Getting started in a lifelong pursuit

As a introduction to this post, I am assuming you have already selected an area of research and have probably done a bit of research already.  You hope to write the family history book one day or prove your relation to a famous person in history.

What this post is about is the first step in getting there.  And that is being organized from the beginning of the journey.  “The heck with that”, you say, “I want to go do some research!”  Well, go ahead.  This post will still be here when you get back.  But as you dive in, you suddenly realize the enormity of it all.

When I started in genealogy, I was just like everyone else.  I did the forays to the local libraries, subscriptions to Ancestry.com and was strolling through family cemeteries.  And like many people, I spent too much money, wasted too much time, worked really hard and my research was a mess.

From the outset, a simple, effective way to arrange my burgeoning mass of names, dates, documents and pictures was a big problem.  Another problem that I encountered was staying focused on my research goals when I was visiting libraries. Too often, I would see a reference or name that held promise and off I would go on a tangent.  There were many trips where I did not get far down my list of items to find or resolve.

So to help you, in future posts I will write about some essentials.

  • A cross-indexed filing system
  • Not so obvious sources of information
  • Genealogy travel kit
  • Planning a road trip
  • Arranging your data
  • Conducting online research
  • Genealogy Standards and Proofs
  • The search for Truth
  • Time saving techniques and tips

As my methods evolved, the amount of data I gathered piled up.  I had copies of book pages, handwritten notes, digital pictures, web page printouts, downloaded files, emails from other sources and CD-ROMS.  And aside from keeping the whole thing organized in my head, I had no way of relating all of the different data in a workable manner.

So, to really get started in genealogy, think about your filing system.  What works best for you?  Will it be computer based, paper based or both?  Mine is both and I think yours will probably end up that way as well for some reasons I will give in a later post.  Yet I am working on getting everything onto my computer.

A genealogist is only as good as their data, so from the beginning you should make a commitment to spending half of your home research time working on your file system, indexing and cross-indexing your data.  Its necessary, you get to know your information well, and its really, really useful.

Rob Andrews
I’m a Mutt with a Pedigree