Monday, May 16, 2011

What's a beginner to do with mom's compiled genealogy?

From: Donovan Derr via Facebook

I am a new genealogist living in Newport, PA. I have received a bunch of files from my mother who has traced our family tree for some years and collected many things. But it is all unorganized and most of it is unsourced. I am looking for a mentor of sorts in my area to help me go thru it and get it organized and find out the missing parts and get a good start to trace my family history.
Your first FB response was from Jackie Fry who wrote: "All I can say is start by sorting through what your mother collected and separate it into piles, vital records, birth, marriage, death and the like. Then go through each pile and find names of relatives that go together. If she had pedigree charts use those as a guide when going through the vital records. That's how I would do it anyway."
GREAT advice, Jackie! 
Donovan, once you get your mother's compiled genealogy "organized" as Jackie recommends, you may wish to:
1. Join a local genealogy society to find out more about how to do research. The Pennsylvania GenWeb, part of the USGenWeb Project will have listings in your region.
2. Check with local adult ed classes to see if genealogy courses are offered. 
3. Attend free, but very worthwhile online classes at, and participate in genealogy webinars to improve your research skills.
4. Hire a professional researcher with expertise in the area where your ancestors once lived. Experienced genealogists can map out a suggested research plan, or can do the research for you. Such a professional will be familiar with record groups that have survived since your ancestors lived in a specific locality. You can look to the following organizations for suggestions of professional researchers:
Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.


  1. Oh dear, I can sympathise with Donovan's situation!! It would definitely be a good idea to make sure all the information is organised before you begin to search other records. Unfortunately I launched right in to my own research and now I am left with folders full of wonderful information my Mum found 20 years ago and I look at all the folders still unorganised and feel overwhelmed! I want to digitise all Mum's previous research but it is just such a big job! I have done about 3 folders but still have about 8 to go! I am trying to start from the beginning again.

  2. In my opinion the journey of discovery is far more interesting than the end result. I've received the same type of research collection from two great aunts on both my mother's and father's side of my family. Nothing was sourced, although almost everything was in order. Over the years I've re-researched everything they did and found very few errors.

  3. I too can synpathise with Donovan. My suggestion would be to either by a family tree program or try to build a tree, this along with the collection should pull the family information together. Good Luck

  4. If I had to start all over again with my undocumented "hardcopy" I believe I would start with a bunch of files or a notebook, and begin the old fashion way, with hand written family group sheets. Why? Because the average person retains more when they copy something down. Hopefully... there will be lots of names, dates, obscure references. These items need to be imprinted in the best genealogy tool of all, the brain. Remembering something one "say and wrote down" will help to fuse the past with the present. I have gone though dozens of different forms until I became satisfied with the "correct" look I wanted. Most importantly, as I carefully transferred each person, date, fact; I was able to see where the next step was. I could correct old data for updated data, and document. Then I could sit down with a program to begin the final sort... hope something makes sence and helps, Kristina