Genealogy Wise

The Genealogy & Family History Social Network

I would love to help all those people out there that have never started in Genealogy to know where to go to start! Please post where the best place to start. Tell your story and how you got to be where you are today! Thanks for your time and I look forward to hearing your story!

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I'll start this off, and add more later.

Where you start depends on where you are now. Suggestions to start with:

1. If you have parents, grandparents, aunts, Great Uncle Jim, etc., talk to them (or write them) NOW, to tell them of your interest, and ask what they know. They'll usually love to talk with you, and share amazing things when they know you care to hear them. [I got started when I was emptying my parents' home after they had died, and most other relatives were also gone; I had almost no one left to ask. However, my aunt used to write short, depressing letters about how old, alone, and ill she was, but when I asked her about identifying some photos, she perked right up and wrote pages and pages of wonderful stuff, despite being wheel-chair ridden with crippling arthritis.]

2. Decide early how you are going to store your materials. Think through a filing system that suits you and can be expanded. There are various filing-system suggestions in the genealogic sites on the internet. Google filing plus genealogy, etc. Also, some How-to-get-started books have suggestions. Look at several before you pick one that suits your temperament, and set it up. Then file what material you have in your new system. Keep up with your filing all the time. Otherwise you'll be buried in paper and can't find anything.

3. Decide what computer program you might use for data. Depending on your operating system, there are a number of good programs for Windows, Mac, or Linux. Look on the internet for comparisons and reviews.Most programs allow a download for try-out purposes. Pick one with which you are comfortable and that seems instinctive to use and that has a reputation for good support and discussion forums, etc. Everyone uses it differently and likes different approaches. I recommend getting one that has the most power and possibilities that you can get [you may need them later if not now], but that does not have a steep learning curve. You will soon lose patience if you can't do what you want or you always have to pull out a manual to remember what you learned so painstakingly yesterday. [When I started, no computer, I charted and entered by hand..., nicer now]

4. Keep track of your sources, both for your physical documents and papers in your filing system and material you enter on your computer. Check out source documentation in any computer program you test-drive. You may think you'll never forget where you learned something dramatic, but, believe me, as you interest grows, you will. Good reference book for this are the book(s) by Elizabeth Shown Mills; these are becoming the standard.'
Joan, thank you very much!
Here are nos. 5, 6, 7 and 8.

5. Don't believe what you are told, even by your interviewed relatives, and especially what you find on the internet. While some are painstaking about what they post online, others just post pages and pages of ancestors they've collected online. If you find yourself downloading or receiving some data or a GEDCOM from someone, do not just import it into your primary database. You may find yourself having to rid your database of garbage and misinformation — a horrible job. I suggest opening a GEDCOM in a new, empty database to look at it and compare it with what you have. You can selectively mark what you want, and import just those people or that material into your primary base. Always keep one family file as your primary, safe database. Online material is best used just as a starting place for your own research, such as writing for documents, checking your local genealogy library or courthouse, and so forth. You need to prove everything to your own satisfaction....

6. Back up your database and keep backups in safe place. Think what it would be if you had to start all over again! Scan old documents and photos, and keep backups of those. Remember that the dyes of old color photographs fade inexorably, so scan those before they are lost.

7. Store old documents and artifacts in archival storage systems. Protect from light, fading, fold-marks, paper acids, and handling. Transcribe [and carefullly proof your transcriptions] if you need to reference them often and they are subject to handling [such as the family pages often bound between Old and New Testaments in family Bibles, for example, or old letters folded in envelopes]. Be sure to keep the envelopes if you have them; they can be of great interest.

8. Join your local genealogy society if you have one. If you are lucky they will have a library to use, and in any case they will share experiences and enthusiasm and suggestions. Online, there are various resources and document storage libraries. Try USGenWeb for your states and counties of interest. Local genealogists will often do look-ups for you, and those sites often upload very local materials not otherwise available to you. Also look for local Historical Societies and local Genealogical Societies in places of interest; they, too, often will do look-ups or research locally for a very nominal fee. Keep your requests to-the-point. Don't ask for everything you have about six people and all their ancestors. Offer payment; include SASEs; thank them, other courtesies. One book I use a lot is the Redbook (pub. by Ancestry). It is great for maps of counties, when they became counties, other resources and mailing addresses, state-by-state. Do network with others.
Joan, thank you again for helping me with everything! I love the personal knowledge you have on the subject and the fact that you are out there helping everyone. It really takes a great person to go out of your way to help someone!
Some of my favorite free genealogy sites are:
www.genforum.com
www.rootsweb.com
www.usgenweb.com
www.familysearch.org
www.pilot.familysearch.org

Genealogywise has made it quickly to my favorites list already. As always double check any information on any site to make sure it's correct.

I started reseaching my family "roots" when I was in my late 20's;many moons ago now. I loved history already! One of my degree's is in History. I started off by taking a year's worth of a genealogy class at my local junior college. I'm proud to say I aced it.The invention of the personal computer has helped me because I live so far from my family "roots" & can't get there in person unfortunately. The computer also provides contact addresses for me.Another tip I use with pretty good success is writing Letters to the Editor in small town newspapers looking for descendants who still live in the same area were my ancestors lived. I have found several cousins through this method.Larger newspapers won't print letters of this sort. I also contact county libraries, in the same areas,for information.I have also joined local genealogy societies in the same area.
Thanks you everyone for your answers!

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