Friday, September 3, 2010

A Time Machine

Five generations, there you have the start of your family tree. Now place your notebook before you and imagine from this point onward you have a "time machine". On the first few pages you have the geneograms of you, your parents, your grandparents, and children. You have started on your great grandparents. Think now that as you look down at the graph pages yet to be completed, you have generations yet to come. Each page can be organized by dates or generational groups going back in time until you reach the beginning. You can actually place dates on the pages you already have, with the top page being the present date. Then starting with your great grandparents, you can "rough in" the expected dates of their lives going back in time. Twenty years can be used as a reproductive life span, with roughly three generations per 100 years. You then write dates on each page, along with family surnames, locations, and what you need to know. On each page write in large letters the maiden names of each wife so that you can follow parallel lines as the information become available. The major items that will become important are which state (or country) each generation belongs, into which county and city did they live most of their lives. What type of jobs did they have? What church did they attend? On and on it goes, but that is for ge-ne-al-o-gy 301.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Five Generations

Well now, let's see. You have your genealogy notebook. You have your graph paper (at least 75 pages counting the few you have thrown away). You have pencils, ruler, and a good understanding about doing genealogy. Your family tree should be started with your own geneogram including your squares and circles connected by vertical and horizontal lines. You should now have all the information recorded about yourself, your spouse, your bothers and sisters, your parents, and your children. You should have your sheet protectors ready to place all those primary documents you have collected. Well done. Well done. Your geneogram should look something like that shown on the right. The darkest squares and circles are where you started in Ge-ne-al-o-gy 101. The lighter squares and circles are what you are to add in Ge-ne-al-o-gy 201. If you have started placing your grandparents, you will have a five generation family tree. You are now ready to collect your ancestors, and start climbing out each branch of your family tree.

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Secondary Document

A secondary document is any record that gives additional information or account of the individual you are researching after that person has died. These may be public or private records. They would include books (biographies), magazine articles, newspaper articles, public records or accounts, or any additional records that give "second hand" information about the person you seek. Some of these records might included genealogical work or historical texts which have clear documentation. Those with clear documentation are the most helpful, since you can actually verify the sources given. [That is why documentation is so important in your own tree climbing.] Many of the secondary sources may present information that is not clearly documented such as family stories (legends), oral histories, and newspaper articles. Any genealogical information that is given without references or documentation should be clearly noted. This is often the case with Internet sites and family trees given on undocumented Internet sites. [I have found many of these sites to have extensive errors.]

The picture to the right shows an example of a secondary document. It is titled "Daniel Boone", and is published 1911. It is interesting reading and gives a detailed account of the life of Daniel Boone. It gives no documentation to allow the reader to verify the accounts told in the book. A secondary source it is.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Primary Document

A "Primary Document" is any historical document written during the life time of the person under research. It is any civil, legal, or governmental record written during the life span of this person. Examples are deeds, wills, court orders and records, birth certificates, death certificates, marriage records, census data, military records, and tax records. A primary document may also be any family, personal, religious, or social record, such as Bible records, personal letters, diary, business or other items which involve communications or references to the person being researched. Finally, there is any document written during the life of the individual from any other source such as letters, newspaper articles, and diary which is written by others about the individual you are collecting documentation.

The item to the right is an example of a primary document for my Grandfather and Grandmother Ewen. It is their marriage record written 21st March 1918. Pretend it is one from your family and identify what information it contains.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


There are three key words for this part of your tree climbing. They are document, document, and then document. Nothing is more frustrating then having dates and information written down only to find out several weeks or months later that you did not write down where you found this information. Likewise, nothing is as frustrating as finding another's genealogy work with no documentation (proof) of their statements or information. The intent and purpose of your information gathering is to leave it in such a shape that anyone who comes after you can find the same information. This is the basis of verification, so important to your own family story. It also allows you to leave the family's story well documented.

Now, there are two main classes of sources used in genealogical research. The first is called "primary" sources, and the second is called "secondary" sources [imagine that.] Primary sources (materials, records, letters, diary) are written during the life time of the person you are investigating. This becomes the most "authentic" source(s) for your tree climbing. If a man writes a will (being alive and mentally competent)it represents a primary source for that individual. If a will is talked about in a family story, but is not the actual will, it becomes a secondary source of information. A secondary source is any material written about the individual(s) after they are dead. It is best to have primary sources that tell the most accurate account. The sheet protectors that you have just purchased become the storage place for your copies of the primary and secondary sources.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Ancestor

Your tree climbing has just begun. Proceed at your own risk. Once you are hooked, there is no turning back.

Having completed genealogy 101, you now have an account of your immediate family. Establishing the facts that you know will allow you begin the second phase of tree climbing...where do I go from here? What branch do I climb out onto? What is the process of establishing the facts of my descent from what ancestral line?

The word "ancestor" is derived from the French word "antecessor" which means one that goes before. It is one from whom a person is descended, and who is usually more remote in the family line of descent than a grandparent. Thus a "forefather" would be counted from your great-grandparents. Now you have four grandparents, and eight great-grandparents. Genealogy 201 is to help you begin to establish your ancestral stock.

The next step is to go to your parents (if still living) or grandparents (if still living)and record their lives. Your parents should know information at least to their own grandparents, thus beginning your ancestral lines. Use the same squares and circles you learned in Genealogy 101, and build a page for your parents, and grandparents. If married, do the same for your spouse. Each graph page in your notebook now becomes a record for each generation you uncover. During this process it is helpful to add an additional tool, the standard weight, sheet protectors. These come in handy when you want to place pictures, records, or any kind of document that you wish to save. Grandparents tend to have a whole lot of family memories. You can then place them in the notebook you are building.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Genealogy 201

This is the second blog, in a series of blogs, intended to help the budding and growing genealogist. If you have completed genealogy 101 and have documented your nuclear family, you are ready to continue your family tree climbing. If you have not completed genealogy 101, please return to this blog and review the use of the geneogram, graph paper, and notebook which will be foundational tools. You should have at least two completed pages in your notebook containing the documentation of your nuclear family.

Let's begin ge-ne-al-o-gy 201.