Just Getting Started In Family History?
Researching your family history can seem like a daunting challenge. You know who you are, you probably know your parents, but from there, things can grow fuzzy very quickly. But it is not quite as difficult as it appears. Like eating an elephant; you just need to take it one bite at a time.
How To Start
The best thing to do is to start where you are right now. Don't think about what you don't know, concentrate on what you do. Here is a brief guideline of how to begin.
The first step is to write down what you do know. Start with yourself.
Then do the same with each of your brothers, sisters or spouse. It is helpful to use a Family Group Sheet to record this information. You can print blank copies for yourself from the following web site: http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Search/Rg/images/31827_FamGrpRe.pdf
Your next step is to move back one generation and repeat the same steps for each of your parents. You can add other information as it is applicable.
You may find it helpful to record this information on a Family Pedigree Chart that you can also download and print blank copies from the following web site: http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Search/Rg/images/31826_PedChart.pdf
These two forms, the Family Group Sheet and the Family Pedigree Chart, are the basic forms for recording Genealogy work. The Pedigree Chart acts as the outline of your family tree while the Family Group Sheet records the specific family and individual information. Together they help you keep your information straight. As you add generation upon generation and family upon family, you will need to learn some of the advanced methods to organize your history, but for now, gather and record what you can find.
There are also many different software programs for computers in which you can enter in your data. They have powerful search and manipulation features that enable you to better track and organize your family as it grows. You can also share the information you have with others, or receive completed lines from related individuals.
Genealogy information is universally transferred digitally through what are called Gedcom files. Gedcom files are merely a computer data file. You can recognize them by the .ged suffix after the file name, as in Mefford.ged or Jackson.ged. Gedcoms are merely the format used to transfer genealogy information from one computer to another.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) pioneered the use of computer programs and developed most of the standards for Family History work. You can download free copies of their program, Personal Ancestral File (PAF) from the web site: http://www.familysearch.org. While many companies now sell their family history software, all of them had their roots in PAF.
Now you are off to a great beginning. You just repeat this same cycle generation after generation as you move back up your family tree.
Where Do I Find The Information I Don't Know?
There are many places to search for this information. Much of it is literally sitting under your nose. The easiest and often most helpful sources are to:
Other places of research are many and varied, depending on your location and origin. There are many Family History or Genealogy societies, organizations and libraries around the world. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has the largest number of Family History Centers scattered all around the world. Here you can access the complete genealogy records the LDS Church has gathered, including the millions of records that have been microfilmed and stored over the last 80 years. The Family History Library Catalog can be accessed on the Internet at http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Library/FHLC/frameset_fhlc.asp. It is also avaliable in several languages.
Available records include:
1. The collection has over 2.2 million rolls of microfilmed
genealogical records; 742,000 microfiche; 300,000 books, serials, and
other formats; and 4,500 periodicals.
Microfilm and microfiche can be sent to a local Family History Library in your area for your own personal perusal. It is available to you, whether you are a member of the LDS Church or not. The local Family History Centers are staffed with trained volunteers who are eager to help you in your search for your ancestors. Check out the list of local Family History Centers to find the one nearest you.
Another source of information is the Internet. There are tremendous resources already on line and many more joining every month. Check out my Links Page for a list of some of the most popular, most effective and most productive sites I am aware of. Some require a paid membership, but most are free of charge.
Good luck in you pursuits in finding your family. Please let me know of your success.
David L. Mefford