Starting Your Genealogy – Collecting Personal Data

The first rule of family tree research is to start with yourself.  Work from what you know to the unknown, gathering evidence along the way .

The next step is to gather data from your immediate family .Relatives do not live indefinitely regardless of age and health and it is imperative to record everything that they can recollect.

Whenever conceivable, conduct a one-on-one interview.  Let people know when you will be visiting , as well as the type of information in which you are interested .  With permission, record the conversation .  Take accurate and clear notes .  Prepare for your visit by making a checklist of questions to remind you to ask the three key  questions:  who, where and when . These questions will increase your genealogy know how and help build your family tree .

However, be prepared to follow leads from the person being interviewed .  There are sure to be challenges in the process ; beflexible with your interview style and be open to the discussion and the tales that may follow . When it is inconvenient to interview someone personally , write a note that is personal and conversational in tone .  If the communication goes unanswered, a telephone call may be required .  It is possible that responding in writing may be difficult for an older person who might be happy to share information.  If this is the case , a phone call might be more productive.

Remember not all your relatives will be as interested or excited about family history and genealogy .
Use pictures as a aid .  Often pictures refresh the memory, and unlock fragments of family information long forgotten.  

Reassure your relatives that you will be careful of the photos or documentation loaned to you .  Respect and be sensitive to the information they give to you.  Often relatives are reluctant to loan a family heirloom , so be prepared to photograph momentos whenever they cannot be taken from the premises .

Offer to share your research .  Keep your word .  After entering compiling data on  a family history sheet and pedigree chart , send  the information to the person who has given you   the facts .

Be  certain to enquire if there is a family bible and find out where it is situated .  Family bibles may contain information about births, marriages and deaths carefully recorded on pages inside .

enquire if anyone else in your family has researched genealogy . If so, determine how to collaborate with them

Family heirlooms often contains clues :

  • places and names are written on the backside of old pictures .
  • Inscriptions on the inside of a book celebrating a birthday or a vacation .
  • Family scrapbooks that contain newspaper obituaries , programs from concerts , graduations and plays .
  • Engraved silver.

There are many different types of family artifacts :

  • Certificates – birth baptism, confirmation , marriage ,  death and burial , wills, lawsuits . 
  • Adoption records
  • Journals
  • Funeral cards
  • School Report  

Develop a method to organize your research . Organizing what you have collected is difficult if you don’t have a system .  You will want to create a filing system using both electronic and traditional techniques.  Use binders or folders with the surname as the tag, putting items relating to that surname together. Later when you have time , go though each folder or binder carefuly, extracting relevant information.

Ensure you compare your electronic files to your paper files .

Don’t forget to backup your research in another location .  Many invaluable family memorabilia have been destroyed by natural disasters , as well as simply by the apathy of others who did not know they were handling did not know the value of the treasures . 




Genealogy References