Top Ten Genealogy Questions

by Ruby Coleman

The top ten genealogy questions could easily double and triple and go to greater lengths. However, there are ten popular questions that seem to be on the minds of people, particularly beginning genealogists.

  1. Where can I find my family tree? Your family tree begins with you and extends backward generation by generation through time. In order to look for that family tree, you must begin researching yourself, then your parents, grandparents and further back.

    Some family trees have been published or left in manuscript form. Information on the work of others, either published or in manuscript form can be found in library catalogs. A large holding of family genealogies can be found at the Family History Library (LDS) in Salt Lake City, Utah. You can search their catalog by surname on-line at FamilySearch.org. It is still a good idea to do your own research and start your own family tree.

  2. Is there a list of genealogy search engines? Most genealogists use a variety of search engines in their research. To check out the variety of search engines that genealogists enjoy, go to CyndisList at http://www.cyndislist.com/search.htm. The trick is not in the number of search engines or those that may be better for genealogical needs, but rather how they are used. Being too brief with only the word "genealogy" will retrieve thousands of returns. Some search engines allow exact phrases or words in the search and some allow multiple words.

    Using a search engine, search on the word "genealogy" and then search on another combination, such as "genealogical research Ohio." Note the differences in what is returned. Which are manageable? Try putting in a surname that you are researching followed by "genealogy." In time you will have favorite search engines that are easy to use and seem to come up with possibilities for browsing the Internet. Don't limit your searching as new search engines are being developed continually. The Internet is impossible without them!

  3. When I find my ancestors do I include them all on my tree? Certainly you would want to include direct ancestors on your family tree. These would be your grandparents, great grandparents, great, great grandparents and on back generation by generation. The others are collateral ancestors ... the aunts, uncles, cousins. They are equally important.

    Direct ancestors are placed on pedigree or ancestral charts. The family group sheets are prepared for family units which can and should includes the aunts, uncles and cousins. If you are compiling a genealogy, it is up to you as to how much collateral ancestor information to include. It seems the more your include, the more you document, the more you will eventually retrieve from others in the sharing process. Sometimes clues to your direct ancestry can be gained only through research of collateral ancestors.

  4. How do I make a family tree? A family tree can be made on papers, a compilation of charts and forms, such as those mentioned in question number 3. A family tree can be stored and used in a genealogical software application on your computer. These applications allow genealogists to create charts and forms of various sizes and design. They also can be used to create a published genealogy of your family.

    Genealogists can use genealogical software to create web pages for personal web pages on Internet. Some genealogists prefer to just share their genealogy or family tree as they communicate with other researchers or relatives. Family reunions are a great place to share a family tree. Create is the key word ... be creative. There are many possibilities available from your personal needs to those of publishing, designing and developing an interesting family tree.

  5. Do you know of any site that gives free genealogy search? With the development of subscription databases, genealogists are always looking for good, free information. RootsWeb remains a free search area. Begin your search there at http://www.rootsweb.com. There are many free areas to browse through including the WorldConnect family trees, mailing lists, surname lists, their famous SearchThingy and the Surname Helper. Be sure to check out their free databases in the regional area, http://www.userdb.rootsweb.com/regional.html.

    There are other genealogical areas on Internet that are free. In fact, most areas are free. Using them requires persistence on the part of the researcher to prove the information correct. Information has been typed into a format for the web page, and before that transcribed. Unless it is a digital image, you are working with potential errors.

  6. How can I locate my family heritage? The word heritage means something passed down, such as a tradition or custom. Usually when we hear the word heritage we think of ethnic customs and family stories, all of which will usually lead us to learning more about our ancestors and background.

    Beginning research should include visiting with members of your family, even cousins, aunts and uncles, to learn more about your family background and ultimately the family heritage. Locating a family heritage begins within family records and progresses into other types of records. Every family has the stories, customs and traditions that all play an interesting part in the family history. Some of these can lead you down the path of locating foreign ancestry. Ask questions and look for clues within your own family and relativs.

  7. Are there people who can help with making a family tree? The best family tree begins with you. Educate yourself through many of the available resources on the market today. Over 35 million Americans use Internet to research their family history ... it's convenient. It is also convenient for learning how to do the research. There are learning areas such as RootsWeb Guide at http://www.rootswebcom/~rwguide; DearMYRTLE at http://www.DearMYRTLE.com and of course GenealogyToday.com at http://www.genealogytoday.com.

    There are volunteers who list their services on Internet. These services range from checking census to books or vital records. A good place to start checking for volunteers is on the many state and county web pages available through the USGenWeb, http://www.usgenweb.org. Two other popular areas where people are available for help are the Genealogy Helplist at http://helplist.org/ and Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK) at http://raogk.rootsweb.com.

  8. Can you help me find genealogy message boards? These are places where you can leave queries, ideas and information. The information can be posted by surname, location or topic. Researchers post queries or information and also search for information. Responses to your queries do not come directly into your e-mail box. The message board site will notify you by e-mail if there is a response to what you have posted. The following are popular message boards: GenConnect Surname Boards http://cgi.rootsweb.com/~genbbs/indx/FamAssoc.html GenForum http://www.genforum.com Ancestry.com Boards http://boards.ancestry.com/mbexec/script/main/an

    Each message board has a query box to search that specific board. This can be done by a surname, full name or location. Another search area is the Genealogy Message Searcher at http://images.gencircles.com/message/searcher. When a query interests you, respond to it.

  9. Do I need genealogy software to trace my family tree? It is either software or paper! In pre-computer days, genealogists used ancestral or pedigree charts, family group sheets and other charts on paper. We still do to a certain extent. If you have a computer, it is wise to use the full capacity of your computer for doing genealogy research. Genealogical software allows you to sort, search and retain masses of information with your computer that would normally take an abundance of file folders or notebooks. Good genealogical software has print features that create the needed charts.

    There are several excellent applications available for the genealogist. Most of them have demos that can be downloaded on-line. Ask genealogy friends what they use for software. Some of the more popular applications are the Personal Ancestral File (PAF), Family Tree Maker (FTM), The Master Genealogist and Reunion (for Macintosh). The PAF program for Windows (LDS) is available free for downloading at http://www.familysearch.org/what_new.asp. When shopping for software, check out Genealogical Software Report Card at http://www.mumford.ab.ca/.

  10. What is the best family tree format? The best is actually what pleases you and meets your needs. All researchers need to look at ancestral or pedigree charts as these give a generational outline of direct ancestors. They can be printed in various sizes. The family group sheets detail a family unit.

    If you are writing a book or booklet pertaining to your family tree, there are specific formats that can be used for easier understanding of the lineages. They are known as numbering systems and some are available in genealogical software. Many researchers prefer to create their own book or booklet by using a word processing application, plus a good numbering system. Richard A. Pense presents information on Numbering Systems in Genealogy at http://www.saintclair.org/numbers/. Whatever system or format you use, make certain it meets your personal needs.

    Genealogy is personal ... it is you and your family and ancestors. Personalizing it adds a creative touch and makes it interesting for you and your family. Genealogical research is scholarly but should also be enjoyable.

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