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Relatively Speaking: Avoid genealogy pitfalls

Dec. 28, 2009 at 6:28 a.m.


As we welcome 2010, genealogists and family historians will begin or continue their search for their ancestors. The hunt is exciting, sometimes tedious, and often challenging.

Caution: Along the way, genealogical research has some pitfalls, and here are a few of them:

Enthusiasm: To begin, enthusiasm can be a pitfall for family historians. In an eagerness to find ancestors, researchers may be overcome by the thrill of the hunt and plunge ahead without searching out the validity of a source, analyzing the information, or not properly documenting the records.

Proper documentation is the key to good genealogical recording and reporting. Careful analysis is the foundation of accurate research.

Genealogists and family historians who overlook this in an effort to connect ancestor after ancestor back through the years run the risk of creating an incorrect lineage.

Record Location: Often researchers make a new family history discovery, and between the "Eurekas" and sharing the discovery with everyone within earshot, overlook or skip the tedious step of recording exactly the record location and citation.

Even though the initial thought is the moment will never be forgotten, time and new discoveries will cause the record location and surely the citation to fade. This is a voice of experience.

Indexes: Heading straight for the index is a pitfall that can cause researchers to miss important information.

Always read the introductory material in the publication. It gives the reader the scope of the information and other important details, such as the social history of the area where the records were created.

Also, researchers may locate family and friends of their ancestors who can lead or provide clues to other relevant sources.

Remember that indexes often can be less than totally accurate.

"I'll File This Later:" After spending a full day researching at the Clayton Genealogy Library in Houston or spending nine glorious days of combing through resources in Salt Lake City's Family History Library, it is very tempting to either put off unpacking genealogy carrying cases or simply stacking copies of records on desk corners until later.

When later finally arrives, the memory often has grown fuzzy regarding important notations needed to complete the findings.

This pitfall also affects entering genealogical information into a database. Sticky notes can become very handy for important notations and where to begin when making a research guide for the next library trip.

Organization: Finally, when your stacks become so large they are taking over your desk, it is time to file and get organized. Devise a system for your records. Genealogists need to be able to locate needed information within two minutes.

Continuing Education Classes: January's Beginning Genealogy 101 Classes on Wednesday and Thursday evenings are filled and have waiting lists. This is exciting because it means many people in our area will begin the great adventure of searching for their ancestors this year.

Happy researching and may all your pitfalls be little ones in 2010.

Send e-mail genealogy queries to Martha Jones at mjones@vicad.com VCGS members will research queries requiring extensive study.

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