This article is to be a guide to Genealogy and the study of family history. It will provide information to help people on their quest to discover their heritage.
- Write down everything you know. Include names, dates, relations of people, stories, etc. Start with yourself and work your way backwards.
- Gather information from things you may have. Look around your house for things that could help you in your research. You may have documents somewhere or perhaps old family photographs. Gather diaries and things that have been passed down from you parents, grandparents, great grandparents, etc.
- Ask family members for information. Perhaps your parents or grandparents or cousins have done some research. This information can be helpful. Ask your relatives about what they know about the family. Perhaps they may have documents, photographs, or old diaries in their possession that could help your research.
- Once you collect a lot of information, you should keep organized. Have a filing cabinet, folders, and/or boxes to sort the information in. Get a family tree software program to show how everyone is related. This wiki allows you to upload photographs and documents and sort out the information so you can collaborate with other researchers.
- Get more documents. You can find a lot of documents at records halls, courthouses, family research organizations etc. You can also access census data on the internet.
- Once you get going, there is always new information to find. You may meet distant cousins to collaborate with that can help your research.
- Help others. Helping others can encourage growth in Genealogy and thus enrich everyone's research to breaking down brickwalls, and forming connections with other researchers.
- Ancestral Genealogy is the branch of genealogy concerned with identifying a person's ancestors. Ancestral genealogies frequently provide detailed information about each ancestor, but by their nature they are of interest to a relatively small audience. As a result ancestral genealogies often remain unpublished, unless they deal with an historically significant person.
- Descendant Genealogy involves tracing the descendants of a given ancestor, or ancestral pair. There are many such genealogies that have been published. These documents, though varying widely in their extent of coverage and accuracy, are often useful to researchers because they provide broad based coverage of a relatively limited number of surnames, often with a specific geographic focus. Because they include numerous descendant lines, they tend to have a more extensive audience than Ancestral Genealogies which trace the ancestral line of descent to a given person.
- One Surname Descendancy is a form of a descendancy traces the male descendants of a single couple. Thus all the individuals listed in the descendancy share the same name. This is a very common form of genealogical research found in libraries. They are particularly helpful for researchers looking for information on an individual when the person's surname is known.
Records of persons who were neither royalty nor nobility began to be taken by governments in order to keep track of their citizens (In most of Europe, for example, this started to take place in the 16th century). As more of the population began to be recorded, there were sufficient records to follow a family using the paper trail they left behind.
As each person lived his or her life, major events were usually documented with a license, permit or report which was stored at a local, regional or national office or archive. Genealogists locate these records, wherever they are stored, and extract information to discover family relationships and recreate timelines of persons' lives.
Records that are used in genealogy research include:
- Vital records
- Adoption records
- Baptism or christening records
- Biographies and biographical profiles (as in Who's Who, etc.)
- Cemetery records, funeral home records, and tombstones
- Census records
- City directories and telephone directories
- Coroner's reports
- Criminal records
- Diaries, personal letters and family Bibles
- Emigration, immigration and naturalization records
- Hereditary & lineage organization records, e.g. Daughters of the American Revolution records
- Land and homestead records, deeds
- Medical records
- Military and conscription records
- Newspaper columns
- Occupational records
- Oral history
- Poorhouse, workhouse, almshouse, and asylum records
- School and alumni association records
- Ship passenger lists
- Social Security Administration (within the USA) and pension records
- Tax records
- Voter registration records
- Wills and probate records
As a rule, genealogists begin with the present and work backward in time. Written records have the property of hindsight in that they only tell where a person might have lived and who their parents were, not where they and their descendants might subsequently reside. Two exceptions are when a genealogist might interview living relatives as to who and where their children and grandchildren are, or tries to locate long-lost relatives who may already have traced their families backward to an ancestor they have in common (which is forward in time from his/her point of view).
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