There’s no better way to connect with yourself, your family, your heritage, and your culture than family history research. Studying our roots can help us feel more grounded, and it can help us understand ourselves a lot better.
Genealogy is a rewarding pursuit, but it comes with its challenges. However, using the right approaches and tools, it’s quite possible to unearth a piece of history that relates to you while building a family tree that can be seen by generations that come after you.
Here are some timeless genealogy research tips that can make your family search project much easier.
Always Revisit What You Already Know
This is one of the first steps that many researchers completely overlook. Your family history research starts with you, and you already know a great deal about yourself. So, start with gathering and organizing your own immediate family’s information.
Not only is this an easy way to start, but it will also help you get organized and get into research mode. You’ll also be surprised at the tiny details you notice once you look at your documents and photos specifically for genealogy research.
You are the perfect starting point for your family’s research.
Document And Organize Every Finding
This goes without saying, but you must be super organized when doing genealogy research. This is because you will be dealing with a lot of information in the form of documents, photos, forms, and other resources.
Don’t forget that you’re also handling information from multiple sources, families, and timelines. Unless you’re very organized and are documenting everything, you will have a very tough time keeping up with your research progress.
We suggest creating a system to track all sources and citations. Also, use spreadsheets, special software, online platforms, and other digital tools to help you keep track of it all.
Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Interviews
In this digital age, it’s easy to think that you’ll find everything you need online, but the truth is that nothing will compare to the first-hand recounts that you can get by interviewing people, like distant elderly relatives or those still living in your native town or country.
From small details to interesting anecdotes, there’s a lot you can extract from interviews—don’t overlook their importance. Also, always try to see if you can record the interviews you conduct. This will help you revisit everything that was said, and you can also leave the interview record for future researchers.
Visit Libraries and Explore the Local Archives
As we mentioned earlier, you don’t need to find everything online. Public libraries and local archives are treasure troves for genealogists and family researchers. From old newspapers to public records, there’s a lot you’ll find in these places.
You can also check government archives, libraries belonging to historical societies, and regional repositories for more varied sources. And, of course, make sure to always speak to librarians and other staff members in these spaces; they’ll always have great insights and tips for you.
Always Try to Find Original Records
Many records are indexed today, but if you can, always look for the original records. This is because transcription errors and spelling mistakes are more common than many of us realize. Therefore, you may find that the original records tell a different story than what you originally thought.
We also understand that finding original records isn’t always easy, but if you visit archives, you can ask around to see if the original documents can be accessed for a fee—most archives and libraries do offer that.
Always Cross-Check Your Sources
It’s important to keep in mind that all sources aren’t necessarily accurate every time. How and when a record was created can tell you a lot about its accuracy.
This essentially means that you have to pay close attention to details and think outside the box. Ask yourself questions like when were the records created, or was the person creating the record close to the subject? Such questions may help you determine how accurate the information is, and it can keep your research on the right track.
Don’t Take Citations and References Lightly
Many beginner researchers don’t realize the importance of citations, but it’s important even if you don’t plan on publishing your research for anybody else to see.
Think of it this way; you’re probably making significant efforts to find relevant sources and facts that prove your heritage and ancestry; citations are a way to document this journey and leave a trail map of your research.
This isn’t just for others looking at your research but also for you. In case you make a mistake or reach a brick wall, the citation will allow you to revisit all the facts to confirm certain findings and refute the false ones.
Never Completely Rely On Someone Else’s Family Tree
We can’t stress this enough, but other people’s family trees aren’t credible sources for yours. For starters, you don’t know their research process, so you can’t be sure about any of their facts unless you check their references and confirm them for yourself.
The fact is that there are millions of family trees out there, and unfortunately, many are full of incorrect data and inaccurate facts – and those inaccuracies tend to proliferate so once they’re made, they keep being replicated by other researchers who aren’t careful about the sources and accuracy of their trees. Many don’t even have any source citations. Ideally, these family trees should only be used as stepping stones for your research; you can often use them to find new leads to research further.
One final tip that could help significantly is reaching out for professional help. Traditional genealogy services like what we offer at DavisDNA and Family Research may help you speed up your research process significantly and help you break through brick walls. Check out the packages we offer, and let’s find family history through genealogy together!