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Getting Started in Genealogy

Honeydew has agreed to write this section on getting started in genealogical research. It will evolve and grow as she continues to add to it. Since her research experience is in the USA, that is what this is based on, however, we hope both novices and veterans from all countries will find it useful.

American Genealogy

Welcome to the fascinating world of genealogy. In working on your own genealogy you will (whether you like or not ) learn history, geography, sociology and religious practices. You may not even realize it.

You may find some skeletons in your family closet. If you do, remember, you are a product of your ancestors. The good, bad and the ugly .

You may meet family you didn't know you had. Certainly distant cousins who will share a common line.

Before we must understand, you can NOT do all your research on the internet. The internet is just ONE of many tools. We will discuss this further in an upcoming chapter.

Introduction to Genealogy

Genealogy in its raw form, attempts only to identify individuals and their relationships. But if you limit yourself to this approach, you'll miss, not only ancestors themselves, but also you won't learn much about the ones you do identify.

It would be more accurate to say we are here to learn how to compile our FAMILY HISTORY, which employs history, genealogy and sociology.

The first family genealogy in the US was published in 1771. (The Genealogy of Mr. Samuel Stebbins and Hannah his wife from 1701 to 1771)

The development of genealogy in the US was closely associated with the organization of patriotic societies. Many of these societies were organized shortly after the celebration of the centennial of American independence.

Many people who wished to be associated with royalty or one of the many prestigious patriotic organizations, did not produce accurate genealogies early on. These genealogies were characterized by inexperience, over zealousness and even dishonest research. But genealogy has prevailed. It's researchers have grown in knowledge and experience and benefited from more accessible documents.

Genealogy continued to grow in popularity with the advent of the bicentennial and Arthur Haley's Roots series. Modern genealogists attempt a more scholarly approach. This doesn't mean you need a PH.D. in genealogy. You don't! To over simplify it, it means you can prove what you print.

The most important part of doing genealogy is CITE YOUR SOURCES! There are several reasons this is important. Even if you never plan to publish your genealogy, or even share it with any family members, you may change your mind or family may try to continue your research after you pass on. Barring that, you may have an occasion to question a transcription of a piece of information. If you didn't cite your source, it may be difficult to relocate that document. You may also find other researchers who are working on the same lines as you. If you can't back up your work, you loose credibility and these people are less likely to share information with you. We'll learn effective ways to CITE YOUR SOURCES in another chapter.

Before we go any further. Let me say this: there are NO genealogy police. The information here is a guide. You may glean what information is useful to you.

Chapter One

The three EVENTS that help establish personal identities and family relationships are

The two FACTS collected about genealogical events are their
Now, with that said; family history is not just dates and places. But these basic events and facts about our ancestors are the tools we use to place them in history.

Another thing you must keep in mind while gathering your information...The difference between primary sources and secondary sources.

  • PRIMARY SOURCES - are records of events created at the time the event occurred. (ex: death certificate)
  • SECONDARY SOURCE - is information copied or compiled from other sources or long after an event occurred. (ex: a published genealogy)

    Other sources:
  • "Tracing Your Family Tree" by Brian W. Hutchison, Esq., B.Comm., C.M.A. (April 30, 1992, Calgary, Alberta)
  • Genealogy FAQ (draft)
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