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Family History - Getting Started

By: Leo Talbot

The most FAQ’s by those who are getting started in genealogical research (family history) are, “Where do I start?”, and, “Where can I go to get help?”

If you are just starting it is very important that you do so with a blank piece of paper (or a laptop) on which you write your own full name, date and place of birth and date and place of marriage if you are married. On that same sheet write the same details for any brothers and sisters. Be as neat as you can; neatness is a precursor to geneology accuracy.

Note: This is a good time to learn an important genealogical principle. Even though you may be quite certain of the dates you have written down for your siblings, check with your siblings and/or your parents to confirm that the dates are correct. It also pays to check names of siblings, particularly if you are the youngest in a large family. Some of your brothers or sisters may have been commonly called by a middle name, or a name given to them by an influential grandparent.

It is for this reason, that of being certain, that vital records are necessary to identify individuals. Ultimately you will seek access to birth, marriage and death records in order to confirm what you think, or believe, to be true. In time you will find yourself accessing the Social Security Death Index (SSDI), one of the countries most popular geneological data bases. Before you pass into history and become part of somebody else’s geneology, you will have researched many of the places where the names and information of those who have comprised the great passing parade of American life are now stored.

Taking a second blank sheet of paper, now write your father’s full name, date and place of birth, marriage and death (if deceased). Repeat this process for your mother, using your mother’s maiden (name prior to marriage) name.

Following the process of confirming the details, if your parents are still alive, ask them to make any necessary corrections or additions.

Using a separate sheet of paper ask each parent write the names, birth, marriage and death dates of each brother and sister. This information you will confirm at a later date. You are simply building your geneology data base.

Have your parents write the full name of their parents (just as you wrote for your parents), with birth, marriage and death dates (if they have them)?

If your grandparents are still living, visit with them as soon as possible, have them confirm the information your parents have given you about them and then have them provide you with whatever additional information they have.

Now you have the beginnings of your family history. Still the question remains, “Where do I go to get help?” Well, you have the first important response: To those of your relatives who are still living! It is vital that over the course of your search for your geneology you remember that those who are living are a most significant resource.

Here are some further tips.

So that you do not become overwhelmed by the data you are collecting, you should begin to get an understanding of how best to organize this and future data. There are conventions that will help you see and recognize relationships at a glance. To accomplish this you might want to make contact with your local Geneological Society. Most US cities and towns have at least one. Try your local historical society if there is not a telephone listing under Geneological Society. If you have a branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in your community, they normally have a Family History library on their premises. There is no membership charge and you should find that they are willing to be of assistance. If you feel awkward about dealing with the Mormons, it may help you to know that they tend not to use these libraries for missionary purposes and generally they are well patronized by those who are not members of their faith. Searching the Internet for a geneological society should also be on your list. After all, that is how you got here.

When you are visiting with relatives, it is always good practice to ask if they have a family Bible, journal, or any medium on which geneological (family) history has been recorded. If you are unable to borrow these records, then perhaps you will be permitted to copy the data that is in them?

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