1. Genealogy is the search for our ancestors. Family history is the study of the lives they led. Using the information from each area provides us with a true picture of our family.
2. Start with yourself. Document everything you know about yourself. Include your spouse, children, grandchildren, etc. Include occupations, where you have lived and all important events in your life. Then, and only then, start working backwards and with your living relatives.
3. Make a list of all living relatives after you complete your personal genealogy. Interview each of them. Be prepared with a list of questions. Use a tape recorder for the answers or take very good notes. Respect the personâ€™s privacy, but do not delay; relatives have a nasty habit of dying before being interviewed.
4. Remember that each generation doubles the number of ancestors. It's easy to get lost if you don't plan ahead for your trip. Focus on one or two families. The others will still be there when you get to them.
5. Female lines are as important as male lines. One-half of your ancestors are female! They can be more difficult to locate since most changed their names when married.
6. Remember to document everything you find on your ancestors. Undocumented genealogy is mythology!
7. Meaningful genealogy requires thought. Develop a research plan and set goals. Why am I doing genealogy? How far back do I want to go? For example, go back 4 generations, or go back to the immigrant ancestor, or even to just do my fatherâ€™s male line, etc.
8. To find a birth date from a death date, subtract the age in years, months and days from the date of death. This is a very close approximation.
9. Know your relationships: An ancestor is a person from whom you are descended. A descendant is a person who is descended from an ancestor. A relative is someone with whom you share a common ancestor but who is not in your direct line.
10. Always record females using their maiden names.
11. A person who dies "intestate" dies without a valid will.
12. There is genealogy beyond the internet! While the internet is one very convenient tool, it is not the only tool. Check out online library catalogs, then visit the library to access the book or request an interlibrary loan.
13. By the time you have collected data on a couple hundred of your relatives, you will realize that genealogy software would make keeping track of relationships within your tree, filing data about individuals, and generating reports much easier. The Society has a special interest group that discusses Family Tree Maker software. Compare features before selecting the software best for you.
14. The Family Group Sheet identifies a couple and their children. Everyone with a spouse or child has two group sheets â€“ on as a child with parents and usually one as a parent with children.
15. The Pedigree Chart is a map from you to your ancestors. Begin with yourself. Females always use their maiden names.
16. Surnames began in Europe about the 11th century. They developed as trade increased. The four basic groups of surnames are the patronymic (based on the fatherâ€™s name), landscape features or place names, action or nicknames, and occupational or office names.
17. When it comes to spelling variations, be creative. Often clerks and government officials were unable to correctly record the names given them by unschooled immigrants not familiar with languages used in their port of entry. The surname was written down as the official heard it and the immigrant accepted that as the official American rendering of his name.
18. A time line begins with your ancestor's birth and is filled in with various events in his life. Continue to fill this in as information becomes available to provide a picture of your ancestor's life. Several of the genealogy software programs assist you with this.