People grow curious about their family trees for a variety of reasons. It may be that you grew up hearing a cherished story as a child, and now, as an adult, you’re wondering if there is more to the tale. It could be that your memories have grown fuzzy with time. You might find yourself wishing that you’d paid more attention when relatives shared family lore. Alternately, it may be that certain things were never spoken of in your family or that things you accepted without question when you were younger don’t make sense now. Perhaps you never had a chance to hear your family’s stories because of broken connections. Whatever the reason that you’re eager to fill in the gaps in your family history, tracing your family tree can be quite a project. When you’re ready to start, these genealogy tips will come in handy.
Genealogy Tips for Beginners
Genealogy is all about the connections between people and generations. Like any form of history, it can quickly become more than names and dates on a page. What genealogy tips will help you get started on your own quest?
Genealogy is a detail-oriented field, so you need to be prepared to handle a lot of information. That makes organization essential. You can opt for a notebook and paper forms, use genealogy software, or combine these options. Whichever approach you take, make sure that you back up your research so that it doesn’t get lost. Also, take care to cite your sources so that you can backtrack if you need to verify a piece of information or retrace an avenue of inquiry.
Start with What You Know
Think about what you’d like to learn about your family. Then, begin by listing the facts that you already know. Proper names, maiden names, and nicknames can all be helpful. Important dates and places can also offer clues. Use the information that you have to begin filling in your charts. Be sure to be consistent in your notations. Consider learning and using notations commonly used by other genealogists. It may not matter in the beginning when your information is scarce, but as you gather more facts, it will make it easier to sort through it.
Talk to Your Relatives
Make time to chat with willing family members, and ask to view any family records or photographs that they have. Be ready to take audio recordings, photographs, or notes to record your findings. Hopefully, your relatives will be able to confirm much of what you know and fill in some of the holes in your knowledge base.
There are numerous online sources for people interested in genealogy, and they can be a fantastic resource for those seeking their roots. The collections and search tools vary, so you’re likely to find different things in different places. FamilySearch, Ancestry, and Archives are all good places to start your online search. Take some time to learn how each of these websites work. In many cases, images of original records are available. Why would you want to track down the image of the original handwritten census or military record when a typed modern transcription is so much easier to read? Mistakes happen, and a mistake here could mean that the record doesn’t actually reference your family member or doesn’t reveal what you think it does. Whenever possible, it’s always best to check your facts at the source.
Don’t Use Other People’s Trees as Sources
Some genealogy websites offer you the opportunity to pull hints from family trees compiled by other people and use them in your own. Although this can be tempting because it offers quick answers, don’t do it without verifying the information. As BespokeGenealogy points out, not everyone who fills out a tree takes care to ensure its accuracy. While it may take longer, proceeding slowly, verifying the facts before adding them to your tree, and documenting your sources properly reduces the risk of having to start all over.
If you enjoy solving puzzles, delving into history, or thinking about your cultural roots, you’ll likely love exploring your family’s genealogy. Good luck!
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