Researching your family history can be a rewarding and satisfying experience. Here are some tips to make your exploration go smoothly.
1. Gather All of Your Genealogy Information
Before starting any type of genealogical research, it's a good idea to gather all of your known information. This way you will not waste time searching for people that you could have easily found with just a phone call or a letter. You will be amazed at how many names, birthdates, marriage dates and other details about your ancestors you can collect just by talking to family members.
You can also look through old records that family members may have including journals, wills, deeds, baptism records and marriage, birth and death certificates. Spread the word that you're beginning a family tree or pedigree chart, and other family members may want to get involved.
2. Become a Member of an Online Genealogy Chat Room
Computers and the Internet connect thousands of people from all over the world each day and there are tons of genealogy chat rooms. Take advantage–you can learn a lot from other genealogists. This is a great way to learn the tricks of the trade and share success stories.
3. Subscribe to an Online Genealogy Search Website
Genealogy websites come with various features and capabilities. You may want to use more than one during your research. Some websites are free of charge, like Rootsweb.com, while more comprehensive sites, like Ancestry.com, require a subscription fee. Before choosing a site make sure it's going to provide the information that you need. Remember some sites search by country or ethnic background–these can work to your advantage if you're looking for ancestors from a certain country. However, if you're not, the site will do you little if any good.
4. Make Genealogy Research Fun and Gratifying
There is usually no monetary award for doing genealogy, and knowing who your great-great-great-grandfather is, typically won't get you ahead in life. So–why do people do genealogical research?
People research their past for a number of reasons, but everyone who is involved in genealogy does it because they enjoy it. They find satisfaction in learning about their roots. Remember you are learning about real people who once walked the earth. Instead of just learning names and dates, try to find stories about your ancestors, look for pictures and diaries. In some cases, you may be able to interview someone who knew the person.
5. Use Various Genealogical Resources
There are so many sources available to genealogists it's a good idea to use a number of them during your investigations. Don't put all of your efforts into one website. Use a number of different websites and databases.
There are also genealogy libraries where you can conduct your research. The largest of these libraries, The Family History Library, owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, has satellite libraries all over the world and is open to the public at no charge. It houses the records of close to a billion people and offers other resources as well. A library like this can be a great asset if there is one in your area.
6. Involve the Entire Family
Build a family tree and family relationships at the same time– genealogy is a project the entire family can work on and contribute their findings. You can start an email or snail-mail newsletter to share experiences and information with family members. Family reunions are also a time when the whole family can get together, share stories about forefathers and foremothers and work on genealogy.
7. Subscribe to a Genealogy Newsletter
Many online genealogy websites offer a newsletter. Newsletters offer great tips on how to locate those hard-to-find ancestors. Newsletters will often explain how to use different databases or tools and let you know when new databases become available. It's also great to hear motivational and inspiring success stories of others, or share one of your own.
8. Create a hard copy of the Genealogy Information
In today's world of technology, we tend to want to digitize everything, but there are some good reasons to create hardcopy information to go along with your digital data.
Primarily, you're going to come across a lot of hard copy information as you do your research. Remember computers have only been used to store information for a quarter century. You will likely come across old documents, journals, records and photographs.
Making a scrapbook of your findings is a great way to present your research to others. Looking at a computer screen with scanned documents just isn't the same as flipping through a book. It really helps some people to create a giant pedigree chart or family tree in their office or den so they can visualize the entire puzzle at one time.
Binders are a good way to store information. As your library increases, develop a binder system so information is organized and easy to find.
9. Backup Genealogy Data Often
Maybe you've heard horror stories, or have one of your own that ends with the words, “and that's when I lost everything.” The importance of backing up computer data cannot be stressed enough. Today's backup software makes protecting and storing your valuable data more convenient than ever. There are a number of different programs to get the job done. Find the one that has the features you need, is user-friendly and in your price range.
There are also various ways of storing data. You can use 3.5-inch floppy disks, zip drives, CDs, DVDs, USB flash drives and external hard drives. Again, choose the one that suits you best. As you gather more information, you may want to invest in a safety deposit box or a fireproof safe to protect your family history.
10. Verify Genealogy Information Found on Web Sources
We like to think that everything found on the web is accurate and true. However, you should always verify any genealogy information found on the web, no matter where you found the information. The best way to verify information is to locate and research the source. Many databases include a list of sources but sometimes you'll come across one that doesn't. In this case, look at dates and the type of information and ask yourself what type of source would provide that information.
At some point in your research, you will encounter conflicting information–maybe different middle initials or birthdates. Carefully evaluate each source and try to find other sources with the same information to shed light on the inconsistencies.
Genealogy is an exciting and rewarding pastime that will link the generations and bring families together.