Saturday, July 12, 2014

Back to the Basics!

Recently someone asked me a very simple question. "How do I get started in genealogy?" "Do local groups offer beginning genealogy classes online?"

Wow, that was a wake up call! I really had to stop and think about the answer and the more I explored it in my mind the more I realized that after almost 60 years of being exposed to my family history, I couldn't answer that question.

Well, yes of course, I could give the standard generic answer: Yes, I know a few people who give beginning genealogy courses at the local community colleges. These instructors are very good at what they do and I would highly recommend them.

But I didn't get started that way and in my mind I needed to know the difference. My family tree was mailed to me in an envelope. It contained all the names and dates and sources I needed to become a Daughter of The American Revolution (DAR). I am still not a member, but, today, I know a lot more about my ancestors than those few facts on that application. I know "the dash"!

So here is my advice if you are just starting out. You need to locate as much information about your family as you can get your hands on. Everything from facts to family folklore. How do you do this? Simple! 

Before you sign up for that beginning genealogy class -- declutter your house. I know, you are now saying that decluttering your house has nothing to do with family history. Bet me Buckwheat!

You get used to living with all that stuff! Like birth certificates, funeral home cards, letters, Christmas cards, pictures (maybe even some with the people identified), baptismal records, baby books, journals (if you're lucky), high school year books, envelopes with a name and address stuck in an old cookbook, post cards from World War I or II, naturalization papers, a receipt from a local store. It all depends on your family and hopefully they were all pack rats!

Once you have found all of these bits and pieces of information you will have a foundation on which you can build your genealogical research. You have yourself, your parents, hopefully your grandparents, and some locations and dates. Now you can go to a beginning genealogy class.

So, you are saying -- what is the difference. Why not go to the class first? Because if you have a little bit of research under your belt when you walk into that classroom, you can say - this is what I found - where do I go from here. And, also you know what a source of information looks like.

It is like you can't bake a cake unless you have some of the ingredients already in your pantry. Granted, you might have to run back to another store to get the rest of what you need. But you will know what you are missing and you will be able to figure out where you can get it. And eventually you will be able to have your cake and eat it too.

That is how genealogy research works. Some times it is two steps forward and one step back. 

Wait, I take that back -- it is always two steps forward and one step back.
So how do you deal with that problem? You connect with other genealogists!

Next: Where do I go from here?

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