Overview of Genealogy
Genealogy has become an increasingly popular hobby for most families in America. America is a melting pot, with countless people from other countries emigrating to find a better life for their families. We all want to know where we come from, who our family is, and how far back we can trace our family roots. Genealogy can be conducted on your own or by a professional. If genealogy interests you more than just a hobby, you can even become a genealogist and help others find their family roots.
Types of Records Used in Genealogy
There are many resources that professional and hobbyist genealogists need to use to uncover a family tree. Family Search states that there are two categories for genealogy research: Genealogical records and Reference tools.
- Genealogical records include vital events, other events (like paying taxes), and personal characteristics.
- Reference tools can be places, records, and other facts such as immigrant ship’s name, naturalization records, or meaning of obscure words no longer used.
According to Your Familgy Tree, you will most likely use census or family records which are readily available online. With census records, you can only go as far back as the early 1800s. If you are unable to find much information with local or national records, you might have a better chance checking passenger ship lists or naturalization records. You can also check church and parish records or historical societies, as these were the main places for record keeping. However, depending on how well the clerk kept these records is variable. Be sure to cross-check the data and information from these places.
For more information regarding ancestry, visit Secondary genealogical resources at Ancestry.org.
Standards Used in Genealogical Research
When researching for yourself or as a professional, there is a set of standards in genealogy to follow. It is of utmost importance to use sound data and provide truthful accounts in a family tree. The National Genealogical Society lists the standards all genealogists and family historians must abide by:
- Genealogy information can come from various sources such as documents, artifacts, and genetic testing.
- Always record and site your sources for each item you collect.
- Test credible evidence and reject those that evidence shows as incorrect.
- Always seek original documents or images of the original document.
- Use compilations and public records as guidelines in finding original documents and records.
- Avoid distributing false documents or inaccurate information.
- Make available or publish your findings and research in libraries and resource institutions.
- Become familiar with ethical standards through organizations like Board of Certification of Genealogists and the Association of Professional Genealogists.
For more information, visit:
- Board of Certification of Genealogists: Standards in genealogy research
- Mesa Family Search Library: How to analyze your records
Research Methodologies for Genealogy
Researching for genealogy can be extremely tedious, with all the fact checking, citing sources, and dedicated time. The genealogical method is a scientific method. The International Institute for Environment and Development states that genealogy is an analytical tool in studying kinship. The method of genealogy starts with researching countless data and records in regards to a line of ancestors.
First, a fieldworker would ask the family for names, relations to the family members mentioned, and the names they use for those members, such as “mother” or “grandfather.” Once you gather enough information, you would research that information through records, documents, and any files that exist. It is important to make sure the records and data are correct and that there isn’t any incorrect data within those records. The fieldworker would then start creating a diagram or chart. At the bottom, one might list the informant and work upward as far back as the informant can remember family members. Sometimes, symbols will be used to identify males, females, marriage, offspring, and so on.
To learn more, visit:
- New York Public Library: Genealogy research tips
- Library of the University of Illinois: Genealogy research, methods, and sources
Researching Your Family’s Genealogy
It is fairly easy to begin researching your family line. There are numerous resources online and most likely available at your local historical society or library. Begin by asking the eldest member of your family about their parents and grandparents. Try to get family member names and relations as far back as possible. If they have any documents, get copies to obtain more data to assist in your research. Make sure to check the accuracy of the documents with other sources.
- One resource you can use is the US Census Most recent records are not viewable and all census information is confidential for 72 years.
- If your family entered through Ellis Island, you can find your family name at the Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island website for more information. This is especially useful since your ancestor might have had a name change when entering the United States.
- PBS also has a website with numerous free and paid sources to utilize for researching your family tree.
Creating a Family Tree
Now that you have your information, you can begin creating a family tree. This part of your research can be as stylized or simple as you like. You can hand-make it or download a template.
Your Family Health History calls the family tree a pedigree chart. This term is used by all genealogy professionals and genetic counselors. These use specific symbols so that anyone can read and understand the family tree.
If you would like templates, Obituaries Help has several for download from the traditional upside down pyramid to stylized tree images.
For more ideas, visit Sophia: How to make a pedigree chart.
Genealogy Resources on the Web
The vast majority of resources can be accessed through the internet, historical societies, and even libraries. Below are some of the various places you can visit to research your family’s history.
- National Archives – offers a list of genealogy resources and websites
- Toledo’s Attic – also has an extensive list of places on the web to research genealogy
- Porter County Public Library – has several helpful databases that can be accessed through their website
- Library of Congress – is a good official place to start doing record genealogical searches
- Indianapolis Public Library – suggests some helpful national resources, although most are specific to Indiana
- American Ancestors – has an extensive database of names in which you can search for ancestors
Genealogy Resources for Kids
Allowing our children to create your family tree and research data and documents related to their family is an amazing experience for them. Check your local library for genealogy classes or seminars for kids as this is usually an informative and free option. You can include them in the research or teach them how to research with these kid-friendly online resources below.
- The Houston Library offers reading lists and resources for children interested in genealogy.
- The Czech and Slovak American Genealogy Society of Illinois has a great list of links.
- The St. Charles Public Library offers suggestions and links to get kids started.
- The Birmingham Public Library suggests books and databases for children to develop an interest in genealogy.
- GenWriters discusses how to get children involved in learning about their genealogy.
- The Washington State Library has a great resource at Genealogy for kids.
- Great Schools offers helpful advice on their Family trees page.
- The Michigan Genealogy Web suggests websites and resources for kids and teens to explore genealogy.