|Introduction to Genealogy|
The first and most important rule of genealogy is to start with yourself and work backwards. Many people get excited and jump back in time, skipping several generations to save time. Sure you may already know the names of your great great grandparents who lived in the 1800s, but without the proper groundwork you may have difficulty finding them in the records, or may even end up researching the wrong ancestor! To avoid this pitfall, approach your family tree research step-by-step. If you take small steps at the beginning then you may be able to take much bigger steps later on.
Start With Yourself
In Lesson One you began your genealogy adventure by filling out a pedigree chart and possibly a few family group sheets. No doubt there are a few gaps in the information you have, but that's perfectly normal. Everyone who starts out will have missing information - just remember that it's searching out that information that makes genealogy so much fun!
So how do you fill in those gaps in your pedigree sheet? It may seem silly since you already know who you are and when you were born, but you should always start your family history research by documenting your own life. Gather records and information about your birth, marriage, education, military service, etc. Your ancestors will really appreciate you some day! Then do the same for your parents and grandparents. Scour your house for photographs, certificates, documents, family Bibles, newspaper clippings, old letters and journals and even baby books. Home sources come in many shapes and sizes: a scrapbook may yield a clipping of the obituary notice for your great-grandfather with names, dates and surviving relatives; a wedding photo of your great-great grandparents may have the wedding date and location written on the back; a quilt may have the name of the quilter and the date stitched on the back.
If your search takes you to the houses of family members such as your parents or grandparents, then be sure to be sensitive and tactful. You wouldn't want someone wantonly combing through your house handling all of your precious mementos and neither will they. The best way to achieve success is to involve them in the project. Remember, even if they profess not to be interested in family history, it's not family history you are trying to learn from them - it is their personal history. Ask your grandmother if she can sit down with you and show you her wedding album or pictures of your mother when she was a child. Bring your grandfather into the search by talking to him about the military medal he has framed in his bedroom. Ask your mother if she still has her baby book. Ask great-grandma if the family ever kept a Family Bible... You get the picture.
As you search your home, use a Family & Home Information Sources Checklist as a guide to sources of information you might find in your home or the home of a relative. And keep in mind that anything you find may be valuable for more than its research potential - just the fact that it has been saved means that it had significance to its owner. A rusty railroad spike probably won't provide you with your great, great grandfather's birth date, but it does provide an intangible link to a man who may have helped to build the great transcontinental railroad across the United States and may have even been present when the final "golden spike" was driven in Utah on May 10, 1869
Next page > Clues From Family Sources
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- Introduction to Genealogy - Lesson 3a: Research Basics
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