26 February 2011

Learning to Love Research

As a teacher, I often talk to students who are frustrated by the process of conducting research. It doesn't matter what the topic happens to be. Even if they are free to choose their own, many of them wind up spinning their wheels, unsure of how to get started.

It's true that research can be a hair-pulling, teeth-gritting process if you approach it without a logical plan. If you take the time (and have the patience) to craft a plan of action before you begin, you will probably find the research process to be tolerable. You might even find that you enjoy it.

With genealogy research, one of the most important things that I have discovered is that you need to concentrate on one family line at a time. If you try to research multiple branches of your family tree all at once, you're likely going to wind up with a complicated, tangled mass of information that will eventually overwhelm you. If you start piling up names but can't for the life of you remember what you were looking for when you found them, you've probably gotten overly excited and started moving too fast.

For me, part of the enjoyment of conducting genealogy research is learning more about my ancestors. I don't want to just fly through the process and add names to my tree without 1.) verifying that the people in question are actually my ancestors, and 2.) taking the time to learn everything I can about each of them.

I also think it's important to document sources as you discover them. There's nothing more frustrating than trying to backtrack to find something that you initially discovered weeks or months ago, only to realize that you have no way of verifying the information. If you keep careful records as you go (and develop an efficient system for maintaining them) you won't have to worry about scrambling to locate documentation later on. Take it from someone who learned the hard way!

25 February 2011

You've Gotta Start Somewhere

You don't necessarily need to have exhaustive information about your immediate family in order to conduct genealogy research. 

One complaint that I've heard from people before is that they really don't know anything about their parents (other than their names). If you don't have a lot of information about your parents or grandparents, it doesn't mean that you can't investigate your family history. 

I recommend that you sit down and think about what you already know, starting with yourself. Your birth certificate should provide verification for where and when you were born as well as your parents' names (including your mother's maiden name, which is important).  If you don't already have a copy of your birth certificate, you should be able to obtain one in your county of birth. Where I live, it's the register of deeds office, but this is likely to differ between locations.

You can also contact the Vital Records department for the state in which you were born. 

In addition to providing you with your parents' full names and ages at the time of your birth, your birth certificate should also tell you where your parents were born. This information might give you the jump start your genealogy research project needs.

24 February 2011

Getting Started

Sometimes getting started with things is the most challenging aspect of them. I've been conducting genealogy research, informally, for a few years. It's just been in the past year, however, that I've actually reached a point of being able to steadily work on researching my family history. One thing I've discovered is that I've become a genealogy junkie.

I love the research and I love discovering my ancestors.

While the list of surnames I'm interested in will continue to grow, I am currently researching the following: Campbell, Hooker, Kendall, and Stephenson. My current geographic areas of interest are North Carolina and Virginia.

I am happy to exchange information with anyone, so please feel free to contact me if you also happen to be researching any of the above surnames, particularly if the geographic areas are the same.

My goal with this blog is to (hopefully) provide some helpful information to other novice genealogists who, like me, are steadily plodding through their family history research. I don't claim to be an expert on the subject, but I will post information that I think might be of benefit to others. I know that research can be an overwhelming process sometimes, and genealogy research is no exception.

I hope to be able to post to this blog at least once a week.

Happy hunting!