Genealogical Research - Starting Out
8/10/2009 1:03 PM
Genealogy is one of the fastest growing hobbies in the United States. As individuals retire, they often see genealogy as engrossing way to learn about their family and travel the United States. But how do you begin?
The first step is to get organized by setting up some sort of filing system. Too often notebooks are filled with snippets of information that become just uncorrelated and often unrelated data, especially if you are researching two different families. Some individuals begin with a family tree form and others use index cards. There numerous free sources online that can help guide your research. Listed below are two of the more helpful ones.
The next step is to start with your own family by writing down family member names and their birth, marriage and death dates. Then move to your grandparents. Do not take as fact family tales about a deceased relative. Make sure you can document every detail that you put down. If you decide to post your information online at a site such as Rootsweb, your sources of information tell individuals looking at your family tree that you have done legitimate research that is well documented. Beware of copying information online that is unsubstantiated or using a book published long ago about your family. Sometimes people guess and that guess can be perpetuated over the years.
There is also a limit to what you will be able to discover about your family using online resources. Vital Records information is usually not found online. There are two reasons for this. One reason is that is an incoming producing source for many states, cities and towns. Another is privacy. The State of New Hampshire is a privacy state so vital records will never found be found online. The State requires individuals to write a letter or fill out a form and state their relationship to the individual whose information they are requesting. They also require a copy of the requestor’s photo identification.
Census records are an excellent source of information though the researcher must be patient. They are hand written documents that have been microfilmed or scanned. Deciphering the handwriting can often be difficult, and the spelling of the last name can change from year to year, even if it is the same person. If the individual who gave the information was not born in the United States, chances are the information will vary from year to year because the census taker may not have completely understood the information being given.
Census records are available online through Ancestry.com and Heritage Quest for a fee. Sometimes, your local library may have a subscription to these sites. The 1880 Federal Census can be found online for free at www.familysearch.org.
The National Archives facilities also have census records but they can be seen only at the location itself.