Doing Your Own Family Research
Doing your own family research is not rocket science, but success in doing it does require a certain amount of persistence and determination, attention to detail, a generous bit of analytical and deductive thinking, and your own focused attempt to seek, find, and record the truth – always. Being humble, polite, and learning to ask lots of specific questions is an important part of this process – this whole subject area is a huge learning and maturing process.
In the animal kingdom, only humans seem intent on recording history and using historical evidence to determine what happened, and where he or she came from. This has led to recorded history, a process that is still evolving and going on wherever humans live and work. On a positive note, human record keeping seems to be improving in quality, in quantity, and in availability in recent decades with the advent of the Internet, and we can witness that process in all of its glory in the record keeping style and intensity performed by various government agencies – they record everything.
But, in addition to the good records keepers, aka the truth tellers, we also have the liars, frauds, and fools – people who choose to tell lies to others, and others who simply make mistakes. Ours is not a pure animal species by any definition at all.
And while an individual family’s history is invariably the beginning of a story, learning about that story also reveals a bit of local history and culture of a people.
I sometimes tell people that my work in genealogy is like that of a private investigator, the only difference being that many (maybe most) of the people I look for and research are dead, and some have been dead for centuries. But seeking that record of truth and/or fiction about an individual over times long past is where the fun and frustration for a genealogist begins.
In this beginner’s guide, I will try to provide enough information and suggestions to help you get started doing your own family research. I’ll also try to get you, through stories and observations of my own research, to see how the research process works and how to use your own thinking process to be successful. Some of what I write may be redundant to what you already know and understand about computers, or genealogy, or whatever, but remember – this is a beginner’s document.
And, regardless of your personal background and experience, I will link the basic family research elements that I think you will need to have and use, in order for you to be as successful as possible starting your own family research efforts. You will be reading the culmination of my own learning efforts for the past couple of decades. Inasmuch as some books on this subject try to teach organized methods and procedures, I won’t do much of that in this book. I think we are all different and those differences mean we will all tend to do things differently. Good for us.
I should also mention that I learn something new in this area of research every single day. This is part of what keeps me involved in this ongoing research process – I still have so much to learn. I am still a student of life. So, if mysteries and discoveries are your ‘thing,’ I suggest this is a great personal hobby area for you to jump into.
Also note that my suggestions and techniques, while being American based and oriented, should apply as well for anyone anywhere beginning family research.