INTRODUCTION: This is a very basic introduction to the world’s number one hobby, GENEALOGY. We include this introduction for those newcomers just now venturing forth to discover their heritage, The following sections are not intended to be all-encompassing or all-inclusive—that cannot be as genealogy is a most dynamic subject especially when using the Internet.

DEFINITION: Genealogy means a study of the genes, or bloodline. Therefore, adoptions, whether formal or informal, are not to be considered when calculating family lineage’s. This is not to say one cannot enter an adopted child into genealogical records. Rather, the adopted child cannot use your bloodline to determine his/her lineage. That child has his/her own bloodline created by his/her own biological parents.

Genealogy may be done in two basic ways: Firstly, “genealogy” starts with the earliest known ancestor and descends generation by generation documenting each descendant, spouse, and child. Secondly, “pedigree research” is a genealogical process, which starts with YOU. You should at this point decide whether to collect documentation on all ancestors (siblings, in-laws/outlaws) or limit your research to only the parents of each generation.

APPLICATION OF A FEW PERSONAL ATTRIBUTES: Smart and efficient genealogy requires its practitioners to exercise focus, organization and discipline since it is easy to go off on a tangent when doing genealogy. Therefore, one must be diligent to focus and assure staying on the trail to complete the designated task before venturing elsewhere. If you see something of interest, make a note to do it later. Organization is important because without it documents may get lost, appointments missed, correspondence not sent or followed-up, etc. We have included some forms, which will help you in this area. Discipline is the cornerstone of genealogical research. It is the binder for all that goes into your research efforts. Without dotting your “I’s” and crossing your “T’s”, you can quickly lose control of your work which will require additional and unnecessary expenditures of both time and money and lend considerable confusion to your task at hand.

FILING SYSTEM: There is no established genealogical central filing system. Whatever works best for YOU is the best system, but the sooner you start it, the better. As you are just starting, the following will allow you to collect documentation and find it whenever you wish until you decide on a better method:

Legal size folders with a tab on top for easy viewing; No more than 25 documents per folder, thus label folders, e. g “0000 – 0025, 0026 – 0059”, etc; Use removable labels to fit tab. On each document, apply small removable label with the next available number to
the bottom left of right corner and BE CONSISTENT unless covering up info; Prepare for each folder an “Index Page” of about 25 lines which reflects the document number with a very brief description, e.g. “1850 Census (John SMITH, Tom JONES”). Make a Master Index composed of a copy of each individual file folder index, thus negating your having to search the files manually. (With a computer, the Master Index can be placed on a disc, called up when needed and the “FIND” command used to tell you the document number and thus the file.)

Some family researchers use a separate filing cabinet with folders marked for each surname being researched. Into these folders goes all the documentation discovered about that surname. When a document is proven to be connected to your family, then it is removed, labeled, indexed, and filed in the above-mentioned file.

Some family researchers also prefer to have in the file for each person/surname a copy of each document, which refers to that person. Take for example, a census. Not that long ago, it was not unusual to find families with 14 children. Under this method, 14 copies would be made. If the above filing system is used, than only a single copy of any document is required as that document number can be used as a reference for any number of ancestors. The latter saves on time and money.

GENEALOGY FORMS: There are many different forms in genealogy. For now, the use of Pedigree Chart, Family Group Sheet and a sample census form are at Attachments 1, 2 and 3, respectively, to start you off.

The “Pedigree Chart” starts with YOU on the first left hand line in the center, usually marked as “1.” Your father is on the upper, right central line, usually marked “2” and your mother below him usually marked as “3.” The paternal line is always even numbers and the maternal line is always odd numbers no matter what the surname. The “Pedigree Chart” is useful to show the generations as you collect your ancestors.

The “Family Group Sheet” is a repository of genealogical facts gleaned from various sources. A “Family Group Sheet” is prepared for each generation on the “Pedigree Chart” with the father on the top line. If no known father, that line is left blank. On this “Family Group Sheet”, you may cross-reference to the document in your filing system from which you obtained the info. By adding that reference now, it will save you hours of searching for it later.

COPIES of these forms can be taken with you on your genealogical ventures, thus negating the carrying of the original documents, which should never be done.

The “Census Form” is used to extract family information from the actual census document. Be sure to look on preceding and succeeding pages of each Census for possible family continuations as well as nearby in-laws and outlaws. Most families moved in groups in the old days for economic and safety reasons.

HELPFUL HINTS: Here are a few “tricks of the trade” which will save you time and money throughout your genealogical research. You will probably develop some of your own “tricks” as you get more experienced.

  • Always use a pencil to record genealogical information. There are many sources of errors in genealogy and using a pencil will expedite your research. When the data is confirmed, you may then transcribe them in ink or ball point pen. In some libraries, staff will not permit you to take the latter into the building.
  • Always take plenty of change (usually dimes and quarters will suffice) for the copying machines and small bills for the change makers. Staff are not bankers and dislike being interrupted.
  • Always be brief, focused, and polite when writing to request information. Include a Self Enclosed Stamped Envelope (SASE) or state you will reimburse for expenses incurred on your behalf in the quantity is more than a SASE will accommodate. Be prepared to follow-up if you do not get a response in a reasonable time. The libraries, historical/genealogical societies and government offices, etc., are usually understaffed. Whenever you visit a site to collect genealogical information, remember to thank them for their expertise and efforts on your behalf—even if they didn’t find your great grandfather’s birth record. If some staff member has been exceptionally helpful, drop him/her a note of thanks. Who knows, you most likely will be going back there and it is good to be recognized as an appreciative person. It pays.
  • Never take your original documentation with you as it can be easily lost or “borrowed.” If you can recall all that is missing, you will be fortunate, but either way, it is time consuming and expensive to replace documentation. Instead, make notes of who/what you are looking for and take those in addition to copies of your “Pedigree Charts” and “Family Group Sheets.”
  • Some sites refuse you entry with anything other than a few pieces of paper. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

HELPING YOURSELF: Some beginners are petrified to attend a genealogy society meetings because they think members will consider them dumb if they know very little about genealogy research. Please be advised there is no person working in genealogy, including Certified Genealogists, who know it all, any more than any car mechanic is able to work on all cars. Therefore, join the local genealogy society and learn something new at each meeting. Volunteer for one of its committees and learn by doing while making friends at the same time. You will soon find it most enjoyable and time well spent. And, you just might meet or learn about a distant cousin you knew nothing about—which has happened on more than one occasion. Please take advantage of local genealogical societies by becoming a member and attending meetings, getting on committees to learn more about genealogy and attend other seminars sponsored by sister societies.

The web contains thousands of sites pertaining to genealogy. You will find these few exceedingly helpful:

CONCLUSION: The preceding is only the tip of the genealogical iceberg. The goal of this article is to start you off in the right direction armed with some the proper tools, procedures, forms and a few “tricks of the trade.” Hopefully these will make your tasks easier and hasten the days of discovery which await you.

Everyone at  EDMUND CHANDLER FAMILY ASSOCIATION wish you the best of luck with your research.


1 Comment

Filed under General Geneology

One response to “GENEALOGY 101: STRICTLY FOR BEGINNERS by Bob Chandler

  1. A very clear and sensible post about how to start doing genealogical research. This is all excellent advice, especially about being organized. Things can quickly get out of hand if you try and do everything at once – so taking a step by step approach, following one line at a time is the best approach.


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