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Embarking on a genealogical research journey can be an exciting and rewarding experience. However, before diving into the intricate details of your family tree, it's crucial to understand the fundamentals of genealogical principles, sources of information, and how to navigate sensitive aspects like living individuals and public family trees. In today's session, we are focusing on the initial steps of genealogy research, the main sources of genealogical information, dealing with living people in your family tree, and the cautious use of public family trees.
Beginning the Research Stage
Understanding the concept of sources, including original and derivative records, is essential to ensure accuracy and reliability in genealogy research. Original records, created at or near the time of the event, hold primary information and are considered the most reliable. On the other hand, derivative records, such as transcripts, abstracts and indexes, are created later based on data from original records, making them less reliable and prone to errors and omissions. Verifying derivative records with primary information is always recommended. Additionally, sources may contain primary, secondary, or indeterminate information, each playing a different role in establishing genealogical facts.
Five Main Sources of Genealogical Information
- Vital Records: These official documents record significant life events such as birth, marriage, and death, providing names, dates, places, and familial relationships. Vital records are original records and direct evidence.
- Census Records: These periodic population counts offer valuable information about individuals, including names, ages, occupations, and household relationships. Census records are typically derivative sources and contain secondary information.
- Immigration Records: These documents record the arrival of individuals in a new country, offering details such as names, dates of departure and arrival, ports of entry, and relationships with fellow travellers.
- Church Records: Church registers are primary sources and provide information on baptisms, marriages, and burials not found elsewhere. They often include details like sponsors, godparents, and witnesses.
- Military Records: These records document an individual's military service, including dates of service, ranks, battles fought, and personal details like birthplace and next of kin.
Adding Information to Your Family Tree
Who do I start with? We always start with what we know and move backwards chronologically. Start with the most recent event for the individual. Often that is a death or burial. These records can provide information about the person, such as date of birth, place of birth, name of spouse, name of parents, date and place of death, cause of death, who registered the death, and when and where the person was buried. As each generation is added, the number of individuals and surnames in the family tree multiplies. The first person to add to your family tree is yourself. As tempting as it may be to start with a grandparent or great-grandparent, it's best to start with what we know. Then, add your parents, siblings, your spouse and children. As each generation is added, the number of individuals and surnames in the family tree multiplies.
Dealing with Living People in Your Family Tree
Respecting the privacy of living individuals in your family tree is paramount. Be mindful of the personal information you include, and consider omitting sensitive details such as birthdates and addresses. Obtain consent before sharing information about living individuals, especially when publishing your family tree online. Utilize privacy settings provided by your family history software program and online family tree platforms to protect the privacy of living family members. Additionally, it is important to keep in mind that not everyone may be interested in genealogy research or may not want their information shared.
Using Public Family Trees for Research
Public family trees can be valuable resources but should be approached cautiously. Verify the information in public trees through other sources before incorporating it into your research. Watch out for inaccuracies, errors, and plagiarism within public family trees. Be aware that some trees may rely on limited or incomplete sources, and avoid over-reliance on hints and suggestions provided by online platforms. Respect privacy concerns and obtain consent before sharing or publishing personal information about living people.
Finally, remember to approach genealogy research with an open mind and a critical eye. The process of verifying information and building evidence can take time, and it is important to be thorough in examining each source.
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