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Don’t be Afraid to Ask Questions

Posted on Apr 25, 2012

Learning begins with a question. Questions and answers are the foundation for exchanging information. We have many ways to learn, but by simply asking questions, we set the stage for learning and sharing what we know.  


Ask for documentation.  Never be shy about asking for documentation from another researcher, when they have shared information with you.   Again, without the paper records in hand, nothing is proven.  One respondent commented:  “Some people omit certain things like previous marriages, etc, but this is important, especially if there were children involved. I have discovered relatives I never knew existed.”


Ask the same question to several individuals.  Asking the same question to multiple individuals helps to develop a more complete picture of a given situation, process, or me

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Labels: genlessons

Expect the Unexpected

Posted on Apr 18, 2012

Surprise, surprise, surprise.  One of the first lessons I learned in genealogy was to expect surprises, the unexpected. 


One genealogist shared with me:  Every family has secrets, mine were good ones. ( I found 2 great Aunts,  a half-sister,  4 nephews,  etc.).  Be open to discovering new family members/family secrets. If you don't want to know these things, don’t do genealogy.”


Another shared:  Be prepared to find a skeleton in the family closet. If your family has emigrated there was usually a VERY good reason, apart from an economic reason.


The unexpected is about life, the good, the bad, and the crazy.   I have found many “unexpectedness” in my own research.  For example:


Shortly after my Mom’s death in 1997, I was interviewing one o

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Labels: genlessons

See the Big Picture

Posted on Apr 12, 2012

Look at the big picture.  It’s important not to get so focused on finding a single individual or piece of information that we don’t look at extended family, neighbors and the migration patterns of the entire community.  Often the missing person (or piece) will pop up in someone else’s family in a completely different geographic location.  One respondent wrote:  “I was shocked recently to hear of someone who researches only their male lines.  By passing up the wives and their families, this person has boxed himself in a corner and will miss a lot of critical information and connections within his family.  My genealogical epiphany took place when I realized that my husband’s family, which has lived entirely in one small Kentucky county for the last 200 years, is related to family lines that migrated all over the map.  Finding some of those distant cousins un

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Labels: genlessons

Stay Focused on the Research You Start

Posted on Apr 11, 2012

 It’s very easy to start researching one line and become interested in another and change direction, all in a matter of a few minutes.  Soon one is surrounded with papers, documents, hundreds of names, dates and locations and a swirling head full of questions.   As one respondent stated “As soon as you find yourself driving 60 miles to some archive on the off chance of tracing the descendants of some fourth cousin twice removed you should stop and ask yourself "why?”


You will find your research more productive if you clearly identify your research goals, develop a research plan and focus on their completion.  The following are a few ideas for keeping your research on track and manageable.


Focus on specific sections of your genealogy at a time.  This can include

Labels: genlessons

Learn About Your Ancestors

Posted on Apr 04, 2012

Learn about the historical and social context of ancestors life’s.  Names and dates of ancestors are basically boring pieces of information. Only when you can put your ancestors in historical and social context will they become meaningful.  Types of information that help us learn more about our families include:

  • Location and physical characteristics (climate and land forms affect development)
  • Cultural characteristics (celebrations, food, religion, literature, language)
  • Historical background (type of government, meaning behind flag, etc.)
  • Major industries, production, and use of land
  • Opportunities, problems and unrest (why people wanted to leave)

- Adoption

- Criminal incarceration/Deportment

- Natural disasters

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Labels: genlessons