Genealogy 101: Getting Started

Getting Started with Genealogy

Genealogy 101: Getting Starting

Genealogy 101: Getting Started is more than discovering a name, birth date, or marriage record. It is a means to connect deeply with our ancestors. The further we delve into their lives, the more we learn about their stories. It could be a scandal or love affair that caused a rift in the family. By creating a narrative for each individual, we keep their memory alive.

With the internet, genealogy research has become much easier to find what you are looking for. There are websites like or that can help you search databases for records you might find Uncle Joe in.

It’s a great time to get started doing your family research. Genealogy can fill hours and hours of your time looking for records and discovering people and places of yesteryear.

Why Do Your Genealogy?

Why do your genealogy? Just take that DNA test and travel to your homeland. There is more to genealogy than just a name and an obituary in a newspaper. It’s a way to connect to ancient parts of yourself. Each of your ancestors made choices that led to you being born. Imagine if they made one different choice. Would you be here today?

Genealogy has been around since the Old Testament times.  Genesis chapters 5 and 10 discuss the descendants from Adam & Eve to Abraham and Noah.

Noah was the 10th generation of Adam; after Noah, it splits off from his three sons (Japheth, Shem, and Ham). In Matthew and Luke, they follow the lineage back from Jesus to Abraham. Mary and Joseph were on their way to Bethlehem to participate in a census conducted by the Romans.

According to Answers in Genesis, “Given the age of creation, can we know the approximate generation number from Adam to people today? We can, in some instances. The Queen of England (Queen Elizabeth II) has a lineage that goes back to Noah—which is fairly well-known based on the six Anglo-Saxon royal houses (Anglia, Kent, Lindsey, Mercia, North Umbria, and Wessex). This is the case with many royal houses in Europe. Though this lineage is known, it is deemphasized and largely ignored in our secular culture that insists in recent times that we are the progeny of animals instead of Noah.”

It is believed that census taking began back in 4,000 BC by the Chinese, Egyptians, Greeks, and the Roman Empire. People were counted, and property was noted to help determine how much taxes were due, how much food was needed, and even to assess labor forces.

Genealogy 101: Getting Started

What is Genealogy?

Genealogy is tracing one’s family back as far as possible using birth, marriage, and death records, along with others.

There are other records to search for families, such as land records, deeds, military records, parish records, old Bibles, newspapers, and historical societies.

History plays such a massive part in genealogy. It helps to know what went on at certain times of each generation, the political climate, and the migration of people. This will aid in finding documents to search for.

Types of Family Trees

There are a few approaches you can take when forming your family tree. You can search the Direct Lineage, Family Lineage, Descendant Tree, and Collateral Ancestors.

Direct Lineage is an ascendant tree or a pedigree. It begins with you, your parents, and your grandparents and follows a single bloodline going back several generations. You can trace your parents on both sides simultaneously or one line at a time.

Family Lineage is where you take your family tree of your parents but throw in siblings of yours, parents, and grandparents. This type of research can help you with brick walls you might have by showing information on documents or census reports that might be missing from your parents.

Collateral Genealogy Research is where you extend your main family lineage to include their siblings, wives, husbands, and children. Have a plan on how to keep your records straight. It can get overwhelming with all the relatives.

Descendant Family Trees are the reverse of the traditional family tree. It starts with your grandparents going back a few generations and coming forward. I like to combine this method with the collateral method. It gives a more complete picture of your most recent family history.

How to Search for Ancestors

Where do you start your new adventure in genealogy? It can be overwhelming when first starting. What is the best place to start? Should I use special software? How do I know if this is the Uncle Joe I am searching for? Genealogy 101: Getting Started is a great place to begin.

  1. Start with your living relatives. If your parents and grandparents are alive, start with them. Ask them questions about their birthdates, when they got married, and who their parents were. Get as much information as you can. But be careful. Some family members will not want to talk about their younger years. Memories can be painful for some, especially for those in the war or who had difficult childhoods.
  2. Have a plan Before you get all gung-ho about jumping online. Who are you going to start with? Your father’s line? Your mothers? It’s best to begin with one line first. Find out what you can about one generation at a time.
  3. Make a budget. A lot of websites have paid subscriptions and paid member sites. Also, remember that there will be extra charges for copies of documents when visiting archives and libraries.
  4. Design a process for collecting documents and storing them. Are you going to have hard copies of everything? Or maybe keep them in folders on your computer? There are free genealogy worksheets online, and they can help with your tree. Also, create a research log for recording resources. (Record everything right then and there; you will thank yourself later.)

Genealogy Research on the Internet

Once you get online, you can search for family members and documents related to them. You will find birth, marriage, and death records most easily. Then, you want to flesh out your research on them by looking for other documents such as military, cemetery, and census reports.

Records with Genealogical information:

  1. Vital Records (both governmental, religious, and family)
  2. Census Reports (beginning in 1940 going back) There is a 72-year rule regarding when the Government releases new census reports.
  3. Cemeteries records (Sexton’s records, deeds, plot records, Plat maps, funeral records, and more)
  4. Immigration/Emigration records
  5. Military records
  6. Newspapers
  7. Naturalization and Citizenship
  8. Land, property, probate, and tax records

Information Needed for Each Person

  1. Name – Include middle names and possibly nicknames.
  2. Age – Censuses, vital records, and cemeteries, then military and taxation records.
  3. Birth date and place – vital records, cemeteries, newspapers, and census reports.
  4. Country of foreign birth – Naturalization records, vital records, censuses, then check military & newspapers, emigration, and immigration records.
  5. Death date and place – Vital records, cemeteries, probate records, newspapers, Bible records & military.
  6. Immigration Date – Censuses, Immigration, Naturalization, Biographies.
  7. Maiden Name – Vital records, newspapers, cemeteries, military and probate records.
  8. Marriage date and place – Vital records, censuses, cemeteries, probate, military, and land records.
  9. Parents’ names – Vital records, censuses, probate records, published genealogies, emigration records.
  10. Places family have lived – Censuses, land records, local historical societies, directories, taxation records, and Obituaries.

After researching and locating those documents, don’t only read them but analyze them. Make sure that you have the correct Uncle Jim Bob. Build good research habits from the beginning. Please don’t make it a habit to take information from another’s family tree as the person you seek. I have encountered several mistakes on other trees that can throw you off in a big way. Do the work and analyze everything.

Hiring a Professional Genealogist

During your research, you may want to hire a professional Genealogist. Perhaps you have exhausted every resource online and can’t find who you seek. You might like to hire someone to help you break through that wall you have been struggling with. Or you want to see a relative or ancestor from Ireland or Scotland, but the records you need are in an archive and not online. Hiring a professional might be in order.

A great place to start is with:

Why would you want to hire a professional?

  • You don’t know where to begin.
  • Can’t travel at the moment.
  • Maybe you need help understanding DNA results.
  • Some documents are just too hard to read and understand.
  • You wish to find long-lost family members.
  • You want to learn how to research better.
  • Maybe you do not have the time or desire to research yourself.

Questions to Ask a Professional Genealogist

Treat your meeting with a Genealogist like an interview. Ask them what their background is and what they specialize in. Ask them if they are certified, especially if you want to hire one from Ireland or the UK. A live video chat will help you put a face to the name and see if you have a connection with this person.

Ask them what their fee is. Also, ask what comes with that fee. Will there be added expense if they travel to look for a tombstone or other documents?

What is their schedule? Will you be able to contact them throughout the day, or do they have certain hours they are available? There is a time difference between the US and the UK. Keep this in mind. Also, ask them if they charge for phone calls and video time.

Will they send copies of documents via email, or can they mail them? What charges will be added for that? It’s a good idea to write down questions before your first meeting.

Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS)

1. Reasonably exhaustive research.
2. Complete and accurate source citations.
3. Thorough analysis and correlation.
4. Resolution of conflicting evidence.
5. Soundly written conclusion based on the most substantial evidence.[3]

The GPS overarches all of the documentation, research, and writing standards described in Genealogy Standards and is applied across the board in all genealogical research to measure the credibility of conclusions about ancestral identities, relationships, and life events.[4] This is taken from the Board for Certification of Genealogists. For more information, click here.

Trip to the Archive and Library

Genealogy 101: Getting Started

Researching your ancestors online can only get you so far. Only about 10% of documents are online. Once you have explored all you can online, it is time to leave your office, the basement, or your little shed in the back and step into a world of in-person archives. That isn’t an accurate word, but it sounds fantastic and may catch on.

All this has been building up to being able to travel to your homeland, motherland, and forebearer’s land. We shall go to the archives, whatever you want to call it.

But it’s not as easy as visiting the archive or library and reviewing files. It would be best to have a game plan on what you are researching and what records you might find at certain places.

There are all types of archives:
  1. Colleges and Universities specialize in collections and materials related to the institution.
  2. Corporate Archives that preserve information about the business.
  3. Government Archives have information on the local, state, and federal levels, such as birth/death certificates, marriage, and legal records.
  4. Historical Societies are usually geared for the local region. Most countries have some historical or genealogical societies.
  5. Special Collections are collections of individual families in a particular area.
  6. Religious Archives are usually related to that church or parish.
  7. Museums house historically significant records of that region.

Numerous libraries have genealogy centers in them. Other types of research can be done at local family centers, courthouses, and cemeteries. – “ArchiveGrid includes over 5 million records describing archival materials, bringing together information about historical documents, personal papers, family histories, etc. With over 1,000 different archival institutions represented, ArchiveGrid helps researchers look for primary source materials in archives, libraries, museums, and historical societies.” is mainly for the United States. However, you can search for the Celtic countries, and they will populate some places.

Research the Repository & its Holdings online.

Most archives will have an online website telling you what you should do before visiting the library or repository.

  1. Contact the archive or library first to see their research hours and restrictions.
  2. Check the visiting hours and parking situation.
  3. Ask if there is a limit on the material you can research at a time.
  4. Check to see if they restrict what you can and cannot bring with you.
  5. Ask if they have internet access.
  6. Research online what materials they have housed there.
  7. Pay someone to assist if it is too far away.

Email the Repository before you visit, mainly if you are contacting archives in the British Isles. Ask your questions about who you will be researching and for any particulars about the facility.

Most facilities require you to bring identification to sign in and fill out “call slips.” Those are a request for specific collections.

Don’t bring food, drinks, or chew gum. Be respectful of the records you research. Bring a pencil, paper, or notebook to make citations.

Ask if they permit using computers, phones, cameras, or personal scanners. Be mindful when handling documents. Ask if they require gloves.

Prioritize your requests. You may use more time allowed on certain documents, so choose the most important for this trip.

Familiarize yourself with the policy of each establishment you are visiting.

If you are able, do not wear big, bulky clothes. Believe it or not, some people have taken documents they were not allowed to. One bad apple makes it worse for the rest. They may search you when you come and go. Be respectful.

Research Forms

Know the Terminology

  1. Transcribing is making an exact, word-for-word copy of the record.
  2. Abstract is a summary of the most essential details. But remember, these are the author’s ideas of the most important details.
Citing the Sources

You must cite your sources thoroughly. Answer the Who, What, How, Where, and When for your sources.

  1. Who does this record relate to?
  2. What kind of record is this?
  3. How can I find it again?
  4. Where did I get this record?
  5. When was the document created?

Be as thorough as you can. You may have questions later and find this information helpful if you need to call the archive to ask more questions. The person helping you will thank you.

After the Archivery is Over
  1. A wee dram. If you are in Scotland, Ireland, or elsewhere, it is best to begin with some good whisky. Just do not drink too much before organizing what you brought back.
  2. Organize what you brought back. Label everything.
  3. Scan paper files and make copies. Organize digital files.
  4. Send a thank you card to the people who helped you.
  5. Compare notes to other records.
  6. Organize pictures—touch-up photos.
  7. Then pat yourself on the back. You did great today. Good job. Now, find your relative’s home where they lived or where they worked. Or find a place to eat and connect with the locals.

Final Thoughts

Genealogy is more than tracing ancestors. It opens a whole new world of history related to the documents you search for. Understanding a region’s political and historical progression can help you look for documents you might not have considered.

Family research is supposed to be fun, but mostly, it is just addictive. It can take you down a rabbit hole to a whole other dimension of research. You never know what you will find when searching through documents and digging through boxes in the archives.

Thank you for taking the time to explore this fascinating journey with me. I’d love to hear your thoughts, so feel free to leave a comment below. Your engagement adds depth to our community of Meanderers. Cheers to the adventure! Happy meandering. Sláinte!

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