Article updated on August 5th, 2017
Are you a budding genealogist? Do you have a budding genealogist? You’ll want to read about Getting Starting in Family Genealogy. For homeschooling families, genealogy research would make a wonderful history project and even give your high schooler credit for their work.
I have a love for history and genealogy is at the top of my list. Family history tells the story of who you and your family are. I didn’t realize when I first started researching I would be swept up into a massive history lesson about my ancestors. I am FAR FROM an experienced genealogist, but I have been researching my family and parts of my husband’s family for almost eighteen years. During those years, I’ve learned a lot.
Getting Started in Family Genealogy
Oral Research – Do this while the older generations are still here. This is critical because they may not be here that long. Ask questions, look through old photos, and preserve anything you can that will help in your research. Take notes on everything. (When I started out, I used a spiral notebook for each surname and I printed everything I found that was legitimate and placed in a folder.) Scan images, notes, certificates, anything you deem historical. If the older generation will allow it, record them telling what they remember. It’ll be nice to have a voice telling the stories for future generations.
You may want to look at How to Get the Most from Oral History
Don’t let your family’s history disappear with the loss of the older generation.
Start Slowly – While you are going to want to jump into the deep end, take it slowly because you will get sucked in and life will be put on hold while you are buried under a mountain of research. (Ask me how I know.) Start with one or the other of your parent’s family in the beginning, when you hit a brick wall, and you will, move to the other and work your way back.
Organize – Be organized with your information. I’ve moved on from printing things from the internet to keeping them in files. Each surname has a file and inside it, there are files for direct line head of households. I still use pencil and paper for things like leads and hints I need to research. Anytime, I add to those files; I make sure to back them up to a location like Dropbox. If you have physical documents, scan them into your computer and store the originals where they will be preserved.
Network – Places like Ancestry, Rootsweb, and Genealogy have forums where inquiries can be asked and answered. Genealogy has closed their forums to questions, but they have the option of leaving comments on posts. All you need to do is a search on either one and you’ll be bound to find what you are looking for, or someone who is looking also. Facebook has many genealogy groups. Of course, if you do an online search, you will find websites focused on surnames with the possible tie to the line you are looking for.
Genealogy Software – I’ve used several over the years. Family Tree Maker is the biggest expense I made for a software. When Ancestry stopped supporting it, I had to find something else. (But, Family Tree Maker is back and under new ownership) I fell in love with the ease of use from RootsMagic when FTM was dropped and wonder why I didn’t try them sooner. The one I disliked the most was MyHeritage. It wasn’t as easy to navigate and every time I turned on the computer; it had a nagging pop-up I had to click off. RootsMagic has their own Facebook Support Group.
You may want to look at The Best Genealogy Software.
I’m not one to spend a lot of money on a monthly subscription to Ancestry or Fold3. If your library offers the library edition to their members, use them. Just make sure you download everything you find related to your relative. You’ll not be able to access them outside the library.
Websites I use: Family Search – *Ancestry – Rootsweb – *ScotlandsPeople – Genuki: UK and Ireland Genealogy – Find a Grave – The USGenWeb Project – Georgia’s Virtual Vault – Georgia American History and Genealogy – The National Park Service – The Civil War – The National Archives – *Fold3 Historical Military Records
Genealogy Bloggers I read: