Behind The Scenes: The Art and Science of Genealogical Research

A group of DNA consultant

Genealogy, the study of family history and lineage, has evolved from dusty archives and faded photographs to a sophisticated field leveraging cutting-edge technology.

Behind the scenes of our genealogy company, a fascinating blend of art and science unfolds as researchers explore the intricacies of the past. Let us walk you through the meticulous process of genealogical research, exploring the methodologies, tools, and expertise that contribute to uncovering accurate and meaningful ancestral stories.

Here’s what you need to know.

The Foundation: Understanding the Basics

Genealogical research begins with a solid understanding of the basic principles. At its core, genealogy seeks to trace family connections and construct family trees. Researchers start with the client’s information and gradually work backward in time, linking generations through historical records, documents, and other sources.

The initial phase involves gathering details from living relatives, family documents, and existing family trees to create a foundation for further exploration.

Methodologies: Piecing Together the Puzzle

Once the initial information is gathered, researchers employ a variety of methodologies to unearth hidden family connections. These methodologies include:

Archival Research: Archival repositories house a treasure trove of historical records, from birth and marriage certificates to census data and military records. Researchers meticulously sift through these archives, deciphering handwritten documents and extracting valuable information that helps piece together the puzzle of the past.

Very old books for genealogy research

DNA Testing: Advances in DNA technology have revolutionized genealogical research. Companies like AncestryDNA and 23andMe offer DNA testing services that allow individuals to discover their genetic roots. In traditional research, genealogists use these results to validate existing family trees, identify unknown relatives, and overcome brick walls.

Digital Databases: The digital age has ushered in a new era of accessibility to historical documents. Genealogists leverage online databases such as, FamilySearch, and MyHeritage to access a vast array of records, making the research process more efficient. These platforms provide a wealth of information, ranging from census records and immigration documents to newspaper archives and wills.

Local Records and Repositories: Genealogy often involves deep diving into local records and repositories. Researchers visit courthouses, libraries, and historical societies to access records not available online. Local knowledge and on-site investigations are crucial in uncovering hidden gems that may not be digitized.

The Human Touch: Expertise and Intuition

While technology and databases play a pivotal role, the human touch remains indispensable in genealogical research. Expertise and intuition come into play when deciphering ambiguous records, understanding historical context, and connecting seemingly unrelated pieces of information. Genealogists develop a keen eye for detail, honed by years of experience, enabling them to make informed decisions in the face of uncertainty.

Historical Context: Understanding the historical context surrounding an individual or family is crucial. Genealogists delve into historical events, social norms, and migration patterns to contextualize their findings. This contextual understanding often sheds light on mysteries and provides a more nuanced perspective on family histories.

Analytical Skills: Genealogists possess strong analytical skills to scrutinize information critically. They cross-reference data from multiple sources, identify discrepancies, and reconcile conflicting information. This meticulous approach ensures the accuracy of the final family tree.

Problem-Solving: Genealogical research is akin to solving a complex puzzle. Researchers encounter roadblocks and dead ends, requiring creative problem-solving skills to overcome obstacles. Whether deciphering illegible handwriting or tracing ancestors through obscure records, genealogists thrive on the challenge of untangling genealogical mysteries.

Ethical Considerations: Genealogists navigate a landscape fraught with ethical considerations. Sensitivity to the feelings and privacy of living relatives, responsible use of DNA data, and respect for cultural sensitivities are integral aspects of ethical genealogical practice.

Tools of the Trade: Leveraging Technology for Efficiency

A group of genetic genealogists at work

Technology plays a pivotal role in the efficiency and effectiveness of genealogical research. Genealogy software, online databases, and DNA analysis tools empower researchers to navigate vast amounts of data and connect the dots more rapidly. Here are some key tools used in the field:

Genealogy Software: Platforms like, MyHeritage, and Legacy Family Tree provide genealogists with robust tools for building and organizing family trees. These software solutions enable collaboration among researchers, making it easier to share findings and collaborate on complex family histories. Also of tremendous value are software applications such as FamilyTreeMaker from MacKiev software, which is installed locally on a user’s computer. FTM has a wide range of features and, perhaps best of all, can be synchronized to a tree on Ancestry or FamilySearch. The value of having a local copy of your ancestral research can’t be overstated.

DNA Testing Kits: Commercial DNA testing kits from companies like AncestryDNA, 23andMe, and MyHeritage DNA provide valuable genetic information. In traditional research, genealogists use these kits to confirm relationships, identify common ancestors, and break through brick walls.

Online Databases: Subscription-based genealogy websites offer access to an extensive collection of records., FamilySearch, and Findmypast are among the platforms that provide researchers with a vast repository of historical documents, newspapers, and user-contributed family trees.

Digital Preservation Tools: Preserving digital records and family histories is essential for future generations. Tools like Evernote, OneNote, and Dropbox assist genealogists in organizing and safeguarding their findings. These tools ensure that valuable information is easily accessible and protected from loss.

Challenges in Genealogical Research

While the tools and methodologies in genealogical research have advanced significantly, challenges persist. Researchers often encounter roadblocks such as:

Incomplete or Inaccurate Records: Historical records may be incomplete, inaccurate, or altogether missing. Inconsistencies in spelling, misinterpretation of handwriting, and errors in official documents pose challenges that require careful navigation.

Cultural and Language Barriers: Tracing ancestry across different cultures and languages can be challenging. Genealogists must be adept at overcoming language barriers, interpreting cultural nuances, and navigating diverse naming conventions.

Adoption and Illegitimacy: Cases of adoption, illegitimacy, and non-paternity events present unique challenges. Genealogists must handle such delicate situations with sensitivity, respecting the privacy and emotions of those involved.

Changing Borders and Political Instability: Historical events, border changes, and political instability can complicate genealogical research. Researchers must navigate through shifting geopolitical landscapes to trace ancestors across different regions.


The Takeaway

Genealogical research is a captivating blend of art and science, weaving together the precision of data analysis with the intuition of historical interpretation. Researchers take a journey through time, unlocking the mysteries of family histories and connecting individuals across generations.

As technology continues to advance, the tools and methodologies employed in genealogical research evolve, enhancing the efficiency and accuracy of uncovering ancestral stories.

That said, the human touch remains irreplaceable, as genealogists bring expertise, intuition, and a passion for unraveling the past to each research project. Whether navigating through dusty archives, exploring digital databases, or interpreting DNA results, the art and science of genealogical research continue to captivate and inspire, providing individuals with a deeper understanding of their roots and a profound connection to the tapestry of human history.

If you’re looking for a reliable genealogy research company that offers traditional family research services – reach out to us at DavisDNA And Family Research. We offer expert DNA research assistance and can help you discover your family’s history.

Check it all out and get in touch!