05 March 2012

How to Begin Your Genealogy Research, or How Not to

One of my best friends has renewed her interest in researching her family tree. Woo hoo!!! An in person, non-virtual friend...who is actually interested in genealogy. She has caught the bug! How lucky am I?

How to Begin Your Genealogy Research

Like many who catch the genealogy bug, my friend would love to jump ahead and collect as much information as she can, but she has been allowing me to offer some guidance and I am thrilled at all the great discoveries she has made.

Here are a few of things she has done to get started:
  1. Contacted and gently prodded family information and records from her living relatives
  2. Made a research plan of the vital records she needed to collect for her direct line ancestors.
  3. Visited the town clerks where she suspected her ancestors' vital records would have been recorded. 
  4. Joined Ancestry.com and began using both Family Search and Find a Grave. She has been learning how to do a targeted Google search and has consulted genealogies and family histories.
  5. Tramped through cemeteries all over southeastern New Hampshire. Took pictures of her ancestors' graves as well as the graves all around her ancestors' burial plots. 
  6. Bought a special notebook to use specifically for her research notes so that she doesn't end up with lots of slips of loose paper. 
  7. Started a binder with a tab for each of her direct line surnames and individual sections for each of her direct line ancestors. Began filing her documents according to surname.
  8. Created a Dropbox account to share documents with me and with her family members. 
Hasn't she been doing a great job? She gets that it is important to not give up and even has a plan to look at alternative records for proving familial relationships. Another important skill she has used frequently is an often overlooked one: ask a question if you can't find something or you don't understand something. Not only has she been asking me questions, but also those she has met in her research journey. This leads me to a question she recently asked me and to the second part of this post.

How Not to Begin Your Genealogy Research

My friend is not shy, no, not at all. Everywhere she goes, she strikes up conversations. She had a nice talk with a local historian, who told her the advice he gives to most newbie genealogy researchers. When you start out, don't bother with getting all those original records, gather information from the people, who have already shared their family trees. What?? This is not the way to begin your genealogy research!

Random copying of names, dates, places and events from books and websites is never a good idea, unless the facts are linked to sources. Books and websites without sources can and should be consulted to find clues to possible research paths. Thankfully my friend knew enough to ask if the advice was good and she gets it. What about all of the newbies, who didn't know enough to ask? What do you think will happen with their family tree?

Happy Monday Everyone!

Scrappy Gen
Let's Remember!


  1. Oh dear! That is like saying that your last name and a famous person's last name is the same so you MUST be related and adding them to the tree with no research!

  2. Scary to think such bad advice is being given out. Common sense can't be bought eh?


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