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Genealogy tips for a happy new year
19 January 2007
A new year is here and it’s time to set some genealogy goals for the upcoming year. Here are a
few tips to get you started.
- Record a source for every fact. For every name, date, place, and statement that is made, there
should be a record of where the information was obtained in the form of a citation. Most
genealogical software programs have the function to include a source citation, which makes it
easy and convenient. Be sure to cite the exact source that you use. For example, if you are
looking at the census records from the Family History Library (FHL) microfilm, don’t cite the
National Archives and Records Admnistration (NARA) microfilm. It is acceptable to include both
numbers since the FHL microfilm was made from the NARA microfilm. Leave a trail that can be
followed. Nothing is more frustrating than being unable to recall where a piece of information
If you need help writing the citations, check Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family
Historian by Elizabeth Shown Mills. This book has a list of formats for the most frequently used
genealogical records. If you haven’t been recording your sources, start today! Then, catch up on
those that were not done in the past a little at a time throughout the year.
- Keep a log or research calendar. Enter the records that were searched, the location of the
records, what names were searched, what time period was researched, and the results—positive
and negative. A log can be produced easily with a word processor or with a spreadsheet program.
How often have you been looking at a record or publication and realized that you had already
searched it? Keeping a log will help avoid this type of duplication.
- Make a copy of every document. It is tempting to just take notes, especially when copies are
expensive. This is one area where you do not want to scrimp. Documents need to be studied
numerous times to extract all of the information contained in it. And it is not at all unusual to need
to revisit a document several years down the road. When the source is a book page, copy the title
page and the record repository where the book was found.
There are some records that cannot be copied because of age or fragile condition. In those
cases, always do a transcription. This means copying the document exactly as it appears.
- Organize your records. Decide on a filing system—do not stuff everything into one file or
envelope! There are any number of filing systems that will work well for genealogy. You can use
files and divide the material by families or individuals. A binder system cn also be effective. You
can start with one binder with tabs and expand as your genealogy grows.
- Make a plan of the genealogy research that you want to accomplish this year. First, write down
what you want to find. Then go through the list and arrange the items in order of importance.
When you want to do some research, simply do the next thing on the list. As the year progresses,
you will feel a sense of accomplishment as the list becomes smaller.
- Attend a local genealogy class or seminar. Colorado is a great place to be doing genealogy. The
Colorado Genealogical Society sponsors free genealogy classes at the Denver Public Library two
Saturdays a month. The Broomfield Genealogy Society will give a beginning genealogy class on
March 21 & 28 and an intermediate class on April 11 & 18. This year John Phillip Colletta and
Hank Jones are two national speakers who will be lecturing in Colorado at local society seminars .
For more information about Colorado genealogical events visit the Colorado Council of
Genealogical Societies event calendar at www.rootsweb.com/~coccgs/.
- Take the National Genealogical Society Home Study Course. This in-depth genealogy course
covers all the major record groups used for genealogy, evidence evaluation, and writing. It is
taken at home, at your convenience, and at your own speed. More information is available on the
Web site at www.ngsgenealogy.org/eduhsc.cfm
If tackling all these suggestions is just too much for you, pick just a few. The important
thing is to set realistic goals and follow through. Have a great New Year!
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