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May 9, 2018

12 Ways To Become a Better Genealogist

We all want to be good at our jobs, right? Whether it's our paid career, or raising children, washing dishes, mowing the lawn, or yes - researching our ancestors. We should want to put forth the best effort possible, and strive constantly to improve.

Here are ten ways we can all use to become a better genealogist.

  1. Copy all documents carefully, word for word, exactly as written. Do not correct spelling or make guesses. Accuracy is one of the most important characteristics of a good genealogy researcher.
  2. Analyze new material carefully - think about what the document tells you. What clues are found in the document? Where should you look next?
  3. Be methodical. Don't jump around. Focus on one ancestor at a time. Note everything you find.
  4. Don't make assumptions. For example not everyone knew when they were born or how old they were in any given year, so those census records might not agree but don't assume you've got the wrong ancestor. It's okay to theorize but note that you are working on a theory, not a fact backed up with sources.
  5. Gather all documents and records on one ancestor, and study them carefully for clues. Note your sources carefully.
  6. Don't grab online trees and add to your own without verifying every single "fact". Use online trees for clues, but remember you do not know how good or how bad a genealogist the person who did them. 
  7. Put together a chronological timeline for each ancestor. This will help you see what you are missing and what else you need. 
  8. Review old research. You will be amazed at what you may have missed the first time around.
  9. Write a report on what you have found for an ancestor. This will help you place your ancestor in history and add detail to the bare facts.
  10. Remember that your ancestors were people just like you. They loved, they hated, they cried, they laughed, they had good days, they had bad days. Think about this when you are trying to figure out how your great-great grandfather met and married your great-great grandmother. Apply your own life experiences to each ancestor you find.
  11. Research the area where your ancestor lived and find out what records were made during his/her lifetime, what has survived, and where they are held. 
  12. Cite your sources! If you aren't up to citing them in the current approved scholarly way, at the very least write them down in a way that will allow others to find what you used. Yes, some of us still like to verify for ourselves

2 comments:

Toni said...

-Copy all documents carefully, word for word, exactly as written.-

By HAND. When I learned to type I learned not to read what I was transcribing but to type the letters as quickly as possible. I catch myself not reading what I'm typing and stop to write it out by hand. When I am transcribing old handwritten documents I write the transcription right under the word. I know right away if the word I chose makes sense or not and often when I can't decipher the word, words around it make it easier to see.

Dana Leeds said...

GREAT tips!