What's the best piece of advice you'd give to someone just starting their family tree research? :: FamilyTreeCircles.com Genealogy
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What's the best piece of advice you'd give to someone just starting their family tree research?

Question by FTC_admin

Are there any tools that they can't live without or blogs they need to read? How would you recommend they keep from getting overwhelmed?

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by FTC_admin Profile | Research | Contact | Subscribe | Block this user
on 2016-01-14 10:54:14

FTC_admin has been a Family Tree Circles member since Jan 2006.

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by familydetective on 2016-01-14 12:14:52

Start by getting as much information from family members as possible.

Start a tree with you as the head and do not try to keep records on pieces of paper that do not link together. There are a number of sites that offer a free tree making system.

Do your own research, do not rely on other peoples trees who are researching some or all of your family members. Get it wrong and it can take years to correct.

Get the Cert of BMD for each person to confirm parents, spouses etc. This is not always needed if you can back data up from BMD registers and census.

There are a number of site you can use to do your research both free and fee paying. It is still worth checking their entries as some data gets mistranscribed. If you are thinking of subscribing to one of these site, it is worth taking 14 days trials to see which you think is best for you.

Use sites like this to ask for help when you get stuck / hit a brick wall, but always double check any data provided. the person may be helping you out but may not be related to your family

by familydetective on 2016-01-14 12:23:15

Sorry missed this off : when asking for help make it clear what help you need. List family members (parents, souses, children, siblings, grandparentsetc) you know with BMD, and places of BMD. Estimated years are better than nothing

by dmck on 2016-01-15 09:11:09

The most important advice I would give to anyone starting geneaology is to make sure that EVERY time you write down information or add it to your tree on the computer make sure you record where that information came from. If you know where that information came from, it helps you to judge how reliable it is if you find conflicting information. Always look at information that could be about the person you are researching and make sure that it makes sense.

by Bamabww on 2016-01-18 23:13:29

Patience. Patience. Patience.

by tonkin on 2016-01-19 03:51:39

Buy a few good books on researching your family history.
You will be surprised how helpful these books will be to you. They also include family charts and make it easy for you to record your family lines.

Visit your Library and ask if they have a section for family research.
The volunteers running these sections are always happy to help the beginners and will show you how to search the records. You also get to make a lot of new friends who share the same interest.

If you have a Latter-day Saints Library in your area call in and check it out.
You will be amazed at the amount of records they have on hand.

Best advice of all is don't merge your family tree with other family trees you find online, and don't merge them with yours, for obvious reasons.

Go to it ... and happy researching.

by SCMimi on 2016-01-20 09:55:46

Start with what you know. Put it in writing - you want to write down each person starting with yourself and then your parents and grandparents; add the birth, marriage and death dates to each (all that apply, of course). If you don't have dates for parents or grandparents, reach out to them or to other relatives. Next you want to find documents to verify the dates for each event and for each person.
After you list all you can, then you can go online and do research. BUT be aware that everything you find on line may not be true. Do NOT copy everything you find on line as being true. Check for proof of all the information you find.
If you find your entire family tree online, contact the person who posted it and ask where he/she found the information.

Keep good records and files or scan documents and put them on file in a cloud service.
Happy hunting!

by ldneely49 on 2016-01-20 10:31:51

Find charts on important occurrences, i.e. when each state started requiring birth certs, death certs, etc. I have wasted a lot of time searching for a cert for a date previous to when they started tracking events. Similarly, there are tables for the dates of wars, when lithography and photography came into being. The point is, do not waste time searching for what won't be there and do not accept pictures, etc at face value. Lessons I learned the hard way. :)

by Pjroud on 2016-01-20 15:46:01

Join a Local Family History Society (FHS). There will be a lot of other members with experience of searching, even though you might not be living in the area of your own research. You will make some new friends and they will give you plenty of support, as well as interesting visiting speakers, on all sorts of subjects.
There will be trips out to local or national archives and FHS fairs, as well as their own library of books pamphlets and maps to borrow or buy.
Happy searching.

by Rosalee on 2016-01-20 17:11:44

All these comments are helpful and true. I have chosen to keep 3 trees to make up my family; as so many christian names used are repeated through each section of my family, I have split them to help keep them fresh in my mind. The most frustrating was my father's Welsh relatives as I lost my Welsh grandmother at the age of 3 so had no information, and by that time I had lost my parents too. Always talk to as many relatives as you can however distant. My mother was a great letter writer and had address books and I also inherited my paternal g/father's birthday book. All seems petty until the names start to match up with records and not only names but he had recorded death dates and children's names. I only hope everyone has one piece of luck like this that will help them in their search!

by garrvian on 2016-01-20 18:15:30

Talk to as many family members of earlier generations as you can, asking about the members of each family, their birthdates, marriages, places, children, etc. Record the info they give you as well as the stories. Decide on how narrow or wide you want your tree to be, then you can set the format that best suits these criteria. Be organised when collecting your info, try to avoid scraps of paper when noting info, and keep all loose papers, stories, etc in separate folders for each family or line.
When you start compiling your tree, make sure you have details from at least two sources that agree, to be satisfied that a record should be correct. The info in birth and marriage registrations can generally be accepted as correct, however treat death records with caution as some informants' knowledge of the deceased can be limited or non-existent. If you need to buy certificates, get uncertified copies where possible (ie for family history purposes), initially stick to straight line ancestors as the cost for certs can build up. Information on the certs varies from state to state in Aust. Most are very useful, some not so much. Where your research takes you back to the UK, civil regn started in 1837 (1855 in Scotland) and early certs don't contain too much detail. Back beyond that, parish records are all that exist for baptisms, marriages and burials only. A little extra detail shows up in the later decades of these records, but as you go further back, the detail gets less and common sense and reasoned guesswork become your tools. Also a fair idea of spelling variations due to the variable skills of the scribes (and the subjects' enunciation).
Treat trees compiled by others with caution, don't blindly accept their findings as often the info they have for your family is only a sideline to their search and not researched as thoroughly as you would for yourself. Contact them where possible to assess the accuracy of their findings, and be prepared for the occasional pleasant surprise when you find they are not that far removed from your line, and you can exchange info to help each other.
And patience, patience! And don't become a party bore!
I shouldn't say good luck, as it should be good researching, however on rare occasions a little luck is useful.

by Mairs on 2016-01-21 01:37:10

Always keep duplicates

by Gepeto on 2016-01-21 02:00:48

From the very first entry on your Tree Add to it the source of the information.
Get into that habit at the start.

by rosejack on 2016-01-21 21:31:30

I would say,start with yourself,your parents and grandparents as they are the people you are sure of.Purchase any certificate you may need to get started and go backwards from there.As certificates can be expensive and for the earlier days you may have to purchase a few to get the right one I would suggest contacting a Latter Day Saints Research room in your area,(yes there are still some around )and ask one of the helpers to direct you to the reels of film for Parish records etc that are relevant to you.You can copy off any that are relevant and they are free except for the minimal hire of the reel but quite often you can get numerous records from the same reel.The LDS have a huge range of records that are well worth considering.I would also join a local family history group and if you are researching a particular place overseas where a lot of family come from consider joining a group in that town as well. I would ask questions of any family member that is interested and write it all in a book.(Please not on a scrap of paper).In saying this,now that you have this information doesn't mean it is correct so please check and recheck everything you find.A lot of families have story's passed down through the years and it may get added on etc before it gets to you and when you get it and get excited it could prove incorrect so please check and recheck and don't just collect a lot of names to make your tree bigger quicker.It's taken me 20 years to collect the information I have just put into a book but I know that it is all correct because I have checked and rechecked over and over which is what I urge you to do.

by rmurkland on 2016-01-21 23:00:20

There are many good hints already posted, particularly, talk with your older relatives as soon as possible. I lost a lot of insider knowledge by allowing myself to be caught up in the daily minutae and let some of my older relatives go un-interrogated. The repenting is sincere, though now at leisure.

Also, I can not over-emphasize the "compulsively and completely record all of your sources". Un-sourced data is about equivalent in value as rumor and here-say. A good reference how-to book will be worth more than its weight in gold - there are many on the market. Personally, I very much favour the New England Genealogical and Historic Society and the their great bookstore.

One extreme caution: Just before dropping out of FTB a year ago (see below), I downloaded all of its data to a standard genealogy data transfer file and then uploaded it to FTM. Uncautiously, perhaps ignorantly, I uploaded it without first making an FTM backup. Later I discovered that I had a plethora (perhaps hundreds) of duplicate entries. They are not always straight forward to discover and can be trying to merge. Now, about a year later I am still trying to work them out.

Be very cautious of accepting the research of others! I have found that many (most?) of the "Family Trees" referenced by Family Tree Maker erroneous, even absurdly so!

Finding a good program in which to store and enhance your data is pretty crucial. For many years I have used Family Tree Maker (Ancestry.com) and have been very much enamoured of it, for it has (had?) some wonderful tools. Suddenly, out of the blue, Ancestry recently notified all of their faithful FTM users that they will no longer support FTM after 2016. Ethics aside, apparently they feel that, with current trends, it is no longer economically feasible for them to support the home computer market, that they will only continue to develop their system in "the cloud". Though they have not been very forthcoming, this appears to mean that you will no longer "own" your own data and will have to continue to pay them for access to all of your work. After a little time to recover from my frustration and extreme ire I am in the process of seeking out alternatives - Family Tree Circles being one of them.

I am also running Family Tree Builder (My Heritage, based in Israel). Following a year of usage and increasing frustration with its "unready for prime time" nature and its cost (it is not cheap), I dropped it a year ago. Just recently, FTC offered a 50% fee membership in FTB. I picked it up again test FTB to see if it has done anything about some of its my-perceived lackings. Even then it took a rather sharp exchange of emails to get them to accept my new subscription - they apparently wanted the full whack. I have only been back with them a couple of weeks so I have no real perceptions yet.

Well, enough for now - and greetings and best wishes with your genealogy project.

by jpembery on 2016-01-22 01:57:47

When using genealogy sites, watch out for transcriptions which spell the name incorrectly. When I started with the free 1881 census some years ago, the family surname was transcribed incorrectly. Had I not remembered the stories of my father about his Aunt "Flo", "Great Uncle Gus", etc I could not have found the correct family, containing children named Florence, Augustus and Francis (my grandfather), with the similar, but mispelled surname. My surname is still often mispelled in various communications, even from Government agencies, even though it is an old English surname, first documented in 1460.

by janilye on 2016-01-22 02:41:31

...and when all of the above fails, come in here and ask!

by dorfyjean on 2016-01-22 11:54:24

Don't believe all of the sites that have people like you and me tell you they are certain these are your people!!! Most of them take for granted that what they see is true. Not so!!
I have found so many mistakes in my families that I make sure I correct.
Search the town, city,parish and state records. One site in particular that has big mistakes the New England Historical Genealogy place in the Boston, Ma.
They had sent me so much wrong information back the 1950's that I had to write to the Parishes in England and then it only cost was for postage and the paper that was written on.

by mskimmy on 2016-01-25 19:08:15

DO NOT USE ANCESTRY!!! Start with you, talk to your parents and collect all the documentation, Birth, marriage, Land records, Wills and Family stories. Stay organized, This is the hardest part. I use triblepages. Use your library's digital recourses such as Heritage Quest. Follow the census. At some point have your DNA done. Native American done pretty much the same way however you need to know where to look to find that info. Don't want to drag on or I would list them also. So have fun!

by janilye on 2016-01-25 20:15:07

Try following these 5 Tips on Researching

by Scott_J on 2016-01-26 09:26:11

Holy cow janilye, that's me! I forgot all about that article.

by hughie54 on 2016-01-26 14:56:56

Plenty of Headache tablets.Seriously though, when you come up against brick walls and you will,take time out.Walk away for a few days even weeks.When you come back feeling refreshed you will be amazed at how many angles you can tackle that problem from.Above all STICK WITH IT.The very best of luck.

by KentishScot on 2016-01-27 15:52:57

The advice given here is excellent. Once you get beyond living knowledge the best advice I can give is always kill off your ancestors. I have an example in my own tree where I tracked down the death of a young lad at 8 years old. I have primary and secondary source to support my conclusion but another person who has not killed him off has created a whole spurious branch based on the deceased getting married some 20 years after his death.

by oldgeezer78 on 2016-01-27 20:39:37

My advice would be two fold, you need to love histroy if you expect to have accuracy and it ain't nearly as easy as Ancestry tries to make it sound. If you accept that and the fact it will take years to get a decent family tree, then you will find the sources and verify the accuracy.

by jded_101148 on 2016-01-28 03:10:02

Go to a local family research centre & get their help to start up - preferably one which has been going for yonks & is run by those who understand the old way of researching (& know the free sites & all the ways of retrieving info by looking outside the box). Sure, Use Ancestry but only as a source for records. When you do ALWAYS view the original source if available & compare with transcribed records because the transcriptions are very often wrong!.... I have proved this on several occasions as have my friends. Nowadays - do not believe most of the Public Trees posted - they are mostly unproved copies. You are better off messaging those who have private trees - they are more like to be long term/old time researchers & their info is more likely to be accurate.... BUT..... always prove connections yourself. Nowadays Public 'Trees' are good only for possible connections, the odd record or photo posted & clues as to where you might investigate further.

by Gwilliam on 2016-01-29 00:46:54

I started by compiling a tree with the info I knew, then took a voice recorder to my parents siblings (being the oldest living family) and asked them tell me their stories of family. I gained a wealth of information, not only dates and places of events, but insight into personalities. This will eventually be put into book form for future generations. It also highlighted the gaps I needed to find, and I later confirmed names, dates and places from certificates and census. Sending out a draft of the info also enthused other family and meant I had others to call on to help with research. Just do remember to verify all info, especially dates.

by GGraham on 2016-01-29 11:23:10

When commencing family history research -- and continuously from then on -- KEEP THOROUGH RECORDS OF YOUR SOURCES OF INFORMATION! Whatever provided information for building your family tree or fleshing out data on any given individual therein, cite that source. If you write down an item from "family tradition", cite it. If you find something in a US census record, cite it (not just the year of the census but also information on where in that census you found the info. If you find something in someone's family history book, cite the "card catalog" data plus page number. Etc. etc. Keep complete records of all your sources!

by Isabellllllar on 2017-08-25 05:33:55

when i started i didnt know anything. there was noone to ask.
so i went to trove.vic.au and looked at the digital newspapers family notices.

by ngairedith on 2017-08-25 06:25:21

thanks Isabellllllar,
yes Trove is a great source of info and of course, can be searched per state or year etc. Still use them regularly as we do with the NZ newspapers Papers Past
which contain digitised pages from the newspapers and periodicals published between 1839 and 1948

So lucky that someone had the foresight to save all these old papers

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