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 Where to start your Family Research

So you’ve decided you want to know more but you don’t know where to start or perhaps you are starting over again. I began my own family tree in a 3-ring binder with notebook paper. I included 14 numbered blank spots: 

  1. Name

  2. Nick Name

  3. Date of Birth

  4. Place of Birth

  5. Date of Marriage

  6. Place of Marriage

  7. Date of Death

  8. Place of Death

  9. Cause of Death

  10. Burial

  11. Spouse

  12. Children

  13. Parents

  14. Siblings


It wasn't until 9 years later I began to use software and forms. However, you are free to use these forms or software if you'd like, they cover those areas of information above. Alright, so we are starting with the question of "What do you want to know?" Well there we go - Check! Next.. well.. now we have to find the answers. Starting with "Who do you want to know this about?" To help you get the hang of it I suggest you start with yourself and line up your own documentation. Then move onto your parents, siblings, grandparents and so on for as many people as you know. Some you will fill in all 14 spaces, Some you will have only one or two things.

Now you must decide take this information to a professional or research it yourself. 

Genealogy research takes a lot time, persistence and commitment. You’ve got to be organized, decisive and knowledgeable just to get through the archives. So many people rely on the internet for their research but are later overwhelmed at the sight of the volumes of records available in person. Sometimes, even the online records prove too overwhelming. What about those who have never seen an original record and rely on the translations and transcriptions provided online? What happens when they have a go at that ‘quick trip’ to the archives, and end up becoming lost; leaving with more questions than answers?

Perhaps you have all the skills to do the search yourself but find that you don't have the time or the software. Or perhaps, you simply don't want to do the research yourself but still want to know the history of your family.This is the time you need to consider hiring someone to take on the work for you. There are those who have developed skill, earned and/or trained for such undertakings and offer their help. Genealogy researchers have had the experience of sorting through conflicting resources and have the necessary knowledge to find out correct dates and information. They have had the day when they found “John Smyth” on “Main Street” listed several times and know how to determine who it is they want. Many have access to records you may not know exist or to ask for.

There are several ways to determine who to hire to help you, many things to consider such as qualifications vs. experience; cost vs. speed; location vs. reputation. You may find the most qualified researcher who is too expensive or too busy; Maybe you'll find a researcher who is available in your budget but they have less experience than the previous researcher. You might be one of the many people who feel uncertain about hiring a genealogy researcher but once you decide you do want to hire someone, the
most important thing to consider is if you are comfortable with the researcher you have chosen. They are going to do the leg work for you, digging into your family and you need to be able to trust their experience and communication skills to help you discover your roots. So perhaps you get on the schedule for the first researcher, or you're comfortable with the honesty of the second researcher. It's all up to you and where you are comfortable. It's also important to understand that hiring someone to do the research for you, doesn’t guarantee you a relation to royalty, a fairy tale history or even a single search result.

Wait a minute, wait a minute! Let's back up.

You want to do the research yourself! So let's assume you've now filled in the 14 facts about those people who you know exist. This has automatically filled in some of the "when" and "where" information. Which will help you know which records to search for the answers you don't have. Quite often, though not always, the families records are all in the same area, moving as a group to new areas. If that's not the case for your family, it's likely they are in a nearby town.

You can search online, find the local archives, some libraries are great sources. There are too many options to list here individually. You need to start at home! Brigham Young University offers a terrific checklist to help get you started. While you are on their site check out the amazing free starter courses they offer. While your relatives are searching for the information to help - and they will need to help - you can take a few free lessons! A great deal from the University.

While you're learning new things you may take some time to learn the difference between Genealogy and Family History.

To most people, the mention of a Family Tree or Family History is a reminder of the stories they heard as children, projects they completed in school or a time to look at that age-old photograph - you know the one no one really knows the people in it anymore! Genealogy is still a new or at the least unfamiliar term as it's been on the rise for years. To some mentioning genealogy gets the likeliest response of confused looks or even conversations about rocks and soil!!  Family History or Family Tree however, most have heard of before.

So how do you differentiate Genealogy from Family History? Does it really matter? The simple answer is, No, it doesn't matter in your everyday life. Although, if you plan to have a conversation about it, you should know that genealogy provides you with the bare-bone facts of your family including names,
dates and locations of your ancestors. Family History on the other hand, uses those facts and corroborates them with more records, articles and photographs to tell 'Your Family's Story'.

If you learn about your family and preserve the history
either way, you will have done your ancestors proud! You can help build a strong heritage foundation for a newborn, newlyweds or just because you want to. No matter what the reason for the curiosity, an increasing number of people are attempting to search for their families. 

Genealogy is a vulnerable project to undertake, which requires patience and understanding that sometimes records just don’t exist. However, if you get a record or storybook you will feel a great sense of pride in your family name. You will learn more about your family than just the stories you were told, you may even uncover a secret. Most of all, you will gain the knowledge of who you really are!

If you'd like Relative Theory Genealogy to help please get in touch with the Request a Project tab at the top of the page. I can help teach you how to start, talk with you about it or research it for you. I have the necessary forms to get you started!

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