Genealogy research is the study of specific families where a person tries to trace their history and lineage. This is usually done by professionals who make use of historical records, oral traditions and genetic analysis as well as other tools to retrieve information on a family. The details are mostly used to demonstrate the pedigrees and kinship of the family members. Most of the results are put down as narratives or displayed in charts.
The need to look into family history is usually shaped by a various motivations like when a person is looking for a sense of satisfaction when it comes to story telling, a sense of responsibility that is used to preserve events of the past for the future generations and desire to find out the place that a single family holds in a bigger historical picture. Genealogy research is usually considered a complex process where reliable conclusions are normally based on original records, quality of sources, information from the sources, first hand or primary information as well as the evidence that that can be derived indirectly or directly from the information gathered.
How to get started
Most genealogists normally start the research by gathering family stories and documents. These normally create a foundation that is used for the research and it involves evaluating and examining historical records to brush for evidence about kinship ties, relatives and ancestors and the events that happened in their lives. As a general rule, the research has to begin from the present and work backward through time. Pedigree charts and family group sheets are normally used to keep track of all the collected material. These were normally handwritten but thanks to technology they can be generated from genealogical software.
It is important to know the type of information that you will be looking for when conducting genealogy research to make things easier and some of these include:
- Family names – These are some of the most important pieces of information and ironically one of the greatest source of confusion for the researchers. There are many cultures in which the name suggests the kind of family the individual belongs to and is referred to as surname, last name or family name. Patronymics can also be used where the fathers name is used to identify an individual’s identity.
- Given names – These are the names that were given to an individual by their family. First names are usually very tricky to use as they are normally interchanged with nicknames. Middle names however come in handy as they help to provide additional information as they can be following naming customs, be treated like a part of the family name or even be inherited.
- Place names – This is where you have to look for life events and the precise locations of ancestors’ residence, core elements of the research quest. They can be very confusing because of variant spellings and the locations can have similar names.
- Dates – This has to be approached with a lot of caution because they can be easily mis-transcribed because they are usually very difficult to recall. You can use civil registrations and birth dates that provide more accurate information.
- Occupation – This can be vital when it comes to distinguishing 2 different people and understanding the ancestral life better. The occupation can represent a person’s political interest, migration pattern and social status among many others. There are some families where a certain trade is passed on to generations which can show indirect verification of family relationships. When using this, keep in mind that occupations and titles normally change over time.
Once you know all the information that is needed, it is best to organize yourself properly to make the research work much easier. This can be done by converting all the information piles into files. This is important for preserving the research and spring cleaning when it comes to genealogy. All the files should be well labeled and contain the information that is needed in a neat and clean way. This way, if you want to go back and dig for any information it will be much easier and will not take up too much time or effort. You can use the A-Z filing system to organize the documents.
Time is a very important factor in genealogy research and it needs to be managed well so that you don’t spend all your life coming up with a family tree. It is very important to have a calendar of events and time limits and goals that will guide you in completing the task on time. Make sure you focus on the goals and try your best to catch up in case there is something that was not done to save on time.
Photographs can be used as an organizational measure as they help to protect the family memories that have been made over time. They also help to make the report more interesting and lively as individuals are able to see some of the people who are on the family tree. It is also important to document your sources as these help to provide vital information that adds value to the document. It is usually best to use sources that you know as they are likely to be more reliable than the ones that will only make up fake stories by various “wannabe” authors that cannot be used in the documents.
Developing research skills
This is very important as this is one of the things that determine the quality of the end report. Here individuals need to know that they have to work hard and be patient to get the information and results they need. You have to learn how to decipher handwriting and documents to flash out information. It is also important to lean how to deal with oral histories and female ancestors to get some of the details you need.
Maps and local histories can be used to research the places the ancestor lived. It is also important to learn how to look outside the family to get the information needed and look for ideas that will help you jump over brick walls to find the necessary information. It is also important to trace the medical history as well as the outdated medical terms to understand the family’s medical history which can help to shed some light on the existing medical conditions. If you are not a professional genealogist, it is important to know the right time to call in one to help with the project. This gives it a professional outlook as they help to correct the mistakes that have been done as well as guide the individual on how to complete the document successfully with minimal flaws.
Sharing results with family and other researchers
There are a number of software programs that are used to assist individuals share the data with other people. The standard format used for this is known as GEDCOM that exports information about individuals and their relationships. GEDCOM offers excellent remote access software for their users. This format allows the researcher to share their findings with other genealogists as it is added to an online database. This information can also be converted into personal family websites when you want to share the information with members of the family. This makes it much easier for individuals to access the information without any complications.
There are some SNS (Social Networking Service) sites that allow the genealogists to share the information they have and come up with their online family trees. This is very convenient and is important for the research as it allows individuals to upload family tress and they can contact the members of their family to fill in some of the gaps left in the research. This also helps to save the time and energy that would have to taken to travel miles on end to different places to get the information the researcher is looking for. It also helps to cut down on costs and enables many people of a family to reunite and know each other once the tree has been completed as a result of team work from various family members. Large family reunions that involve long lost relatives are very popular after a successful family history research has been completed. These can take place anywhere and usually offer food & drinks, entertainment, and outdoor activities that will help with bonding.
It is important to note that volunteerism is a very prominent in genealogy research. This ranges from the volunteer efforts that are organized highly to the extremely informal. There are a number of useful and popular message boards when it comes to the informal side like mailing lists and Rootschat that deal with particular regions, surnames and a variety of topics. The forums can be used to look for research advice, relatives, request record lookups and many other things.
There are many professional genealogists who end up taking part in various loosely organized projects both off and online. The collaborations make use of very any forms because there are some projects that prepare and publish the indexes. These can be used to find original records that will be used in the research. There are some projects that abstract and transcribe records. Volunteers can also offer record look up services and take pictures in their home towns and send them to the researchers who are not able to travel.