Thursday, May 6, 2010

Genealogy: Where to Start

Researching your family history can be a long task that truly never has an ending place. Experts in the field tell you to start with what you know and work backwards. Then, contact your oldest relative and find out all they know about your ancestors. I can't tell you how true this is. The information that your grandparents and hopefully great grandparents have is invaluable. Many sites tell you to write down everything they say but my suggestion is to either video tape or voice record the conversation. Try to get legal names for relatives. If they mention "Aunt Flo", ask if that was her legal name. Some people don't answer to their legal name because they've developed nicknames or simply don't like it. However, legal documents, the kind you will find during your research will most likely have the legal name. Don't be afraid to ask if they have any actual documentation in their possession. You will be surprised how many people are holding on to original documents such as marriage and death certificates and in the case of my family, original discharge papers for relatives that were in the Civil War. Many people will be reluctant to give these items to you to keep but you can ask to scan or copy the documents. My great grandmother (pictured above) left a video tape describing how she met my great grandfather, how and when she settled on a new farm as a young girl. Although I received this film late into my research it validated a lot of information that I had been unsure of and helped me down a couple of new roads. Even information such as remembering half of the names of children in an extended family can be helpful later on. There is another aspect of this type of research. One that the experts don't always mention. It's a lot more interesting. Names and dates are important and absolutely necessary for your research BUT learning the stories that go along with the names and dates are what make family history the most rewarding.

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