Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Where to Start Your Search for Ancestors.

Dorothea Lange's "Migrant Mother," a...

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Are you just beginning your research into the history of your family?  Trying to figure out just how your going to track down those ancestors, just barely spoken of within your lineage?  Well, if your like I was, with just a passing knowledge of your family pedigree, you have your work cut out for you.  Don’t worry or get flustered, there are quite a few places you can look for help that won’t cost you anything but a little time.

One of the first things you should do, is ask your family!  Many times, your parents or grandparents will have copies of a pedigree or family tree that has been passed down to them.    One of the benefits I had starting out, is that one of my Aunts had done considerable work on tracing  my paternal family tree.  My sister had also done a lot of research on the maternal side.  Now her motives were ulterior, you see, in Colorado you can get “Pioneer” plates for your car if you can prove residence of your family for at least 100 years.  She really wanted those Pioneer plates for some reason. 

Most importantly, take a little time and have sit down conversation with your mother and/or grandmother if she is still alive.  You would be surprised what they can tell you from memory.  I have found that most of the females of a family line seem to have a more directed knowledge of the family ancestors.  I wonder why that is, snicker and giggle?

The information you really want to find out, is the names of course, but sometime just as important is the localities.  Where did they live?  When did they move there, and from where?  Was it a large family, with a lot of children, or a smaller one with just one or two?  Be sure to take a note pad, and jot down all of this information, pay close attention to the spellings, and ask if your not sure.

One trick that works great for getting the women to talk about their family and history is to go through the old photo albums.  Every mother and grandmother I know, just loves to go through those old pictures. The photographs will spark specific memories and stories of events that occurred in their youth.  Let them talk, if you can take a tape recorder, record the stories, for they are the salt of family history.  You can confirm or discredit these stories later, just do what you can to keep them talking. 

Fathers and grandfathers will have their fair share of stories too.  I have found it’s harder to get them started though, they seem to need a specific spark of memory to bring out the tales passed down to them.  I have to laugh at myself on this topic, because I can look back and see the times I sat and listened, totally fascinated, to Dads stories.   Did I ever once, sit down and try to write down or record what he had told me?  Not once!  Now I just wish I could have that time back, not just for the stories either.  The best way to get the male population to re-hashing those old tales is, to get them out doing what they really enjoy, working in in the wood shop, fishing, hiking, what ever it is that they love to do.  Then just ask a few directed questions, and try to keep them on subject.  They’ll probably have more information about the men in their background.  Us guys are just that way for some reason, snicker and giggle.

Once you have all this information, you’re going to have to sit down somewhere quiet and organize it all.  I have found it helpful to record everything in some kind of visual format like a pedigree chart.  You can download a free PDF pedigree chart at Misbach Enterprises, or at Free Genealogy Forms and Charts.  The next thing I recommend you do is, to start a family group sheet for each head of house on your chart, or if you want to get serious, for each person on your chart.  Then you can start filling in the information about the family as you find it.  Another useful form is the the family record sheet.  There are a number of places you can get all the genealogy forms you can use, on line and free. You can find many of them at Ruth Ann’s Free Genealogy Forms and Charts, or at Cindy’s List, or at least links to where they can be found.

Once you’ve done this, take a breath.  That was a lot of work, and some pretty good progress on your research.  The next time you go into town and visit the office supply store, pick up some binders and folders to help you organize the research information.  You can also visit my Amazon E-Store, and find some organizing products that will help with this particular task.  I have found, that staying organized is the most useful tool in the genealogical research toolbox.  It’s not always easy to do either, just wait until you find one of those “break through” records that leads you to many, many, many more ancestors. 

I’ll get more into the organization of your research records later.  This is probably enough information for now, and we’ll be doing more searches, and record keeping as we go along.  There is a lot of paperwork that goes into this task I have chosen to involve myself with, but it’s fun and can be very interesting once you start learning the secrets of your ancestors.

Be sure to visit regularly, or subscribe to my feed to get all my articles when they come out.  The easiest way to stay up to date, is to have my articles emailed to you.  Just enter your email address in the form on the sidebar near the top, click enter, then be sure to confirm the subscription when you receive the email from Feedburner.  There is no cost, it’s totally free, so you have nothing to loose.  I hope you have a wonderful day and find a few new ancestors while your at it.

Quote of the Day:
”Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.”
--Albert Szent–Gyorgyi de Nagyraolt

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