So you’ve been staring at your Ancestral Chart for a couple of weeks now and trying to figure out just who you picked to win the National Championship. (Am I the only one who is reminded of March Madness every time I look at an Ancestral Chart?!) If you are lucky, you’re still a little bit stressed out of who exactly to start your research with. Do not be stressed because stress isn’t cool! (Yeah, that pun was a bit of a reach. Haha!)
Below are some ways to help you choose who to research and the first steps in doing so.
Pick A Side
It’s never intentional, but usually we know more about one side of our family than the other. Use this information to your advantage. To get started, pick the side of your family that you know the most about. Do you have the basic information for your Great Grandfather on your mother’s side? You do…great! Use that to get your feet wet. Maybe you have the information but don’t have actual documentation. Take what you know and start verifying the information with paper documentation.
- When you find documents, or any information, make sure to write down where you found it. It’s also a good idea to get into the habit of writing down where you didn’t find information as this will make your research much easier. I’ll go more in depth in citing sources in a later post.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask
Your best source of information will no doubt come from your older relatives. These family members were either around when an event happened or heard the stories first hand from those who lived it. Take advantage of this! Take the time to interview your family members. Write down their stories, or better yet, record them on your phone! This will give you the opportunity to revisit the stories later to pick apart more information.
- One thing to remember about family stories is that they are sometimes second hand information. Someone told someone who told someone who is now telling you. It can become a game of Telephone! (I hope I’m not showing my age here! Haha!) It’s important to verify everything you can with documentation or some type of reliable source.
Cousins Are Your Friends
Now that you’ve decided on who you’re going to research, it’s important to remember their entire immediate family. When I first started researching my family, I got into the very bad habit of only focusing on direct ancestors. This means that I was only researching my grandfather, and his father, and his father, and well…you get the picture. Not only was I missing out on learning about some fascinating cousins, I was also missing out on people who could potentially help me knock down brick walls.
- When you’re filling out your family tree, make sure to include all of your ancestor’s brothers and sisters (and their spouses). Not only will this help you in your research, it will also help with DNA hits. You are more likely to hit with a second or third cousin than you are with a direct ancestor.
Now that you know how to get started and who to get started with, now we can get into specifics of where to get started! Next week’s post will be a brief overview of different places to research and I’ll answer the question of if you really need to pay for the Ancestry account!