Saturday, October 27, 2012

Genealogy Lessons on Jumping the Pond-- Lesson 1

Recently, I went to a family history conference at my local family history center.  One of the seminars I attended was on researching Irish ancestors -- I am not Irish by the way.  I am not a beginner, so it was pretty basic information for me. The seminar focused on researching in the U.S. first, which was nothing new for me; however, it was new to many in the audience who had some very basic questions, and I realized how much a beginner really needs to learn.  Therefore, inspired by the presenter, Randolyn, at the Apex Family History Center in NC, I decided to promote the information she gave and add in my tidbits by starting this new series.  When we get to actually "jumping the pond," then it will mostly be solely based on my experiences.

Lesson #1

Location, location, location.  Jumping the pond and researching records in your country of origin will most likely not be possible unless you figure out where exactly your ancestor lived.  You will probably need to know the exact town, county, parish, etc. People who try to find an ancestor at the country level will hit a brick wall, and usually the first lesson is that what may seem like a unique name and surname in the U.S. is often very common in the country of origin.  So how do we begin our search?

Start with what you know!

1) Fill out a pedigree chart.  Begin with yourself and fill out your parents', your grandparents', and great-grandparents' information.  Include information on siblings, if you know it.

Tip: Many beginners make the mistake of focusing only on direct family lines, but in fact, records for siblings of grandparents or great-grandparents may have the tidbit of information you cannot find in the records belonging to your direct ancestor.  

2)  Interview your family members, starting with the oldest members first.  If I had a dime for every time I wished I had interviewed my grandparents or their siblings before they died, I'd be rich by now.
  • Videotape or record them, if you can.  
  • Ask about marriages, deaths, births, traditions, immigration/emigration stories.  
  • If you google "family history interview questions" you will find several links to help identify the best questions to ask.
  • Go through family albums and record your family members' memories.  
  • If friends or neighbors are available, ask them questions as well.

So get started, and stay tuned for Lesson #2.

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