The first rule of family tree research is to begin with yourself.  Work from what you know to the unknown, gathering evidence each step of the way.

Next, collect family tree information from your immediate family . The elders do not live forever regardless of age and health and it is important to record everything that they can remember.

Whenever possible, conduct a one-on-one interview.  Let your relatives know that you are coming , as well as the type of information you are seeking .  With permission, record the conversation .  Take clear and accurate notes .  Prepare for your interview by making a checklist of questions to remind you to ask the three important   questions:  who, where, and when . These questions will advance your genealogy know how and family tree research .

However, be flexible in your approach in order to follow leads from the person being interviewed .  There are sure to be challenges in the process ; beflexible with your interview technique and be open to the discussion and the tales that may follow . When it is inconvenient to interview someone personally , write a letter that is personal in tone .  If the communication goes unanswered, a phone call may be required .  Writing may be difficult for an older person who might be happy to share information.  If this is the reason , a phone call will be helpful.

Remember not everyone will be as interested or excited about family history and genealogy .
Use pictures as a aid .  Often pictures jog the memory, and unlock bits and pieces of family data long forgotten.  

Reassure people that you will be careful of the photos or documentation loaned you .  Respect and be sensitive to the information they share to you.  Often people are hesitant to loan a family heirloom , so be prepared to take photos of momentos whenever they cannot be removed from the premises .

Offer to share your research .  Keep your promise .  After entering compiling data on  a family history sheet and pedigree chart , send  the information to the person who has given you   the information .

Be  sure to ask if there is a family bible and where it might be .  Family bibles may contain information about births, marriages and deaths carefully written on the pages inside .

Ask if others in the family has researched the family tree . If so, ask how you can obtain a copy

Family heirlooms often contains clues :

  • places and names are written on the backs of old photos .
  • Written messages on the inside of a book commemorating a birthday or a holiday.
  • Scrapbooks that contain historic newspaper obituaries and articles , concert programs , graduations and plays .
  • Monogrammed flatware.

There are an endless variety of family artifacts :

  • Certificates and other family records – birth baptismal, first communion, church confirmation , marriage ,  death , wills, divorce and lawsuits . 
  • Adoption papers
  • Journals
  • Memorial notices
  • Report cards  

Develop a system to organize your research . Organizing all of this material is difficult if you don’t have a method .  You will want to create a filing system using both electronic and traditional techniques.  Use binders or folders with the surname as the label, putting items relating to that surname together. When you have time , peruse each folder or binder carefuly, extracting pertinent information.

Make sure to compare your electronic files to your paper files .

Backup your material in another location .  Many invaluable family memorabilia have been ruined by water or fire , as well as simply by the apathy of others who did not know they were handling did not know the value of the treasures . 




Filed under: Family Genealogy