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Genealogy 101: Genealogical Resources

Contributors: Joan Parks, Amy Anderson, Megan Firestone


"What was going on at those points in time?  Think of genealogy as a  story.  It is one thing to say that your grandmother was born on March 6, 1902.  In 1902, she was probably born at home, not in a hospital, and she would have been a teenager during World War I.  What would that have meant? What was the news at the time...Libraries and archives can provide the cultural and historical context to bring those dry facts and figures to life." -- Marydee Ojala, editor-in-chief of Online Searcher.

Family Tree Magazine

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Basics of Conducting Family History Research

  1. Write down everything you think you know about your family or whenever your are researching.  Write it out by hand.  Apparently there is something about journaling that helps you remember more.  Use this to create a family tree, called a "pedigree chart."
  2. Talk to all the relatives you can, and write down whatever they tell you, true or false.  You can sort that out later, and even if it is only half truth, you may get a lead to your next clue.  Use a recorder to help you remember what was said.
  3. Go through family documents and mementos to confirm or validate what you already discovered.  Open up the dusty boxes in the attic; check the back of your family Bible; get out those long-forgotten yearbooks, school diplomas, newspaper articles, and scrapbooks; and study the dates engraved on grandma's charm bracelet.
  4. Research public documents--starting with census data and vital records--to discover the "truth" and fill in the details.  
  5. Be ready to spend 30 to 40 years proving or disapproving what you think you know and what people will think you know and what people tell you.
  6. Have fun!!!  It is addictive and you will not be able to stop.

SOURCE: ZASTROW, JAN. 2015. "GENEALOGY:  A Cheat Sheet for the Unsuspecting Librarian." Computers in Libraries 35, no 5: 1-20.