Now that I am getting older, I am becoming more sentimental, and I decided I wanted to put together my family genealogy. It was something I had always wanted to do, and I thought I would finally buckle down and take the trip.
Familysearch.com is a free site, and had some amazing resources. I had a wonderful, challenging time creating my genealogy. It was hard, required a lot of research, but was very rewarding. Here are some of my tips about how to start your family tree, and make it grow!
Its Like Being A Detective: This type of research is hard, and unusual. In today’s information age, all data is directly imputed into computer databases. However, before computers, everything was handwritten. When these older documents were made digital, and imputed into archives, there may have been transcription errors from mis-reading handwriting. (For example, Mistaking the name “Sheri” for “Shen” if the cursive “I” was not dotted.) There are even simple errors now, for example, my mother’s name was misspelled on the 2010 census paperwork, her name was spelled “Mollie” instead of “Molly.” While these don’t seem like a big deal, trying to search for your ancestors in archives and old records with a misspelled name, such as “Janie Smith” instead of “Jamie Smith” could bring up a whole different set of results, and throw off the whole trail. You have to continually be checking and comparing documents, and sometimes still the trail will run cold.
Ask The Ones Who Know: Who knows the most about your family’s history already then your family? Stop in and ask your parents, grandparents, look at photo albums, and see what you can find. This will be a big help on your journey into the past. You may even hear some great stories. My grandma told me a great story about when she was a little girl, and her brother went off to fight in the war. He bought her a little dress during the time he was deployed, and was excited to give it to her when he returned. However, he didn’t return until 5 years later, and realized the little girl he knew had grown up while he was away, and the dress was much too small.
Utilize Your Resources: There are tons of resources available, with more and more old records being digitalized daily. There are birth records, death records, marriage records, military service records, census records and more. The US census is taken every 10 years, and has been since 1790. Many of these more recent records are digitalized and available to search, except the year 1890, which was destroyed in a fire. Census records show the people in the household, their ages at the time, and also their status (son, daughter, father) which can be very helpful if you have three generations of men all with the same name! If you can’t find results searching one place, try searching through a different avenue. Maybe he died between 1880 and 1900 in Rhode Island? Try searching with the dates and last name. Think outside the box.
Don’t Give Up: Sometimes it feels like you are at the end of everything. The trail’s gone cold on all your leads, you have no idea what to do next. Sometimes it’s best to just take a break for a couple days, and think of some new ideas. Other times, you have to go about things different ways. Try different names, try looking for marriage dates, or searching by location. You may find people in unexpected locations, or with misspelled names!
Have Fun: This is your journey. You are learning about your past and where you came from! So take your time, and enjoy the experience.
Have you researched your family tree? What were some of your experiences?