Starting Your Family Tree – Collecting Personal Data
The favored rule of family tree research is to begin with yourself. Work from what you know to the unknown, gathering proof each step of the way.
Next, gather family tree information from your immediate family .The elders in the family do not live indefinitely regardless of age or health and it is important to record all that they can recall .
Whenever possible, conduct a personal interview. Let your relatives know that you are coming , as well as the type of information in which you are interested . With permission, use recording equipment. Take accurate and clear notes . Prepare for your interview by making a checklist of questions to remind you to ask the three important questions: who, where and when . These questions will increase your genealogy know how and family tree research .
However, be flexible in your approach in order to follow clues from the person you are interviewing . There are sure to be challenges in the process ; beflexible with your interview style and be open to the discourse and the tales that may follow . If one can't interview a relative personally , write a letter that is personal and conversational in nature . If the letter goes unanswered, a phone call may be required . It is possible that responding in writing may be difficult for an elderly person who might be happy to share information. If this is the reason , a phone call might be more productive.
Remember not all your relatives will be as excited or interested about family history and genealogy .
Use pictures as a aid . Often pictures jog the memory, and unlock fragments of family information long forgotten.
Reassure people that you will be very careful of the photos or documentation loaned you . Respect and be sensitive to the information they loan to you. Often relatives are hesitant to lend a family heirloom , so be prepared to photograph momentos whenever they cannot be taken from the home .
Offer to share your research . Keep your promise . After entering compiling data on a family history sheet and pedigree chart , send a copy to the individual who has shared with you the information .
Be certain to ask if there is a family bible and find out where it is located . Family bibles may contain information about births, marriages and deaths carefully written on the pages inside .
enquire if anyone else in the family has researched genealogy . If so, determine how to collaborate with them
Family memorabilia often contains useful information :
- Names and places are printed on the backs of old photos .
- Written messages on the flyleaf of a book commemorating a birthday or a holiday.
- Family scrapbooks that contain historic newspaper obituaries , programs from concerts , graduations and plays .
- Engraved flatware.
There are an endless variety of family artifacts :
- Certificates - birth baptismal, first communion, church confirmation , marriage , death and burial , wills, divorce and lawsuits .
- Adoption papers
- Memorial notices
- School Report
- Use historic newspapers to find obituaries
Develop a method to organize your research . Organizing what you have collected is difficult if you don't have a method . You will want to create a filing system using both traditional and electronic techniques. Use file folders or binders with the surname as the label, putting items relating to that surname together. When you have time , peruse each folder or binder carefuly, extracting relevant information.
Ensure you cross reference your paper files to your electronic files .
Don't forget to backup your material in another location . Many invaluable family collections have been ruined by natural disasters , as well as simply by the apathy of others who did not know they were handling did not know the value of the irreplacable family artifacts .