Where Did I Come From? Part Two of a Series

February 3, 2019 Leslie Trichka Beery, VIS chair, Fort Morgan Chapter, NSDAR 

What a whirlwind week! Snow, freezing temps across the country, highways closed, businesses closed and now sunny and feels like Spring is around the corner…. 

Snow days give us lots of time to trace our roots! These are perfect chunks of time that we can devote some attention to researching and understanding our family lineage. We have some more snow days coming up and I know your desk is all ready, you have organizational supplies setup, your computer folders are created and waiting for source documents and most of all, you are itching to get started!  Let’s dive in! 

In the previous post we talked about genealogy interest that turns to research and setting up to be successful before you even start gathering documents. Approaching genealogy with meticulous detail and organization is the best way to stay interested. It is possible to quickly become overwhelmed with piles of papers and the inability to find anything as you move along through each person in your family history. Developing good habits in the beginning will give you rewards in the end. 

Picking up where we left off we will start on step five and go through step eight today.  

Step Five

Aunt Martha dropped off two boxes of documents, pictures, half filled out pedigree sheets and an old family bible. This would be a great way to start but not all of us have this luxury of having some of the research finished for us. So, if you do not have an Aunt Martha, this is where you start with yourself and start writing down everything you know.  Full names, birth dates, birth location, spouse name and information, marriage date and place, children and their information and so on. Adding to each person special details and anything you can remember or know about them is good to do, special stories, career information, hobbies or special accomplishments. Go as far back as you remember writing down as much as you know, you can fill in details later with research.  When you are completed with your own braindump of information you should have at least 2, 3 or 4 generations of information. At this time you can now contact other family members to ask questions and gather information about additional family members to add to the tree or fill in some gaps.  During interviews or conversations with other family members it is a good idea to ask for any primary source documents they may have such as vital records, marriage certificates, land records, pictures, etc.. This is will help in any effort to prove a lineage. Dates and locations need to be proven and are one of the most important pieces of information when researching.  Census records can help to further prove locations and give clues to other family members that may have lived together, next door, on the same block or in the same city.  

Here is a link for free pedigree charts to download and print!  

Another link for a collection of useful forms to keep track of research is located here:  https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Genealogy_Research_Forms

This link will provide the following: 

Step Six

Preserving primary source documents

While on this journey you will most likely come across some original documents and pictures that are very old and need to be preserved.  Finding a safe storage location for them is best but before they go into storage you will need to take steps to stop the breakdown of the paper.  One the most widely used methods is to enclose each page, picture or document into an acid free sleeve and then into an archival box.  This eliminates the air breakdown of the material and eliminates oil transfer and possibility of tears when handled.  In the event of family books, bibles, or other multipage records it is best to use appropriate size packets that are then put into a permanent archival case.  Remember, these are family artifacts and your proper handling will ensure that they can be passed on for many generations to come.  

Learn about archives and handling artifacts! 

Step Seven

Making sense of who belongs where

By now you have started to find new family members that you did now know of.  These names will be new to you and it may take awhile to fully understand or remember where they go and who they belong with in the family charts.  Your organization and filing will help to keep sense of the line but also reading over the information numerous times will assist in learning about the new family members that you never met from the past. A common mistake is finding similar names or exact names and following that person as if they were your ancestor only to find out that they do not belong anywhere in your family tree!  An article by Melanie Mayo | Editor, Family History Daily explains this and gives ideas of how to avoid this most common blunder among genealogists!  Read Melanie’s article here:  https://familyhistorydaily.com/genealogy-help-and-how-to/are-you-sure-theyre-your-ancestors/

Step Eight

Valuable resources and online methods

Proving names, marriages, locations, births and deaths can be tedious.  There will be some initial resources that you can use to find information quickly but in the event that you reach a dead end with certain branches of you lineage, you will need more and more ideas of places to find information or people to ask for clues.  

The National Archives has a great starting off point at https://www.archives.gov/research/genealogy

A great list of basic Genealogy Databases is located at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_genealogy_databases

A comprehensive collection of Genealogy tutorials is located at https://www.yvl.org/genealogy-tutorials/