01 December 2008

Getting Started With Research, Lesson #2

In this lesson you will begin to do research. You will conduct your research in your own home. You will be looking at family records, bibles, newspaper clippings, letters, photographs, et c. In addition to these are the stories you've heard-the oral traditions that have been passed down. The objective is to gain the skill and ability to look at these things and other things in a way you haven't before, to glean every bit of information from them, and then to evaluate, analyze, and verify it.

We all have stories that circulate through the family about things that happened way back when and how it used to be in the good ol' days. These stories have sometimes been exaggerated and embellished over time to make an event more interesting. sometimes things are completely fabricated. Other times things are downplayed, especially if of an undesirable nature.

Think about these stories. When did you first hear it? And from whom? Was this person involved, did they witness it first hand? Did it happen a long time age? Most stories are based on a true event, but do not count them as fact until you can verify the information with documentary evidence. Sometimes it isn't possible to verify things, but that doesn't mean you should disregard the story. It is still part of your family's heritage and should be kept and cherished and passed down, just don't pass it on as fact until you can prove it.

Perhaps you are lucky enough to have a family bible that has been passed down. What a treasure this is, especially if someone took the time to actually record events. It may be the only source of some events, stuff that happened before records were being kept by government entities.

Look at your bible. When and where was it published? Try to find out who it originated with and its subsequent owners. Look at the information that was recorded. Did events happen before the bible was published? Is the handwriting all the same? If so, it would indicate that just one person entered all the information and it may not be accurate. Are events recorded in the order they occurred? Were dates or names added in later? Remember these names, dates, relationships, et c. are not facts until you can prove them.

Take these same questions with you when you look at other family records, papers, and photographs. Look for letters, diaries, military papers, photographs, religious certificates, school certificates, organization papers, newspaper clippings, family announcements or newsletters, et c. You need to have an unbiased eye and mind when analyzing these things. Think about answering who, what, where, when, why, and how while going through these things. Look at your photographs. Even if there is no written information on your photos, you can still get some information from it. Can you date it based on the type of photo it is? How about the clothing people are wearing, is there a vehicle in the photo, what time of year is it, is someone pregnant in it, can you tell where it was taken, can you read street signs or license plates? Really look at your photos, use a magnifying glass.

After you have gathered your family papers, stories, and photographs, make a list of where you obtained these things or from whom. Make a list of genealogical information you have found in each. These are the things that will now need to be verified. You will learn how to verify these things in subsequent lessons. For now, just make the list and then put things aside for a couple days. Go back to your items and give them a fresh look-you will probably come up with more information. Read your list-sometimes it will trigger a thought of what to look for in another paper or photograph. Go over all of it again if need be. You will be surprised at the information you can get from these records.

Work on this and be ready for lesson #3 in about a month.

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