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.
Anna Mae’s Oldest Grandbaby