.

A few things you need to have.

An Ancestral Chart.   Follow this link for a chart.   http://www.archives.gov/research/genealogy/charts-forms/

Either Pen & Paper or a Computer/Laptop.

Willingness to be organized.

When beginning your genealogical research begin with yourself and work backwards, towards your parents, grandparents, etc. Resist the urge to start with Great Grandma Rhodes who your family has always spoken about. Researchers have wasted years going down the wrong path, because they didn’t start with themselves work their way back and then confirm or deny word of mouth information from family members.

Write down everything you know about yourself. Your full name (legal and nickname), when & where you were born, parents names (adopted, foster, etc), where you grew up, siblings (half, step, full).  After you have written down everything you know, attempt to confirm the information with documentation. Frequently individuals have assumed something ie, I was born in KY, only to get the birth certificate and realize you were born in OH.  This could have happened because all the other siblings were born there and you just assumed you were too. Never assume! Be open to the facts. Also be open to not being able to confirm every fact. I will talk frequently about a “Preponderance of evidence”.

Sidenote – when documenting the names of women, write down their BIRTH NAMES (maiden). It becomes very difficult to trace women when their last names at birth are unknown or shrouded in the mystery of their 1st, 2nd, or 3rd husband.  A fellow researcher, Charles Kenneth Barker, remarked how hard it was to trace his female ancestors. I let him know that it wasn’t an accident that women are hard to trace. Society pressures women to give up their birth names and  consequently their connection to their birth families and their connection to history. (Stepping down from my soap box.)

After writing down everything you know about yourself, write down your parents’ names full name (legal and nickname), place of birth, date of birth, place of death and date of death if applicable.

Next, write down all of that same pertinent information for your grandparents, great grandparents, etc as many generations as you can.

At this point you have a lot of information written down. This is a good time to decide what kind of organizational method you will use, folders, binders, computer files, etc. Most people will use several of these tools. You can conduct research without a computer.  However if you enjoy computers using a database program can help you organize your research. There are several great programs out there.

Nichelle

Anna Mae’s Oldest Grandbaby

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Why A National Discussion On Reparations Is Necessary

Reparations is an important topic and worth serious discussion.

Note To My White Self

Note to my white self…

Imagine for a moment that someone owed you a great debt.

How would you feel…

… if that person laughed whenever you mentioned that debt?

…if they refused to acknowledge the debt existed, even when shown documentation     confirming the debt?

…if they claimed that – if there ever was a debt – that it had already been paid?

…if they argued that – even if there was still an outstanding debt – it was unrealistic to think they would or could pay the debt?

…if they implied you should just forgive the debt and move on?

How would you feel?

Would you be angry toward that person?

Would you resent their wealth, knowing they owed you such a debt?

Would you doubt their oft repeated commitments to justice and equity?

Would you question their habit of extravagant spending on other priorities while pretending to…

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The Joy of Newspapers

Alma Cleveland at 9 years old.

A few weeks ago, I was researching information in the Indianapolis Recorder on the origins of my church. The Indianapolis Recorder is the oldest running black newspaper in the state of Indiana and one of the oldest in the United States. The Indianapolis Recorder is digitized and completely available online. This makes it very easy to search for names or other key words. Using a keyword search for “Thomas Cleveland”, my Great Grandfather, I subsequently found a picture of my Great Aunt Alma when she was 9 years old. I’m always excited when I find information on my family, even when it’s not what I’m looking for. It was so special to find a picture of my Aunt Alma. She was in her 30’s when I can first remember her. So seeing a picture of her when she was a child, was amazing. This is why It’s so important to know the names of all family members, not just direct ancestors.

The article in The Recorder gave me quite a bit of insight into my family in 1935. There were 7 children in the family at this time. My Aunt Alma being the youngest. The article also indicated my Great Grandfather had been unemployed for several years. This article was written during the Great Depression (which spanned from 1929 – 1939). It’s one thing to read about a historic event. It’s another to read about how it affected your family.

Take time to search the newspapers where your family has lived. You might be surprised with what you find. The picture online wasn’t very clear, and I couldn’t manipulate the image. Fortunately, I was able to access the newspaper on microfilm. I was able to adjust the microfilm so that the picture was clear. Looking at the picture I can see her resemblance to other family members. She’s been gone for several decades, but I still think of her often & miss her. Anna Mae’s Oldest Grandbaby Nichelle ~

“Roots tracing for African Americans”

Did you miss the show “Roots tracing for African Americans” with Nichelle M. Hayes?
Click here to listen to the podcast https://t.e2ma.net/click/1kxrehb/pbywvjc/h9azxxk

February 9, 2019 Roots tracing for African Americans

Even with renewed, widespread interest in family history research – and the explosion of genealogical tools in recent years – challenges remain for those researching African American ancestry. Many of the challenges involve ancestors who were enslaved during the 19th century and earlier.

Nichelle M. Hayes

As Hoosier History Live salutes Black History Month, Nelson’s studio guest will be one of Indiana’s top experts on African American roots-tracing. Indianapolis-based genealogist and librarian Nichelle M. Hayes is a past president of the Indiana African American Genealogy Group. Currently, she is the leader of the Center for Black Literature and Culture of the Indianapolis Public Library. Nelson will be asking Nichelle to share advice and tips for tracing African American family histories. As a genealogist for more than 25 years, Nichelle conducts workshops about African American family history research and blogs about it and related topics.In a recent blog post, Nichelle described her research into the death in 1933 of a great-aunt who lived in the Brightwood neighborhood of Indianapolis and died of tuberculosis. Information on the death certificate opened doors for Nichelle to learn about her ancestor’s civic life.

Book cover: Discovering your African American Ancestors.

“Genealogy is more than just birth and death dates,” Nichelle writes. “It’s fleshing the person out, so to speak.”To people beginning family history research, she recommends: “Start with yourself and work backwards.”In addition to examining U.S. Census data, records related to property ownership, probate and pensions also can be extremely helpful in illuminating the lives of ancestors, Nichelle says.Among the resource books she recommends to African Americans are Black Roots: A Beginner’s Guide to Tracing the African American Family Tree (Simon & Schuster, 2001) and A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering your African-American Ancestors (Genealogical Publishing Co., 2003).Ancestory.com, another resource popular with genealogists for its extensive database of family tree information, has published Finding Your African American Ancestors: A Beginner’s Guide (2001).With Nichelle on hand to respond to questions from listeners embarking on roots-tracing adventures, we will open our phone lines earlier than usual during this show. The call-in number to the WICR-FM studio is 317-788-3314.