Ever feel like one of these signs? Not sure which way to go in your genealogy research?
The answer is “You Are Here.” Start where you are.
In finding your ancestors, you have to begin with what you know and work backward. Start with the details of your life (birth, marriage, etc.) then add anything you know about your parents and grandparents. For most of us, the vehicle we use to gather this information is an online tree. That can be through Ancestry.com ($), FamilySearch.org (free), or any other website which provides tree-building capabilities.
You may say “I want to learn everything about Aunt Sally.” But patience and planning are the real keys to discovering more. Whether you are just doing genealogy for fun or you’re a professional, the beginning step is always the same…the research question.
Recently, we had to write a research report for one of the assignments for my ProGen Study Group. It began with a simple question…”Who was the mother of Susanna Krewson, born about 1829 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and married Andrew Bothell on 26 August 1847 in Newtown, Bucks, Pennsylvania?” For more on the answer to this question, see Slowing Down.
Of course, I want to know everything I can about Susanna and her family, but I can’t do that all at once. Notice the question included information about her that helps me figure out which Susanna Krewson I’m talking about (in case there was more than one in the town). These identifying characteristics really come in handy when there are multiple people of the same name in the same place at the same time.
Once you know what you want to find out, it’s time to search the records. You may want to just dive in, but in the long run, it won’t be as productive and you’ll probably frustrate yourself in the process. Ask yourself what kind of records will help answer your research question the best? The FamilySearch Wiki has a wonderful record finder to help you start your search: (https://www.familysearch.org/en/wiki/United_States_Record_Finder). Put the records in the order that makes the most sense to you. Now, you can dig in.
The records I chose to look at were Susanna’s father’s will, census records, church records, and her parent’s Find A Grave memorials. Sometimes you may find a record or two that directly answers your question. Yay!! In my case, I had to put together many different records to come up with the conclusion that Jane Parker was Susanna’s mother. And that’s okay too…it’s fun delving into a variety of records to put a puzzle together.
Once you’ve come up with an answer, write about what you’ve found and share it. Then it’s time to move on to another question. I don’t know where or when Susanna died, so perhaps that will be what I want to find out next.
Genealogy Tip: Always start with a research question to find out one thing about your ancestor. Add identifying characteristics to differentiate your person from anyone else who happened to have the same name.