Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Collecting Dead Relatives

A few weeks ago I was talking to a friend of mine about genealogy. He had mentioned that his father was interested in their family history, but whenever he started talking about it, his family glazed over. Their response was always, "That's great Dad. We're glad you've got a hobby to keep you busy."

I have to admit that most of our family does the same thing. I find it very interesting that even more people aren't interested in their family history. Genealogy is one of the fastest growing hobbies in the US. I was talking to my friend and telling him about all of the research that I've done. I've found my paternal line back to the mid-1600's here in the US. I've found one maternal line recently that takes me back to the early 1500's in England.

My friend asked me how I was able to find out all of this information. I told him that about 85% of my research had been done online at various local, national, and worldwide internet sites. I've also visited the local branch of the NARA (National Archives and Records Administration). I'm very fortunate that there is a local branch just a few minutes from my house. There are only 14 regional branches in the entire US. I also live in an area where most of my family is from. We haven't traveled much since the early 1800's.

To make a long story short, my friend asked me how he would get started in researching his family. Basically, you have to start with yourself. Get some sort of "Family Tree" computer program and fill in everything you know about yourself. Then find out everything you can from your parents and siblings. Move on to grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. Always start with information that is known or most recent and move backwards.

The one thing that I told him to really remember to do was to cite his sources. Just like you would do in a major research paper. Make sure you know where every little piece of information comes from. You'll need it later!

He seemed very interested in learning more. I hope he does. I know that I wish I had started genealogy sooner than I did. If you still have living grandparents, or great-grandparents, make sure you get all the information you can from them now. They won't be around forever.

Interested in learning about getting started? Watch this...

Dominus Vobiscum,



Anonymous said...

I always appreciated your findings on our family. Who else can say that they were related to Billy the Kid. I personally think that in itself is interesting - I am not the only rebel in this family! I appreciate the time you have invested and the detective work you have done. To be honest I am always looking forward to your next finding!!

Thomas Hamburger Jnr said...

Families are complicated businesses, aren't they? But you're right about the either 'love it' or 'hate it' approach by people to genealogy.

At least it's not the rarified patime of an exceptinal few, now, and it's become (as you say) a popular hobby.

My hero Harry McFry comes across people who 'don't see the point' of digging over the past... he's trained to know they are usually the ones with something to hide!

Best wishes with a nice, personal blog!