Genealogy is the study of the origins of individuals and their relationship to family members. Most people interested in genealogy start out researching their own family. They start with the known and work backward.
Genealogy research involves collecting data, analyzing it, and evaluating it. It involves dealing with the information at hand, with the best information available, without taking anything for granted, and being unbiased regarding the information.
The basic information to start acquiring is the dates and places of life events, such as birth, marriage, and death. Generally speaking there is a guideline for one to follow when doing research, as follows.
It is important to identify what you will be working on during your research session, a question you want to answer. You cannot get sidetracked on other things, but at the same time you don't want to not collect something pertinent that you happen to see about another family member. Just remember to follow through with the original project and exhaust all avenues for it.
You need to ask yourself, "what kind of records or documents are best to answer my question and where can I find them?" It is also a good idea to have a 2nd best resource, or 3rd, in the event you can't find the answer in the 1st.
You will now locate the information. Make copies or abstracts. Critically analyze and evaluate the information and the sources. Decide how this fits with other information you've gathered, to see if it holds true.
And lastly you will make a record of this information. It is crucial to keep records of your research. You will need to record what, where, and when you researched, of course the outcome, whether good or bad. For instance if you checked the court house for a birth record and couldn't find it there, you will want to record that the record isn't there so that you don't waste time and money looking for it there in the future.
A word on using repositories: please respect their rules regarding their materials so that they can stay preserved for future generations. And when making an abstract that you don't have to write every word or punctuation mark, but be sure to keep the same spelling of names and places even if incorrect, and keep the same dates.
To begin, get a pedigree chart and fill out what you can on it. An excellent site for all your genealogy needs is Ancestry.com
Once you get on Ancestry's site click on Learning Center at the top of the page, then click on Get Started. Once there, click on Ancestral Chart toward the bottom on the left side.
You can also find a chart through a Google search of the Internet. I have a Google search bar near the bottom of this site for your convenience so you don't have to leave this page. Print a 4 generation chart.
When filling out your chart follow the same format with every one. Print neatly. Make sure to use pencil at first until you are very sure of the information. Get into the habit of signing and dating forms when you fill them in. All letters in surnames should be capitalized such as, George WASHINGTON. You should use maiden names for females. Include county names with city and state, enclosing it in parentheses, like this: Chicago (Cook) IL. Use the following format for dates: 25 Dec 2008.
You should always have a hard copy of your records filed away for safe keeping. But, you can use an online service to make a tree online, and that is a great way to share and get contacts from others searching your people. If that interests you, go to Start Your Family Tree
All pedigree charts are assigned numbers, as are all people. Let's work on this chart, call it Chart #1. For the sake of this lesson, put your name on the left most line. Note: on some charts this line is the center line of the left most column. Number yourself #1. Your father goes on the line above and is labeled #2. Your mother goes on the line below your father and is labeled #3.
Continue filling in chart from left to right, top to bottom with grandparents and then great-grandparents in the final column. Males get even numbers, females get odd numbers. Males' numbers are twice their child's number. Females' numbers are twice their child's plus one. So the wives' numbers are one more than their husband. Follow the same format, husband on top line, wife under him all the way down the column. If you don't know the name to fill in you still have to number the line.
Most charts ask for the same information: name, date and place of birth, death, and marriage. Only record marriage information under the husband, not wife. Fill in as much as you can.
Some charts have a spot for the spouse of person #1, some do not. I recommend adding this information even if there are no specified lines for it.
Check over your chart for accuracy. Make a file folder for your chart or place in 3 ring binder.
If you happen to know more ancestors, such as great great grandparents (and as your research progresses you will discover them and more) you will need additional pedigree charts. I will be discussing these charts in upcoming lessons. They are filled in the same, but the numbering is different and I will save that for later.
Please feel free to email me if you have any questions. Be sure to look for lesson #2 coming soon regarding searching for clues to the past in your own home. If you send your email address, I will let you know about upcoming lessons.