TRACING YOUR ROOTS IS TIME CONSUMING AND EXPENSIVE
August 5, 2012
When you watch the TV shows about tracing your roots, it seems so easy. Just get on the computer, search the census, court records, etc. and almost instantly find generation after generation of your bloodline ancestors! Wrong! Then, there are the Ancestry.com site advertisements about those who logged on and in one evening found relatives. Well, folks, it is not that easy.
Well, at least it is not that easy for most. There was once when I was teaching a computer genealogy course at SMU-Legacy when, after explaining the class should not expect to get online that class session and find their family right away, one student did just that.
Bill Walton was attending the course. That day he opened a research site, made a few clicks, and instantly found a site with many generations of his family history. It was a genealogy gold mine. For the next six hours, he was downloading his family history. The person in charge of our computer lab was so amazed at Bill’s success he stayed after the class was over to be sure that all Bill’s family history was correctly and completely downloaded before closing the lab for the night. This was hours after the end of the class. I have never seen that stroke of luck again and I have been into genealogy for a very long time.
Much too often I find people latch on to a line and spend valuable time working that family. Once, a ‘weekend genealogist’ who had hit the proverbial brick wall came to me for a consultation. She had searched that line for several years but could not connect a particular generation with the other one. After studying the collected material, I found the problem that had caused her problem for many years. The line she was trying to connect to her line was another surname entirely. The first few letters matched but not all. This oversight is a common one. To prevent this, one must analyze, analyze, analyze.
Yet, surnames may change over time. On the 1860 census, my maiden name was spelled Burnes. However, the name has been spelled Burns before and after that time. The Kellow name was always spelled as such, but other spellings exist such as Kelloe, Kello and Kellough. Check family albums for spellings of given and surnames, including nicknames. Again, analyze the data for any inaccuracies or additional information and clues.
You can be thrifty. Before subscribing to the subscription sites, use the free databases such as www.New.FamilySearch.org, www.rootsweb.com, Google Search or go to the library and use the paid sites free. Join a local genealogy group such as Genealogy Friends of the Plano Libraries, Inc. and attend free genealogy lectures. Genealogy Friends, www.genealogyfriends.org, has free lectures on the third Saturday of the month at 10:30 in the Program Room of the Haggard Library on Coit Road. The genealogy library has free lectures. Their site is at www.plano.gov/Departments/Libraries/Genealogy/Pages/default.aspx. They also have a blog page and they are on Facebook.
Beginners, start writing down everything about you, your siblings and cousins. If you do not include children of past generations, you will be missing key information. You just never know who inherited those precious papers and albums.
Do not spend money on trips to ancestral homes until you have verified the connection and collected the exact locations. After confirming the connection, visiting your roots is rewarding. By visiting, you can walk on the sidewalks or property, breathe the same air and see the same bugs as your ancestors.
Download a free genealogy program to collect and sort your information. A powerful free one is Legacy Family Tree, www.legacyfamilytree.com. It is built on Microsoft’s Access program.
Hunting for family information today is not as difficult as years ago before the Internet. If you analyze your collected information and follow the facts, use free sources at your disposal, your quest to learn about your family history can be enjoyable and fulfilling.
Brenda Kellow has a bachelor's degree in history, teaches, and lectures on genealogy. Before retiring to publish her family’s histories in 2007, Brenda held certification as a Certified Genealogist and as a certified Genealogical Instructor. Send reunion announcements, books to review, and genealogy queries to: TracingOurRoots@gmail.com.