Starting on the Right Foot

Starting your Genealogical Research on the right foot will avoid many frustrations down the road. There are a few simple steps to follow and which will keep you on track.

  • Begin your research with you and work backwards on your ancestral line. This allow you to use time researching your ancestors rather than someone else’s. Make sure you have all the information needed for one generation before moving on to the next, especially relationship information.
  • Collect all the information and documents you can from family and friends, before diving in the archive centers and repositories.
  • Set your goals. What questions do you want answered? Be precise. Avoid the “everything about all my Ancestors”. You need to start somewhere and that person should be you, before moving on to the next generation. Know what you want: “when was my great-grandfather born?”, “Did my Great-great-grandmother remarry?”, “How many siblings did my grandfather have?”, etc.
  • Stay organised! Use forms, folders, binders, archive boxes and better yet a computer and a scanner.
  • Cite your sources! For each document, picture, artifact, webpage, etc.; make sure you cite your sources and can retrace your research steps. This will also provide validity to your research. Avoid using the form: “in a book at a library, somewhere in the Country” or “someone told me”. Be accurate and don’t be shy to put as much detail as possible.
  • Educate yourself about the laws in the Country you research: Copyright, Privacy Laws, Access to information, etc. This will allow you to expect what information you will be unable to access or even avoid any legal problems later when you publish your findings. Publishing does not only mean writing a book and having it available in libraries and book stores; this also includes blogs, Facebook, websites, booklets, etc. Even if you plan to only distribute to your family, it is considered publishing and there are many laws to understand before doing so.
  • Read the Terms and Conditions of the Databases you use. You might be surprised that many databases will not allow you to make copies of the documents you find or only for personal use. Be aware and stay informed.
  • Be courteous and diplomatic in your research and interviews. Be respectful of safeguarding the Privacy of living relatives and especially minors.
  • Be patient! Genealogical Research is not a matter of hours, days or weeks. This is an endeavour that will most likely take years if not decades.
  • Do not discourage easily. Yes, Genealogical Research can be very difficult. The long road is often the only road: you cannot take shortcuts. Do not be afraid to use unchartered waters, you may discover new information that will lead to a breakthrough.
  • Have fun!!!! Know that for each moment you will wonder why you are doing this, there will be this overwhelming feeling that comes with a long seeked answer. The reward is much bigger than the struggle.