How-To Series: Getting Started

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Week 1: What You Need to Start

  • Ancestor chart
  • Family group sheets
  • Sharpened pencils
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Good eraser
  • Highlighter
  • Sticky notes
  • Paper
  • External storage device
  • Notebook/3-ring binder
  • File folders
  • Change for copier and/or microfilm readers
  • To-do list
  • Common sense

Week 2: Ancestor Charts and Family Group Sheets

  • Ancestor Chart
    • Comes in 3, 4, 5, 8+ generations
    • Provides biological lineage
    • Start with yourself as Number 1
    • Top part is for the paternal lineage; bottom part is for the maternal lineage
    • Even numbers on traditional ancestor charts are for males and odd numbers are for females
  • Family Group Sheet
    • Shows a family unit, including Father, Mother, and Children
    • All children born to the father and mother should be shown. List from the oldest to the youngest child.
    • Has an area to expand on the known information -- such as occupation, military, religion.
  • Use all uppercase for SURNAMES. This helps to distinguish a surname from a middle name. It is not uncommon for surnames from previous generations to be used as middle names for more recent generations.
    • Example: Joseph Arnold vs. Joseph ARNOLD
  • Genealogy dates should be written in a dd-mmm-yyyy format.
    • Example: 06-11-20
      • Is this June 11, 1920?
      • Is this November 6, 1820?
      • Preferable format is 11 Jun 1920.


Week 3: The Research Plan

What is a research plan?

  • In its most simplistic form, it is a "to-do" list.
  • A research plan could address a more complicated problem. An example may be trying to find the parents of a young lady born in 1828 in Ohio who is married by the 1850 US Census.
  • A research plan usually includes a summary of what is known, an objective (what information are you seeking), and possible resources that may provide answers or additional clues. The objective should be specific and not too broad.
    • Examples of objectives:
      • Find everything on the Fredricka FISCHER family. This is not a good objective. It is too broad.
      • To determine the name, the date of birth, and the date of death of the first husband of Fredricka BEIERLA FISCHER. This is a better objective.
      • To verify if Joseph Fischer who died on 18 April 1955, possibly in Wooster, Ohio, is the son of Joseph and Fredricka FISCHER. This is a better objective.
  • A research plan may include a list of repositories or individuals to contact.
  • Usually, there are many research plans within a large research project.
  • The completion of one research plan often lends itself to the creation of a new research plan.

Sample #1 research plan

Where to go from here

  • Create a new research plan to continue searching for additional information on Joseph FISCHER, Jr.
    • Include US Census Records, marriage record, city directories
  • Create a new research plan for each of the survivors of Joseph FISCHER, Jr.:
    • Sidney Francis MCAFEE, widow
    • Mrs. Roy W. MILLER, daughter (Wooster)
    • Mrs. Fredrick L. WOODRIDGE, daughter (Cincinnati)

Week 4: Correspondence and Research Logs

Correspondence and research logs are two tools many researchers do not take the time to do. Both tools assist in helping you keep track of what correspondences and research have been done and what correspondences and research needs to be done in the future. It helps to keep researchers on task.

  • Correspondence logs are used to help keep track of written and verbal exchanges of information and documents.
    • Contacts may be made through U.S. Mail, Email, Phone, or Social Media.
    • Any contact with individuals or organizations should be included.
    • Include such information as:
      • Date of initial correspondence, date of response
      • Surname or subject of request
      • Summary of what was requested (objective to achieve)
      • Summary of what was obtained
      • Notation if follow-up is needed

  • Research logs are used to help keep track of what sources have been used to assist in your research.
    • Include all sources checked, regardless of format (digital, book, microfilm)
    • Include such information as:
      • Date of research
      • Repository
      • Surname or Subject
      • Summary of what was being sought (objective to achieve)
      • Title or description of resources used
      • Call number or location guide on where the item may be found
      • Summary of what was found or not found
      • Notation if you may need to consult the item at a later date