How Can Genealogy Help Me To Find Information On An Ancestor?

How can genealogy help me to find information on an ancestor? The way that you do family history is you start in your own house, your own current family. There are seven steps to finding information on an...

There are seven steps to finding information on an ancestor. (1) Use the records you find at home (2) Talk to relatives (3) Collect vital records (birth, death, marriage) (4) Search Federal Census records (5) Search state and county records (6) Search existing family histories (7) Search old newspapers. Start in your own house, your own current family. If you are lucky you have an older ancestor - a parent, an uncle or aunt, a grandmother, or grandpa - that you can go to and ask questions. You can go through the paperwork that you have in your house, all of us collect things like discharge papers, birth certificates, and marriage licenses. A parent dies and usually one child in the family has all of the papers that belonged to the parent that passes away and these will give you information on the next generation back. You start with home, you start with the papers that you have and from there you come up with what we call a family group sheet. A Family Group Sheet is a form with spaces for information for a mother and father and children and you try to fill in the blanks for when and where were they born, when and where they died, when and where and who they married, when and where their children were born, and their children's names. Normally we can get that information on current family from a living or older relative. If my mother gives me a date I automatically believe her, but to be a good genealogist or good family historian I would also order a birth certificate and I would add that to my information because that's my source document. For me to be able to attach myself to my parents, I need my birth certificate.


As you move further back in time, it gets harder. Recording births and deaths was not mandated until about 1910, and in some places like Texas births weren't recorded until somewhere around 1930. Prior to the time births and deaths were required to be recorded by the government you have to go and find things to substantiate those facts - old court records of marriage licenses, newspapers. You go to a library, you hang out in courthouses. The people at my office think I am nuts, because I talk about going on vacation to hang out at the courthouse for four days. But that's what you do, you compile information from paper that let's you come up with evidence that links this ancestor to that ancestor. Think of a chain and the first link on that chain is yourself and you have to be able to prove that you belong to the next link. Most people follow the male line because it's easier. Each link in that chain should be able to be proven, you have to come up with something that shows that. The next place (records) that all family historians go once they leave the paperwork of their own house, marriage, birth, and death records is to the Federal census because the census is the second largest body of existing records in the United States.


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