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~~~~~~~ This regular posting contains a list of pointers and suggestions to help somebody who is approaching the subject of Genealogy for the first time. It should be read by anyone who wishes to post to the soc.genealogy.* newsgroup hierarchy.
This document is part of a regular series of postings which are sent to all appropriate groups and mailing lists. This particular document is posted on the 15th of every month.
If you have any comments or changes, or any suggestions for new topics to be included, or you would like to write a note for inclusion in the archive, then please contact John Woodgate, (email@example.com)
Contributions by: William Mills, Wes Plouff, Jeff Thompson, Cynthia Van Ness
Changes For This Version (1.4 - 1996/06/18) Some additional notes
Copyright and Disclaimer ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Copyright (c) 1996 by John Woodgate. All rights reserved.
This document may be freely redistributed in its entirety without modification provided that this copyright notice is not removed. It may not be sold for profit or incorporated in commercial documents without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. Permission is expressly granted for this document to be made available for file transfer from installations offering unrestricted anonymous file transfer on the Internet.
This document is provided AS IS without any express or implied warranty.
The author may be contacted at 50 Great Meadow Road, Bradley Stoke, Bristol, BS12 8DA, England.
I am new to Genealogy and would like some help. ***********************************************
For those just starting to research their family history, these short notes might help:
1. Visit your local library and read a basic book or two on genealogy. This should give you some basic guidance on the methods to use, and where the information is held. There are many useful introductory books on Genealogy and family history, which will provide you with more complete and coherent guidance as how to get started than you could expect to get merely by posting a series of questions to the newsgroup or mailing list. In many cases specific questions can be answered by library reference materials.
2. Develop a plan. Think about which lines to follow. You have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, and so on. You have to draw the line somewhere. You can use your time better if you develop a plan to guide you. Start with talking with and writing to all your kinsfolk with your questions, (while they are still alive), and do it soon.
3. Start by talking with, and writing to all your kinsfolk with your questions, (while they are still alive), and do it soon. Overly general questions such as "What do you know about the family's history?" may overwelm your relatives. Asking specific questions (when did you get married? Who were your parents? grandparents? brothers and sisters? Where did you aunts and uncles live?) may get you more information. Use photographs and old family possessions to help get the conversation started. Remember to start this before the last of that generation passes on and takes all that valuable information with them.
4. Visit your nearest Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS or Mormon) Family History Center. You can find them in the phone directory. The family History Library catalog, on CD-ROM and microfiche, is your key to accessing millions of original records and published genealogical works kept by the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Microfilms can be rented for research in the local Family History Center for a nominal fee. The local centers have two excellent indexes on CD-ROM: the Ancestral File and the International Genealogical Index (IGI). Neither of these are available via the internet.
5. Document. You may need to review your sources again, someone may want to verify your research, your work may imply something to someone who will need to access the same records, or someone may need to pick up where you left off. Too many people underestimate, or never consider, the importance of documentation. If you have found information in a reference book, make sure you keep enough reference material to enable you to walk back into the same place five years later, locate the book and find the reference again.
6. Keep a careful record of what searches you have done so far, even if you found nothing. It may well save you from searching the same record or source again in the future.
7. Don't sell your project short. You might start this with the idea of just finding a handful of people just for your own interest, only to find it blossom into a lifelong study. If you begin with some planning, some learning, and good documentation, then nothing is lost if it stays a small project, but you will reap great dividends if your little project turns into a big one. Remember that it is not uncommon to drop the project for 5 or 10 years and then go back to it again.
8. Be prepared to step back and catch your breath. When you look at the ambitions for your project and think about the effort involved, or when you are faced with dozens of trails that you want to follow, it may seem like trying to move a mountain with a teaspoon. When that happens, take some time to remind yourself that this is supposed to be fun, then do some more planning to get back on track.
9. Watch for all the FAQs which are posted to the various newsgroups and mailing lists. These Frequently Asked Questions (and their answers) should answer most of your initial problems.
10. Don't expect too much from online resources. Usenet, mailing lists and other online discussion forums work best when someone needs to overcome a stumbling block or an arcane problem. Other online resources include name matching and query services, software and files describing topics in genealogy from the very general, to the very specific. However, they offer scattered coverage and are often unfocused. A good rule of thumb is that newsgroups, etc., become useful after you have found all your ancestors by convential means.
11. Many people learn of a certain index or book that may be useful to their research and immediately jump on the Net and plead for someone to do a look-up for them. These same folks are often unaware that their friendly neighbourhood public or academic librarian can issue a formal interlibrary loan request for the wanted item.
Since librarians have access to OCLC, the International Bibliographic Database, and the average researcher does not, they can quickly identify another owning library and send out the request over their networks. It's standard, everyday stuff for the librarians.
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