Today’s WCAGS Meeting was a Beginning Genealogy Workshop. The first part of the meeting was a discussion of how to begin a genealogy journey followed by a workshop in which beginning genealogists received help from the more experienced genealogists in beginning their research. It was a great meeting!
The following is a summary of the beginning genealogy introduction:
Beginning your Genealogy Journey
To begin your genealogy journey, you don’t need a lot of new skills or have to take a bunch of classes or study large text books for hours on end. You can start your genealogy journey with the information you know about your family and with the information you can find at home.
Now, that is not to say that you won’t want to learn some new skills or spend some time taking a class or two or even studying a few textbooks (especially history) along the route but you don’t need that to start. There is an old saying that even the longest journey begins with the first step. You are beginning with the first step!
To start, write down what you know about your family. Don’t worry about exactly how to write it down or documenting how you know that information.
Just begin the journey. Take the first step. Write down what you know.
Step 1 is complete! Your Journey has Begun! You are a Beginning Genealogist!
Now you are ready for your second step!
Look around your home. Dig in the garage! Gather all your family documents, photos, and letters and any other papers lying around. Do you know of a family bible? Do your parents have photos, letters, or documents they would let you copy? What about other relatives?
For photos and documents from other relatives, the relatives may not be willing to let you have the photos or documents even to take them to be copied. Your camera (even the one on your smart phone) can be your best friend in these situations! Take digital photographs of the documents, letters, and photos!
Gather all of this information!
Step 2 is complete!
Now, you are ready to organize all of your information! You should consider how you will organize your information. There are many filing systems for your paper files. Google “genealogy filing systems” and you will get many results with many different filing systems! There are many genealogists passionately for one system over all the others. I am not going to tell you which is best but pick one! Even if you change your mind later you will have organized information to transfer to a different system instead of just piles of information that prevent you from finding the information you need when you need it.
Besides the filing system, you will probably want to select genealogy software! You can do genealogy research with paper and pencil but you will save a lot of time and effort with a good genealogy software! I am not going to tell you which software to pick but I will list a few of the more well-known software programs to help you find the one that is right for you.
Legacy Family Tree
Family Tree Maker
The Master Genealogist (TMG)
The Next Generation (TNG)
Online Family Trees
Google (or use your favorite search engine) to search for any of these programs and review the information on their websites. There are also several websites that offer software reviews. They can be helpful in software selection but do be aware that some of the people who post reviews on those sites have an agenda either for or against certain software programs.
I have used all of the above and each of them have their good points and I would say that each of them could be a good choice for any genealogist. Most of the differences have to do with personal preferences. So pick one and give it a try. Legacy, Rootsmagic, and The Master Genealogist all have free trials or free versions that you can use for at least a period of time to see if you like them. All of these programs have websites with help information to get you started. Also, feel free to ask questions about how to do something in a software package. Someone in WCAGS has usually used the same software and are willing to answer questions about how to record your genealogy information.
Cyndi’s List is also a great resource for genealogy software (or really any genealogy) information.
Learn to use the program you choose!
Once you have chosen a genealogy program, you should download the manual or purchase a book on how to use the software! Review the help files. Really learn to use the software! The time you invest now will save you many hours of frustration later!
Learn to record sources!
Pay special attention to the information on how to record sources! Recording sources is an important part of genealogy but it doesn’t have to be extremely time-consuming or hard. The main point of recording your sources is to provide enough information for you to be able to find the information you are recording now if you need to find it again later or if others want to find the same information.
Start with sourcing the information you entered from your personal knowledge. You will save yourself lots of frustration from wondering later how got the information later! A few months down the road on your genealogy journey, you will have trouble remembering if that is what you knew at the time or started or if that information came from an interview with an older relative or a document you found in the trunk of papers in your mother’s garage if you don’t have some source information on that birthdate or other genealogy information.
When you get the information you have collected entered in your genealogy software (or recorded on paper forms) and add in the sources of that information, you are well on your way to a good start on your genealogy journey.
Now you are ready to interview some relatives! Take a trip to the library and find out the wonderful information available there! Investigate some online genealogy resources!
You are now a not-so-beginning genealogist!! Welcome to the World of Genealogy!