Tips for Tracing Your Family Roots through Genealogy Research
You might be amazed at what you can discover about your heritage. Researching
can be very rewarding when you find "the document" that reveals family history.
It can also be frustrating when you can’t locate what you are looking for.
But by attaining that one source that helps you go one generation deeper, or discover
a new genealogy fact is satisfying to all genealogy hunters. Building a solid family
history with proper sources requires many hours of research and tons of patience.
As you make progress, it’s important to carefully track all of your findings.
This is essential to preserving your ancestry and ensures that all the hours of
hard work put into growing your genealogy roots won’t go unnoticed.
Manage Your Sources
Once you start your research and start to unearth sources, be sure to document
where you found the source. This is known as the repository. Writing down everything
and copying all pertinent family information will make it easy for yourself and
others to go back and investigate the record again. And yes, on more than one occasion,
you will end up needing to go back and look up the document or directing a relative
to the same source.
Sources abound on the Internet, the library, genealogical societies, and government
records. It’s really easy to copy information from someone's tree, but beware
of doing this. Most trees contain little or no sources. Locate sources that substantiate
a family history, before copying and sharing your collection with others. Otherwise
you might discover a lot of roots and no branches. If you do copy the information,
make sure you give credit to the person and repository where you found it. Your
documented heritage should always contain sources to back-up your ancestry.
Keep Track of the Little Things
Recording both your research methods and findings will help keep all research
efforts up-to-date and, if another relative takes over as the record keeper in the
years to come, this documentation will make his or her task easier.
Record your successes and failures too. Pointing out dead ends will help prevent
future genealogists from making the same mistake and could even remind you of leads
you followed that went nowhere.
Many genealogists recognize that carefully documenting their research (both the
successful leads and the dead ends) often helps in paving the way for a new research
idea. You never know when or where you’re going to come across a key piece
of genealogy information that will unlock more family history.
Accurate Family Genealogy Research
You will inevitably find sources that contradict collected genealogy information
that was thought to be true. This may be due to inaccurate memories passed down
within a family, or it could be a mistake by the person who created the written
record. You may even locate a historical document that contradicts another one.
For example, a census could have been filled out by someone who didn't bother to
ask the spelling of the relative’s name or the information could have been
given by a neighbor or the eldest child in the house.
To make sure a tree is as accurate as possible, write down all dates and events
and make notes as to why you think certain genealogy information is correct. You
can spend years trying to figure out which exact dates and places are relevant when
you have multiple sources that don't have the same details. Transcribing everything
from your research will make it easier to compare notes later.
Stay Focused with One Task at a Time
When you get over-whelmed with your , document what you have done,
take a break, and come back to it later. At the end of the day, the process should
be enjoyable and rewarding, so when things get frustrating take a step back and
take a deep breath. Clear your mind of the forest. Concentrate on the core, the
roots. This will help you stay energized and focused with the task at hand.
Begin your Family Tree with Yourself
You may be surprised at how much you already know about people, places, and events.
Begin your search by writing down everything that you can remember about yourself
and your relative's births, deaths, marriages, graduations, military service, places
of employment, and so on. You’ll also want to set up a filing system that
you will use to collect the photographs, newspaper clippings, diaries, and letters
that your ancestors kept. You’ll use these tools to gather and organize the
many documents that you uncover during your genealogical research.
Whatever your organization preference is – folders, notebooks, boxes, large
envelopes, etc. – be consistent with your filing system. Scanning all your
documents and adding them to your genealogy tree will help keep your genealogy research
organized. Make sure you have a back-up of all your data. You can lose your data
if your computer crashes, or in the unfortunate event that a natural disaster hits
your home. Having an external recovery plan is always a good idea.
Interview your Relatives to Discover your Heritage
After writing down everything you remember, start reaching out to your family.
Parents and grandparents are often good sources of genealogy information, but they
should not be the only people who you should interview. Branch out and discover
your roots. Talk with your aunts, uncles, cousins, and close family friends. They
can give you stories other than the ones you have been hearing your entire life
from your parents and grandparents. Not only will you learn about your ancestors,
but you may learn something new about your relatives who are still around.
When you speak with each person, it is important to ask questions that don’t
just focus on when births and deaths occurred. A good tree is more than just dates
and places. You will want to learn about the personalities of your ancestors, and
what their lives were like. It is important to relax and take your time when interviewing
your relatives. You may discover unexpected family history.
Search the Internet with Caution
Although scouring the Internet can be a fast way to find genealogy data you need,
the information you turn up may not always be the most reliable. Some genealogical
websites enable people to help each other locate sources and share knowledge. While
communicating over the Internet, remember people have different backgrounds, different
degrees of knowledge and capabilities. Make sure you verify any shared data; otherwise
your genealogy tree can become a tree of misinformation.
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced genealogist, don’t rely solely
on the Internet for building your tree. Historical Societies, the National Archives,
LDS Family History Centers, newspaper archives, and local libraries are just a few
other great sources that can help you research your heritage. Learn how to get better
Record your Genealogy and Share your Discoveries
Be sure to organize your genealogy data as you go along. Record everything you
gather and remember to keep adding to the files that you have created. Also, be
sure to keep your search log and task list up-to-date.
If you can only unearth one document you should include a narrative of why you
think this one document is proof for your ancestor. If you can’t locate any
documents, you should still write a narrative as to why you think someone belongs
in your tree.
Try doing various to find alternative sources. While doing genealogy
research you will get stuck looking for a document to substantiate a fact. This
is known as hitting a brick wall. When this happens, you will most likely move on
to a different relative and eventually return to the task you started years ago.
If you do not document your research, you may end up starting from scratch and redoing
the same search over and over again, creating a cycle of brick walls.
You should also remember to keep your family up to date on all of your discoveries.
If you’ve created an online genealogy tree, you can easily share your research
with relatives and friends. As you add new genealogy information to your tree, it
may help jog the memories of your relatives and reveal more of your heritage. Remember
that your family has many stories to tell. Treasure the heirlooms you find and keep
it alive by sharing your roots with future generations.