Friday, January 06, 2006

READERS' FEEDBACK: First things first
(Helping newcomers to genealogy!)


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From:
DearMYRTLE,
The very first thing to do, and one most people do not do, is to get copies of your birth certificate and your parents and grandparents birth, marriage, and death documents. Also get Social Security numbers if born in USA. This is absolutely necessary to keep you from starting to climb the wrong family tree! Do NOT assume the names of your grandparents because they are alive or your parents told you their names. See the information in writing before spending time and money going back in time.


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From:
DearMYRTLE,
I can't stress enough to how important it is to document sources from the very beginning. So many genealogist I've met admit they need to go over their beginning records because they didn't document their sources. And I would add to that find some examples of documentation for different formats to use as models so it can be done correctly (or at least so you will still be happy with it in five years.)


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From:
DearMYRTLE,
One I didn't see mentioned was scan your sources. I use a laptop in my research and although I do file the originals for use at home, I also scan in the originals and use them not only as documents in my genealogy software (TMG - The Master Genealogist), but I can also show proof to that relative if I am at their house and we are discussing genealogy. They love to see the old wills, deeds, marriage records, bible records, etc.


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From:
DearMYRTLE,
First I have mastered how to hear your radio show online Hooray!!!
Now I have gotten some really great books from the "Scratch and Dent" areas for some places that have books. One really great one was of Chicago with black and white pictures of about 80 to 100 years ago and then today in color. Not much genealogy info there but the images I can create in my mind of both sets of grandparents and how they lived are worth the $7 or so I paid for the book which was a close out and greatly reduced. here have been many others and now I have a nice collection. I also save the issues of History, Ancestry and Family Tree Magazine to go back and reread over and over again. I would also take a course somewhere. Most community colleges have a continuing ed or interest area which is very inexpensive and well worth your time and whatever it costs. Join and use the libraries.


Thru the Godfrey newspaper collections I have been able to prove the "family stories" of my paternal grandparents and their place in society and in golf. Particularly my grandmother who I knew was an avid golfer in the 1920 era. She was listed in the newspaper as recording secretary of the Womens Western Golf Association. I later learned this eventually led to the LPGA, and her husband whose hole-in-one was listed in the paper, too. Above all use the sites where you can leave information [RootsWeb message boards to name one!.] Because I did in 1997 and left a note with an email address that is still good to this day. I woke up one morning in 2002 with an email with my dad's name in the title and the first words were "I am your half sister Connie" How's that for a keeper? Thanks!

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From:
DearMYRTLE,
My recommendation for a beginning genealogist is one that I'm sure we all have heard and regret not having done - talk to everyone left alive in your family, from siblings and first cousins to very extended family. Great gramma's cousin may be a treasure trove of information and personal stories not known to your mom or gramma. Even the most insignificant tidbit of information may be the piece that leads to the major breakthrough or fleshes out the most interesting and fascinating story you may have heard as a child growing up. When my family visited our grandparents and aunts and uncles and their families in another state on our family vacations, my sister and I spent time with different families. As a result, we heard different stories about our family or the same stories with different details or from different perspectives. Now as adults, when we share these stories, we compare and contrast details and have a fuller understanding of our family and their times and travails.

As for organizational recommendations, the two best recommendations that I have used are to use a three ringed binder and divide the family binder into generations. Although I seem to quickly outgrow them, I know where to find information, documentation, and leads to share with others. Another helpful recommendation has been to print and save in a binder every email from family members (I'm not talking about the jokes and the funnies, although these can be a great window into the personality and interests of the people and their times at a later date). These emails contain all kinds of family news and tidbits which though the stuff of every day life right now, our children and grandchildren will use to learn about us, our life, our thoughts, and our times. -- Just my recommendations.

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From: Charlie Royall
DearMYRTLE,
Newcomers or even old time researchers. This information is good for both!
Never use a single document as the last word of a fact. Attempt to find more than 1 source document that agrees with each other.

Case in point. My grandfather's death certificate (certified) states that he is buried in Brownwood, Brown Co. TX. when in fact he was buried in Santa Anna, Coleman Co. TX. I was at the burial and purchased and set with my own two hands his marker before he was even cold in the ground (next day after the burial). Had I been depending on the document for his place of burial, I could never have located his grave because Brown Co. would have no record of the event due to the fact that he was not buried there. His obit has the correct place of burial.
The dates on my great grandfathers grave stone is incorrect. The stones were placed and once a year (1920s) an engraver came around and went to the only funeral home/hardware store in the town and got the information on each person. Then he went to the cemetery and engraved the stones.

Great-Grandpa's stone has the dates of birth and death of the person in the next plot and vice versa. The only way I knew this is my grandfather, son of the above told me about it. Had I been depending on the information on the stone to be correct I would have really been in trouble. His obit verifies the correct dates as well as his death certificate. Get more than one primary document to prove a fact!

I can cite many more errors in primary documents but these two should suffice.
Remember that a family history that is not proven is simply a work of fiction at best.

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DearREADERS,
You may recall that Charlie Royall is a published author of a monthly article in a national magazine for many years. He has also been published in Family Tree Magazine. So, now you've heard some advice from the trenches -- from average folks like you and me, and from some of the more experienced researchers in the world of genealogy. Hope at least one of these points struck a cord with you and that you'll be motivated to use better research habits in 2006.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
DearMYRTLE,
6023 26th Street West PMB 352
Bradenton, FL 34207
http://www.DearMYRTLE.com

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