RESEARCHING FAMILY HISTORY IS CONTAGEOUS
January 20, 2013
Finding your parents or grandparents on the census is rewarding, but finding a governor, a soldier or your immigrant ancestor is the guiding force to becoming addicted to genealogy. With my mother sitting beside me, she was impressed when I found her on the census living in the household of her parents. After that, she was ready to go with me on any trip to the courthouses, libraries, churches, cemeteries or to locate physically the land owned by her relatives or those of my father’s. This was true into her 90s.
When I first began my research there were no PCs to search the Internet nor many books or genealogy groups to offer guidance. To find out what was available in different states, I wrote letters to libraries and Secretaries of State and included a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Within a few weeks, their answers would arrive in the mail. Now we have Redbook, The Source, Printed Sources and the Internet for that task.
With all the technical advances available to those contemplating searching, or novice researchers, a great deal of research can be performed from the home personal computer. The Internet does not have all the answers, but you will be able to postpone trips to other counties or states until you are well into the first couple of generations. You will not be able to find everything on every person.
Of course, you begin the research with yourself before progressing to your parents and maternal and paternal grandparents. The first documents to collect are vital records, birth, marriage, divorce, death records, and available census records. Check the newspapers for announcements of these events. Then collect wills, probates and land records that you organize and file. You do not need original copies, just a copy of the original.
Next, you should follow the money, analyze, and write down what you have and have not found. How old were the couple when they married and age when buying property. Did an inheritance make the land purchase possible? What were the occupations? Note family and neighbors living nearby on the census.
Some researchers prefer to write this on paper rather than using an electronic genealogy database. I recommend a database because it will connect all the relatives for unlimited generations, record and cite the location of the material, manage pictures and help you research a subject on the internet. Many are free for you to download while others require a fee. Two popular databases for the PC are the free downloadable Legacy Family Tree and Family Tree Maker, which requires a fee. I use the former because it performs well and is easy to use. Reunions is the genealogy program for Mac users and it also requires a fee. Legacy Family Tree has an application so you can use it on your smart phone.
For those just beginning to research their family history, there are some specific sites to study. I have included a few free sites below. After reading these sites and becoming acquainted as to what each contain you should be ready to search. Please study these in detail.
http://familysearch.org/ and https://labs.familysearch.org/
Look at the ages of those in each generation to see who was eligible for military service. Remember that during war time teens and those into their 40s may have served. Men born between 1872 and 1900 were required to register for the draft in during World War I and these are available on Ancestry.
Beginners should not forget to check for family photos, family bibles, scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, and old letters for forgotten family treasures. Attend the free lectures on the third Saturday of each month held by Genealogy Friends of Plano Libraries and be sure you become familiar with the Genealogy Library downstairs at W. O. Haggard Library. You will never regret beginning your search of family information. Nevertheless, as the title to this article suggests, Family history is addictive.
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.