I know when we think genealogy we think of archives, libraries, cemeteries, churches and online databases. Without a doubt, these are very important places in your genealogy research. Many genealogy beginner's are quick to sign up with an online database or head to an archive before really knowing what it is they are looking for.
Genealogy begins at home. Before you even begin to think about heading to one of these repositories, or signing up online, your first step into the world of genealogy should begin within your four walls.
Your genealogy research needs to start by gathering all the information around your house. Sort through boxes, pictures, photo albums, bibles, funeral cards, letters, birth certificates, immigration papers, marriage certificates every piece of information you have lying around your home.
As you record the information from these sources, you will encounter many dates, names and places. Create a system to keep track of the information that has been verified against primary sources (birth certificates, marriage certificates for example) other information that you obtain through a note, scribbling on the back of a picture etc. will still require to be verified against actual records. At the end,you will have compiled a list of what you know, what needs to be verified (perhaps record this in pencil, or highlight it or different colour to indicate this) and you will have a list of what you do not know.
Either record this information, in a genealogy software program, in a file on your computer, or create a binder to organize your information. There are many genealogy software programs available. Some for free, such as Roots Magic(depending on the verison), or others such as Family Tree , you can purchase through My Genealogy Store. Organization is important in the early stages. Choose an organizational system, or several. For instance, I have created a tree in Ancestry; they also serve as my primary research vehicle. I also keep files in file folders on my computer and I keep a hard copy of everything in a binder. One of the biggest complaints genealogist have is keeping their research organized. Therefore, I cannot stress enough, how important it is to set time aside each week to keep your records in order.
Once you have recorded everything you have accumulated around your home, and have put it into an organized system, start a research to-do list; this is a list of the missing puzzle pieces. Having a research list that you can refer to will keep you on track and focused. You will begin to pick them off one at a time.
Now, you are ready to move outside of your home. However, we are still not ready to head to repositories or databases. Now you are going to move to the home of your parents, your grandparents, aunts and uncles. Any living relative older than yourself, which may have access to more information about your ancestors.
Ask to go through their boxes, pictures, bibles etc. Start the process all over again. Record everything you have accumulated, scan and return all pictures and documents to them. You may have already been able to verify some of your information by taking this next step; you may have filled in a few missing puzzle pieces. However, you also may have added more unverified information and accumulated more unanswered questions.
What is interesting thing about genealogy, the more we learn through research, the more we discover, the more questions we have, the more we want to learn and the cycle starts again. I guess this is why a genealogist never feels their work is never done.
Now you are ready to move on to Step 2. No, sorry still not heading to the archives and cemeteries, you are now ready to interview the living.
Check in on Wednesday for my post on interviewing the living along with a list of interview questions to get you started.