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Beginning Genealogists

Genealogy can seem overwhelming to new genealogists. There is a lot to remember, and so many places to search for records. As you continue down the road of genealogy, things will begin to become familiar and not so overwhelming. In the meantime, however, there are some things you should be doing to avoid confusion and frustration in the future.

1. Set goals. Decide which branch of your family tree that you want to begin with, and stick to it. This will allow you to learn about genealogy without confusing yourself with too many names. Once you have found all you can about this line (at least for now), start on another branch. Continue doing this until you have either come to brick walls with all of your lines, or have become confident enough in your skills to begin researching multiple lines at the same time.

2. Document all of your sources, no matter how trivial they may seem. This is one aspect of genealogy that cannot be emphasized enough. Too many genealogists make the mistake of not doing this, and find themselves regretting it later on. Documenting your sources of information not only makes your research credible to others, it also allows you to go back and look at questionable records later on.

3. Do not trust other people’s genealogy as the ultimate truth. While the research of other genealogists can be useful, you should always confirm any information that you find yourself. It is quite common for someone to record the wrong information in his or her genealogy.

4. Create a method for organizing information. You will end up with a paper trail that could seemingly go on for miles. You may decide to purchase a genealogical software program, store documents in 3-ring binders, keep a running notebook of notes, etc. Elyse Doerflinger’s book, Conquering The Paper Monster Once And For All, can help you discover an organization method that is best for you.

5. Interview as many living relatives as you can. There is no better way to get stories and memories than from the first-hand accounts of those who lived them. Begin with your older relatives to ensure that you have the chance to interview them before they wither pass away or their memory begins to fade.

6. Start online. There are so much genealogical information available online now that you may be able to discover multiple generations of your family tree without ever leaving your house. However, keep in mind that while there is a lot of information available online, not everything is. At some point you will have to visit town archives, libraries, and courthouses to get records.