"Our Loose Ends" Genealogy Column
by Lynna Kay Shuffield
Houston, Texas

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Printed Taylor Daily Press - 2 Sep 1999

Where Do I Begin?

To get started, you may want to visit your local library and check out a book on genealogy research, visit with the members of your local genealogy or historical society or visit a local Family History Center™ operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS). Staff members and volunteers at any of these facilities are usually very helpful and will assist you with getting started with your family tree research.

There are several steps to researching your family tree. First, you write down everything you already know about your ancestors. To do this, you will need blank forms known as pedigree charts and family group sheets. These forms are available in genealogy books, from the Family History Center, from you local genealogy society or print them off an Internet website.

The family group sheet will include the names of parents, children, and the spouse of each child. It has places to record dates and places of birth, marriage, death, and burial. Look for family Bibles, journals, letters, obituaries, and other records.

The pedigree charts are only used to record information related to your direct-line ancestors, that is, from you to your parents, to your grandparents, to your great-grand parents, and so on for five or six generations.

To make your genealogy research easier, you might consider using a computer program specifically designed for genealogy. There are many genealogy computer programs on the market today. I personally utilize Family Origins® version 8.0 to manage my genealogy information. For more information on this genealogy computer program, you can visit: http://formalsoft.com/

Family Origins allows you easily record everything you know about your family: names, dates, places, stories, facts, descriptions, sources of information, relationships, to do items/lists, pictures, sound bites, or video clips. There is no limit on the amount of information you can enter. You can generate beautiful printouts with a few clicks of your mouse. Print beautiful family trees with photos, borders, and selectable colors. Print family stories (books), with photos, notes, bibliography, and an alphabetical index. Print dozens of reports, charts, lists, forms, and family trees. You can even put your family on the World Wide Web with Family Origins. And it includes a full Source Manager, which allows you to enter your documentation (certificates, books, etc) once and then simply reuse them. Most importantly Family Origins does NOT have a proprietary lock that will prevent you from exporting your text/research notes via GEDCOM.

One way to shorten your research trail is to see if someone else has already written a family history. The Library of Congress, located in Washington DC is the largest library in the world. The holdings of the Local History and Genealogy include biographies, family histories, local and county histories, along with maps, federal and state records. The on-line card catalog for the Library of Congress is at: http://lcweb.loc.gov/catalog/

I find it important to set goals when doing family history research. For example, your goal may be to prove or disprove a family tradition that your great-great-grandfather fought for the Union in the Civil War. Once you have solved this mystery, you may elect to stop or find the “genealogy bug” has bitten you.

Lastly, remember a genealogy is more than just names, dates, and locations. It tells us why our ancestors did the things they did. This goes beyond vital records to a collection of pictures, oral histories, and a study of history and folklore. Trust me, even if you think you are only interested in the dates, places, and names of your ancestors, I have learned you will need to know the historical background of your ancestors to find what you want.

Internet Tip

The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is a database listing of over 60 million people who have died in the United States since 1962. The United States Social Security Administration created the index. You do NOT need the individual’s Social Security Number to conduct a search. One of the best locations, in my opinion, is at: http://www.ancestry.com/ssdi/advanced.htm. Ancestry.com has one of the most up-to-date SSDI on the Internet. They update the SSDI database monthly and it is FREE for Ancestry.com subscribers and guests.

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. Please visit the website for this column at: http://www.geocities.com/lks_friday/COLUMN-001.htm or 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: lksfriday@sbcglobal.net

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This webpage was last created on 20 Aug 1999 and was last revised on 8 Sept 1999, 9 Jan 2000, 15 Nov 2001

Copyright © 1999, 2000 Lynna Kay Shuffield - All rights reserved.
P. O. Box 16604
Houston, Texas 77222-6604