I became extreamly interested in genealogy research, when I had to write a paper in Graduate School about my ancestory. Thanks to the Morman Church, whose record keeping is without par, I was able to trace my lineage back to the early 1700's.
I had help from several distant relatives to fill in the missing spaces. I even found several new "cousins" in the process. Unfortunately I began this project after most relatives had passed away!
When it comes to genealogy research, there are many different tricks of the trade that you can use to find and gather the information that you need. No matter what methods you choose to follow, however, there are a few basics that always remain the same if you hope to have a successful and fulfilling search.
One of the most important steps you should take when conducting genealogy research is also one of the most overlooked: make sure to maintain accurate logs of the information you have collected. In order to keep accurate loges, you need to document the resources you used for each piece of information you collect. This makes it far easier to do cross-references down the road and to verify information that you may collect elsewhere.
When conducting genealogy research, it will be necessary for you to create your own hypotheses when it comes to piecing information about your family together. Don't get carried away with romantic ideas of your lineage and fool yourself into believing them. Make sure to test every hypothesis and theory you develop by finding credible evidence to back it up. If your hypothesis is not supported by the evidence, reject it and move on to another hypothesis.
As much as possible, always use original documents when researching your genealogy. If you use ones that have been reproduced, you run the risk of having documents that have been altered. This, of course, may cause you to have inaccurate information. When it comes to published works, compilations, communications, and other electronic or paper guides, you should use them as guides in order to help you find the original documents.
Never Stretch the Truth
Never communicate something as a fact when it comes to your genealogy until you are completely sure it really is a fact. You should never mislead another researchers - either purposely or out of carelessness - when stating information. If you communicate information as facts to other genealogists and have your "fact" disproved, you will lose respect within the community and others will be less likely to help you in your search. Also, site your reference when providing information as fact.
If you are still uncertain as to whether or not a piece of information you gathered is fact, then you should state that the information is probable or possible. Once again, cite your resource for the information that has led you to believe the information may be true. Be sure to acknowledge the research that others may have conducted for you.
Genealogy research is a collegial interest. Therefore, you should openly and freely communicate with other researchers and share the information you have gathered. In order to do this, you should publish your work in some manner so it is available to others. You might also place copies of your research in repositories and libraries. In addition, you must be open to constructive criticism.
Since genealogy research is collegial, you should also feel free to read the information that has been gathered by other researchers. Never feel afraid to ask questions or to ask others to share the information they have gathered with you.
Keep an Open Mind
Since genealogy research is a process that involves formulating and testing a variety of hypotheses, it is important to always keep an open mind. New evidence may appear that discredits other evidence you once had and proves something other than what you had thought to be true. Do not set preconceived ideas about your genealogy and then refuse to change them. Also, be open when listening to the conclusions others have drawn and when they make comments on your work. If you listen with an open mind, you just might discover new ideas you had never thought about before.
Genealogy research is a rewarding, fun, and interesting experience. Just be sure to go into it with an open mind, with flexibility, and honesty. Be willing to share your information with others and to listen to their information without being judgmental or by taking offense to their thoughts. Unraveling the mysteries of the past is like a large puzzle, and the more ideas and help you have solving the puzzle, the great the chance of creating a beautiful family picture.
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About the Author:
Marie Christianson is a senior business analyst at www.FamilyDetails.com. Visit the FamilyDetails.com Genealogy Info Center for more articles and resources!