Archive for February 11, 2010

Genealogy Research Strategies

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Have you planned out your Genealogy Research Strategies?

By James W. Petty, AG®, CGRSSM, BS (Genealogy), BA (History)

If you are lost in a forest, or in a big city, or in the 18th Century, it is the same thing. To find your way, you need information; and you need a plan.

In the Forest, or in the Big City, you ask these questions: Where Am I? Where Am I Going? How Can I Get There? Then prepare your Plan.

In the 18th Century, the questions are similar, but a little different: Who Am I Looking For? Where Were They? What Was Happening At That Time? What Records Were There? How Can I Find That Information? Then prepare your Plan.

This approach may seem simple, and sometimes it is; but often, just like in a forest, there are obstacles in the way; rivers to cross, cliffs to climb, and so forth. Sometime the trail disappears, and sometimes you have to backtrack and take a different route, or even start over. Not to worry; as long as you can determine a new way, or devise a new plan, you can succeed in your goal.

In genealogy, we depend on records to learn about ancestors. Always keep in mind the fact that there are more records than you know about. The key to successful genealogy research is a good imagination, and the willingness to keep on searching.

“Thinking Outside of The Box” is a phrase that means when most people are stuck, there is another solution, if you can find new ideas to follow. Some records may be lost, but there are other records. Keep your mind and options open.

It’s said: “If There’s A Will, There’s A Way”, but in genealogy we say “If there isn’t a Will, there are other probate records, deeds, court minutes, and other sources.”

To know where you are going, you have to know the lay of the land. Learn to use maps in your research.

Do you know how to eat an Elephant? Cut it into little pieces, and eat it one piece at a time. Don’t ever be afraid of BIG problems. Just break it down into smaller problems and solve them one at a time.

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Why does it take so long to trace ancestry?

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The Question:
Why does it take so long to trace my ancestry? What is realistic to expect?

Genealogy and Family History research, analysis, and reporting are the scholarly and time-intensive efforts required to produce a family tree. All of your roots will not be discovered in one project, but through a lengthy series of multiple efforts or sessions of time. Whether you want to trace your own ancestry as a hobbyist or hire a research professional genealogist to “climb your family tree professionally”, lots of time, skills, and resources will need to be expended. And time must be spent to achieve success in family tree research, whether it is money out of your pocket devoted to professional research services time or just hours of the day expended through your own efforts. To understand what is realistic, let’s look at both avenues.

Hobby Family History Research involves the following: You will need to get prepared or educated on how to properly establish your correct pedigree, then gather and layout what you already know, decide on your research goals, develop a research plan, and determine what records are needed to properly establish your family tree and how they can be accessed. You will need to decide if you are going to do research by telephone, by mail, by e-mail, or by traveling and how you will pay for all of this. You will need to decide if you are going to use the vast resources found on the Internet or do original research. The Internet is full of paid subscription databases and free websites with possibly valid or not applicable or true or untrue information for all the different branches and nationalities and cultures on your family tree. You will have to decide which sites have the credible information that you are willing to use either for free or for a fee. You will need to purchase the supplies, software and computer equipment that will make your searches and recording of your discoveries easy to understand, store, and share with others. As you can see, a lot of time and money must be expended before you do the actual searching and finding and documenting of your genealogy. Realistically, with as broad as the family tree is, many research projects will have to be pursued and completed until you arrive at a point where you are satisfied with what you accurately know about your family history.

Professional Genealogy Research Services is: Most people do not have all of the time, skills, and resources needed to trace their ancestry. They want the quality of outcome that can only be produced by professionally provided research services. Such authentic and accurate family tree information is produced by professional genealogy research services companies whose owners adhere to industry standards of performance and ethical codes of conduct, and practitioners are regulated by peer-review and periodic re-credentialing. And in the long run, it takes less time and is most cost effective to hire a full-services professional genealogy and family history company that uses the combined services of many research professional genealogists who are vetted and pre-qualified as experts. Hiring the right professionals who are prepared to perform this value-added level of discovery, determination, documentation, and display of your family tree is the most economical way to trace ancestry.

When you want to hire a professional genealogist or a professional genealogy company, make sure they are properly educated, trained and prepared, credentialed professional genealogists with years and years of full-time commercial career experience. Look for a full-services company with an owner/practitioner with the proper professional genealogy credentials (AG, CG), who has their college degree in genealogy, and years and years of full-time career research, analysis, and reporting experience in professional genealogy research services. Realistically, this will save you time and resources because they are qualified, capable, and ready to climb your family tree professionally.

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