This is the start of a 15-part series of “how-to” articles for beginner genealogists.
Being as genealogy is one of my life passions, I will be spending the next few days covering this topic. My intention is to offer a better understanding of genealogy to newbies everywhere!
Genealogy is the study of a family’s ancestry. It comes from the Greek word “generation” and it can be a great way to connect to your family, history, and genetic records all the way back to the beginnings of record keeping.
What Information Do Genealogists Use?
Genealogists use a wide variety of resources to find lineage or pedigree information. Before people started recording information using written documents, they used storytelling. In fact, much of your family history is still handed down from generation to generation via storytelling. This means one of the best sources of genealogical information comes from talking directly to family members.
That being said, record keeping is also a reliable source of information for genealogists. Many families have what’s called a family bible… which is essentially a bible passed down from generation to generation. The information about who originally possessed the bible is usually documented in the front pages, and this can be a valuable source of information. Additionally, birth certificates, obituaries, wedding announcements, tax assessment records, and census information can all be quite useful.
How is Genealogy Information Presented?
The most common presentation for a family’s lineage is the family tree. This is essentially a flow-chart which starts with the ancestors traced back the farthest at the top. Their children, their children’s marriages and so on are then branches on the family tree, which extend downward.
A child-friendly family tree is often presented as a tree, the trunk being the family core, and each branch, and leaves are extension of that family.
In addition to the family tree, a family’s lineage can be documented in a book, by using a software program, or on a spreadsheet.
Why Would You Use Genealogy?
Genealogy is most often used simply because a person is curious about their family history. Maybe they heard about a famous relative and they want to know if they’re actually related.
Additionally, genealogy can be used to trace genetics and health related issues. Take a look at how the Parr DNA Project is coming along. Using this type of study, technically you could discover if your family has a history of cancer, mental illness, birth defects and so on, but we’ve focused the DNA project on linking our families due to a lack of what I call a paper trail (birth, death, marriage registrations).
Finally, perhaps one of the most beneficial uses for genealogy is to help future generations know where they came from. It’s an amazing way to connect not only to your family but also to history, geography and even economics! Genealogy helps people find their place in the world. I like to tell others that it’s a great way to really get to know ourselves better. You know, like self-discovery!
Starting a genealogy project begins by speaking with your family members. This is often the best way to learn about your family history and can give you a direction to go once their information stops being useful.
From there, you can dig into municipal documents like birth, death and wedding certificates and/or registrations. You can also look into old property tax assessment records and census information. Genealogy is a combination of detective work and careful record keeping.
Genealogy is a great way to connect to the world around you. It provides a sense of history and connection. Interested in learning more about your family tree? Then start with your living relatives… give them a call and learn where YOU come from. But do be careful; genealogy can be addictive ;-)!
Next article: Why is Genealogy Important?
Internet Specialist by trade and passionate about my family's history, I set out to try and reconnect the many lost connections with my paternal family.
Your tombstone stands among the rest
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How to Find Free Basic Genealogy Information
Understanding Birth Records in Genealogy Research