Start the search step by step



By Nancy Battick Are you interested in learning more about your genealogy, but worried about having to buy software or spending a lot of time and money? Or just don’t know where to start? If so, this column is for you. You don’t need to spend the money learning more about your family until you know if you want to do genealogy.

By Nancy Battick

Are you interested in learning more about your genealogy, but are worried about having to buy software or spending a lot of time and money? Or just don’t know where to start? If so, this column is for you.

You don’t need to spend the money to find out more about your family until you know if you want to do genealogy. Start by deciding how many generations you want to know. Keep it small at first. For many people, four or five generations beyond themselves is all they want to know, and it’s relatively straightforward to do your research unless you’re dealing with a foreign country.

Suppose you want to find five generations of your family. In order to keep track of what you find, you will need a genealogical chart. You can download (or have someone else do it for you) free charts and family group sheets from the National Genealogy Society website. www.ngsgenealogy.org/free-resources/charts. Print one copy and photocopy the others for a supply of blank forms. The pedigree allows you to see several generations at a time. The family group sheet allows you to record information about a particular family, parents, children and spouses.

Start by writing down what you know. Start with yourself, name, date of birth, marriage, spouse. Then enter the information of your parents and grandparents. Most people know names even if they don’t know all the dates of birth, marriage, and death. Then check with your family. A parent may have documents or photos, including diaries, letters, photo albums, a family bible, or other sources. They may not even know there are clues. My baby book, for example, has a page listing my family tree through my great-grandparents.

When it comes to vital records, births, marriages, and deaths, you can learn a lot for free by visiting a library with access to FamilySearch.org or Ancestry.com (US version). If there is one near you, the Mormon Church Family History Research Centers can help. Using Family Search and the free library version of Ancestry.com, you can find U.S. Census records, military service and staff listings, vital records and indexes, and burial sites. When you find something about a family member, add it to your family tree or family group chart. Be sure to write down where you found information such as “Ancestry.com. Maine birth certificates from 1617 to 1922 ”. Cities have cemetery records, and a visit to a cemetery can also reveal information about births and deaths.

Still not sure? On FamilySearch, you can find free webinars for newbie genealogists that will help you and I guarantee that if there is a local genealogy company nearby, you will be able to find mentors willing to offer advice and respond to questions. Questions. Do not be shy. None of us were born knowing how to genealogy and we have all had help in one form or another.

So if you’ve always thought about finding out more about your family, don’t let that intimidate you. With little investment, you can start the journey. Good luck.

Nancy Battick is originally from Dover-Foxcroft and has been doing genealogy research for over 30 years. She is the former president of the Maine Genealogical Society, author of several genealogical articles and co-transcribes the Vital Records of Dover-Foxcroft. Nancy has an MA in UMaine history and lives in Dover-Foxcroft with her husband, Jack, another avid genealogist. You can contact Nancy at [email protected].

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