|Introduction to Genealogy|
Now that you have gathered together information from around your home, interviewed your family members and entered your information onto pedigree charts and family group sheets it is time for the fun to begin! You are now ready to fill in some of the blanks on your pedigree charts and family group records. This missing information will become your quest.
I know by now you must be impatient and ready to jump in with both feet, but before you run out to the library or start searching in Internet databases there are a few more things you should do:
- The first step of your research is to decide which branch of the family
you want to begin with. The best place to start is usually with one of your
grandparents - your maternal grandmother, your maternal grandfather, your
paternal grandmother and your paternal grandfather. You aren't limited to
these four branches, of course. You may select a family group or branch even
further back in your tree if you have enough information, the point is just
to choose a particular section of the family so that you have a defined goal
as you start out on your research. There is nothing more discouraging than
blindly searching the Internet for information about ALL of your surnames at
once. The bits and pieces of info start swimming around in your head making
it very easy to miss potential clues. There will be times, such as a trip to
a distant library, where it makes sense to research more than one branch at
a time but, for the most part, start with a single surname or family group
and stick with it for a while.
- Once you have selected a family group or surname to research, the next
step is to learn a little about the geography and history of the area in
which they lived. Having a good understanding of the political and
historical events of the time period in which your ancestors lived may give
you insight into where to look for records. Geographical and political
boundaries as well as place names have also changed over time. For example,
several areas which were once in Poland are now a part of Belarus,
Lithuania, Ukraine and the Czech Republic. You don't need to be an expert,
but you will find yourself less frustrated with your search and more
fascinated with your ancestors if you have at least a passing familiarity
with the area and time period in which they lived.
- The final step is to set a research goal - look at the blanks in your family group sheet and decided what you want to learn about your family. Some people stick to just names, dates and places, choosing to collect as many ancestors as possible. My preference, however, is to put the "history" in my family history. Beyond the names and dates, I also look for information which will help me "walk" in my ancestors footsteps. This includes things such as their occupations, their property (land and personal), their friends and neighbors, their religious denomination, military participation, education, recreational activities and more. Basically, my personal goal is to collect every scrap of information I can find on my ancestors. Your personal goal may be either of these two extremes, or somewhere in between.
Next page > Preparing to Search