When we research our family tree, it becomes an adventure which will takes us through a world of many cultures, a variety of different families and many times, into a world of understanding of who molded us into the people we are today.
The stories and information we collect to make-up our family histories tell us about our character and that of the next generation. Do we hide the unsavory stories about our ancestors or do we talk about the valuable life lessons these stories tell? Or, do we have a few cherished and worn photographs or documents that have been handed down through the generations?
The goal of this column is to get you started asking about your family history and the stories. If your mother and father are still living, ask them to tell you about their parents, brothers and sisters. If your parents are unavailable, then talk to other older family members. By demonstrating your interest in these stories, you will probably bring a sparkle to their eyes and learn about your ancestors.
A good place to start with any family tree is with a review of the old custom of naming traditions. Our ancestors often used the following naming procedures when picking out a name for a new child. This may explain why certain names are very common in your family line. Watching for these patterns will help you in your genealogy research.
The key element in beginning any family history is to learn the importance of proper documentation of all vital statistic facts, notes and records. By documenting the source of where you discovered every fact, e.g., book, census, county courthouse, you will eliminate the headaches, loss of time and the expense of attempting to re-verify information at a later date. You will be prepared for the question, “Where’d you find that date or her maiden name?” With proper documentation, you will not have to re-invent your research.
Proper documentation begins by locating original records. These records are referred to as “primary source” documents. Examples of the documents are marriage licenses, birth certificates, Bible records, and photographs of gravemarkers. Or, by documented through published and compiled records known as “secondary source” material. Examples, of secondary source material would be a county history, obituary, or indexes to cemeteries.
Our family learned this hard lesson when, after years of research, we were finally able to link to an ancestor who had fought in the American Revolution. We then had to go back and find documentation, proof and a source for each and every date, place and generation link.
Organizing your records is important to your success. Documents should be stored in plastic document sleeves in 3-ring binders or file folders located in filing cabinets or bookcases. Create a file for each individual by surname, then first name. Remember women are always indexed by their maiden name, if known.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) has established an internet website at http://www.familysearch.org. This website contains two FREE searchable databases, the Ancestral File™ and the International Genealogical Index® (IGI). Additionally, the website includes a catalog of all books and microfilm held by their genealogy library.
The Ancestral File contains genealogies of families from around the world and contains millions of names. IGI lists dates and places of birth, christening, and marriage. It includes people who lived during the early 1500s to the early 1900s. This file contains hundreds of millions of names. Remember, if you do not have a computer or Internet access at home, dust-off your library card and visit your library. Most local libraries are now on line and they can provide you with assistance with searching the Internet.
In this column, I will be glad to highlight and review any family history, genealogy, county history, or similar book, free of charge, if you donate a copy of the book or item. After it has been highlighted and reviewed, on a space available basis, it will be donated to the genealogy section of a library. You will receive an acknowledgment of the donation from the library. Mail item or book to me at the below address.
Lynna Kay Shuffield has written several books related to Texas genealogy and military history. She has spoken before numerous genealogy and veterans groups. Also, is a County Coordinator for the Texas GenWeb Project. Regretfully, she cannot help with individual genealogical research. If you have any questions, comments, suggestions for column topics, genealogy or historical society announcements, please contact her at: P. O. Box 16604, Houston, Texas 77222-6604 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
This webpage was last created on 17 Aug 1999 and was last revised on 23 Aug 1999, 9 Jan 2000, 15 Nov 2001
Copyright © 1999, 2000 Lynna Kay Shuffield - All rights reserved.
P. O. Box 16604
Houston, Texas 77222-6604