Where Did I Come From?
January 18, 2019 Leslie Trichka Beery, VIS chair, Fort Morgan Chapter, NSDAR
Fair question and often a question that is approached with anxiety and worry. For the average person trying to find their way to past relatives is overwhelming.
Genealogy can prove to be both a daunting task and an incredibly exciting experience. It often reminds me of reading a spy novel or watching a mystery movie unfold! Tracing your lineage will give you plenty of whodunnit moments while even providing some spine tingling epiphanies if you uncover family secrets, scandal, amazing successes, or find members and branches of the family that were previously unknown. Some of the more popular online resources are Ancestry.com or FamilyTree.com. Both provide tools and access to large databases of indexed sources to start constructing your family tree. Some best practices that have tested can give you a shortcut to your success and save valuable time when examining documents or trying to determine if information is coming from a credible source. Many times along the way we can be branched out in a virtual goose chase and find out that we were pursuing information on the wrong “Jane Doe” that does not even belong to our family tree!
You have decided to dive into genealogy, congratulations! This will be one of the most rewarding experiences you ever experience. Your family will look to you and love to listen to what you find out because we all have a curiosity of who we are and “where did I come from?”.
You are going to need some organizational items. File folders, file cabinet, document sleeves for primary source documents that are aging, boxes for old books and some three ring binders to keep things in order. Find a nice spacious desk or table that you will use for your work area. You will need good lighting, a comfortable chair, a magnifying glass or sheet to put over hard to read items, a couple spiral notebooks for taking notes and several sharpened pencils. This will be a place you will need to set your computer or laptop if you are going to electronically research and store items as well (I hope you are!).
You are all set up, your desk is amazing and you have a burning passion to find out what the heck was going on back in the day with your family….
First you need to make some important organizational decisions.
Much of your work will take place on a computer so you will need to replicate step two in an electronic fashion.
Make sure you have storage space on your computer (free hard drive space).
Do not just throw documents all in one folder labeled “documents”. This will give you a headache later when you need to find something quickly. Create a Master folder called “Genealogy“. Under this master folder create separate folders for each surname you know that you will be researching. Within each surname folder, create folders for Vital Records, Cemetery Records, Census Records, Church Records, Legal Court Documents, Legal Land Documents, Legal Probate_Will, Other Legal, Newspaper_Published Materials and Unpublished Records. This should be your organizational base for each folder. See below for an example on my hard drive of a sample folder structure.
Great Job! You are ready to start collecting source materials and putting the puzzle of your history together. So, you ask, Where do I start? Good question!
Each genealogical journey is different, you may be starting from scratch, picking up where a previous family member had started to do some work, grabbing an old box of family stuff that could be useful or even inheriting a complete family tree to upkeep with current information and pass on in the future. Whatever your situation is this is where preparation and planning meet the task of work and translation. If you took a piece of paper and drew a circle in the middle and wrote your name inside, that is similar to where we start with building the family tree. Your family history starts with YOU and travels backwards. The circle with your name in the middle with have two bunny ears at the top, one is a line to a circle with your father’s name in the middle and the other is a line to a circle with your mother’s name in the middle.
This goes on and on and on, adding people on top and below, proving dates, names, marriages and deaths. Construction is at times slow and in other areas will travel quickly if records are easily at your fingertips. Of course this example above is handwritten and manual but the same concept is used when building a tree inside of Ancestry or FamilyTree. Each person is connected and needing to be proven and verified with each source properly vetted and checked. Soon you will have thousands of names and quickly understand why the ability to do this research online has improved the task of genealogical research tremendously.
A family reunion was held every three to five years on my husband’s maternal side of the family. They had done so much research and record keeping that they could go all the way back to small villages in England with reference and recordings of cemetery plots and old world occupations. This information was in one place and was all on paper. It was compiled, pasted, taped and held together to act as a large scroll. It was a beautiful thing. This scroll was taken to each reunion and displayed on the side of my husband’s grandmother’s garage. It was huge. And today, it is lost. No one knows where it is. So, take our tragedy and adopt some good record keeping practices by scanning and keeping digital copies as well as paper copies.
This should get you started and we will post Steps 5 through 8 next time! Check back and get to work getting your genealogy desk ready!
Leslie Trichka Beery, VIS Committee chair
Fort Morgan Chapter