How to Do Everything Genealogy (3rd Edition)

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Between and , the FamilySearch indexing effort produced more than 1 billion searchable records. Sometimes genealogical records are destroyed, whether accidentally or on purpose. In order to do thorough research, genealogists keep track of which records have been destroyed so they know when information they need may be missing. Of particular note for North American genealogy is the United States Census , which was destroyed in a fire in Although fragments survive, most of the census no longer exists. Those looking for genealogical information for families that lived in the United States in must rely on other information to fill that gap.

War is another cause of record destruction. Often records are destroyed due to accident or neglect.

How to Do Everything: Genealogy, Fourth Edition / Edition 4

Since genealogical records are often kept on paper and stacked in high-density storage, they are prone to fire, mold, insect damage, and eventual disintegration. Sometimes records of genealogical value are deliberately destroyed by governments or organizations because the records are considered to be unimportant or a privacy risk. Because of this, genealogists often organize efforts to preserve records that are at risk of destruction.

FamilySearch has an ongoing program that assesses what useful genealogical records have the most risk of being destroyed, and sends volunteers to digitize such records. FamilySearch has begun digitizing the records and making them available online. In , they began raising funds, which were contribute by genealogists around the United States and matched by Ancestry. Their goal was achieved and the process of digitization was able to begin. The digitized records are available for free online. Genealogists who seek to reconstruct the lives of each ancestor consider all historical information to be "genealogical" information.

Traditionally, the basic information needed to ensure correct identification of each person are place names, occupations, family names , first names, and dates. However, modern genealogists greatly expand this list, recognizing the need to place this information in its historical context in order to properly evaluate genealogical evidence and distinguish between same-name individuals.

31 Days of Uncommon Genealogy Tips - Day 28 - THAT Third Cousin

A great deal of information is available for British ancestry [71] with growing resources for other ethnic groups. Family names are simultaneously one of the most important pieces of genealogical information, and a source of significant confusion for researchers. In many cultures, the name of a person refers to the family to which he or she belongs. This is called the family name , surname , or last name. Patronymics are names that identify an individual based on the father's name. Many cultures used patronymics before surnames were adopted or came into use. The Dutch in New York, for example, used the patronymic system of names until when the advent of English rule mandated surname usage.

Not until in Denmark [76] and in Norway [77] were there laws requiring surnames. The transmission of names across generations, marriages and other relationships, and immigration may cause difficulty in genealogical research. For instance, women in many cultures have routinely used their spouse's surnames. When a woman remarried, she may have changed her name and the names of her children; only her name; or changed no names. Her birth name maiden name may be reflected in her children's middle names; her own middle name; or dropped entirely. Because official records may reflect many kinds of surname change, without explaining the underlying reason for the change, the correct identification of a person recorded identified with more than one name is challenging.

Immigrants to America often Americanized their names. Surname data may be found in trade directories, census returns, birth, death, and marriage records. Genealogical data regarding given names first names is subject to many of the same problems as are family names and place names.

Additionally, the use of nicknames is very common. Middle names provide additional information. Middle names may be inherited, follow naming customs, or be treated as part of the family name. For instance, in some Latin cultures, both the mother's family name and the father's family name are used by the children. Historically, naming traditions existed in some places and cultures. Even in areas that tended to use naming conventions, however, they were by no means universal.

Families may have used them some of the time, among some of their children, or not at all. A pattern might also be broken to name a newborn after a recently deceased sibling, aunt or uncle. Another example is in some areas of Germany, where siblings were given the same first name, often of a favourite saint or local nobility, but different second names by which they were known Rufname. If a child died, the next child of the same gender that was born may have been given the same name.

It is not uncommon that a list of a particular couple's children will show one or two names repeated. Personal names have periods of popularity, so it is not uncommon to find many similarly named people in a generation, and even similarly named families; e. Many names may be identified strongly with a particular gender; e. Others may be ambiguous , e. While the locations of ancestors' residences and life events are core elements of the genealogist's quest, they can often be confusing. Place names may be subject to variant spellings by partially literate scribes.

Locations may have identical or very similar names. For example, the village name Brockton occurs six times in the border area between the English counties of Shropshire and Staffordshire. Shifts in political borders must also be understood. Parish, county, and national borders have frequently been modified. Old records may contain references to farms and villages that have ceased to exist.

When working with older records from Poland, where borders and place names have changed frequently in past centuries, a source with maps and sample records such as A Translation Guide to 19th-Century Polish-Language Civil-Registration Documents can be invaluable. Available sources may include vital records civil or church registration , censuses, and tax assessments.

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Oral tradition is also an important source, although it must be used with caution. When no source information is available for a location, circumstantial evidence may provide a probable answer based on a person's or a family's place of residence at the time of the event. Maps and gazetteers are important sources for understanding the places researched. They show the relationship of an area to neighboring communities and may be of help in understanding migration patterns. Family tree mapping using online mapping tools such as Google Earth particularly when used with Historical Map overlays such as those from the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection assist in the process of understanding the significance of geographical locations.

It is wise to exercise extreme caution with dates. Dates are more difficult to recall years after an event, and are more easily mistranscribed than other types of genealogical data. Dates of birth in vital records or civil registrations and in church records at baptism are generally accurate because they were usually recorded near the time of the event. Family Bibles are often a source for dates, but can be written from memory long after the event. When the same ink and handwriting is used for all entries, the dates were probably written at the same time and therefore will be less reliable since the earlier dates were probably recorded well after the event.

The publication date of the Bible also provides a clue about when the dates were recorded since they could not have been recorded at any earlier date. People sometimes reduce their age on marriage, and those under "full age" may increase their age in order to marry or to join the armed forces. Census returns are notoriously unreliable for ages or for assuming an approximate death date.

Ages over 15 in the census in the UK are rounded down to the next lower multiple of five years. Although baptismal dates are often used to approximate birth dates, some families waited years before baptizing children, and adult baptisms are the norm in some religions. Both birth and marriage dates may have been adjusted to cover for pre-wedding pregnancies.

Calendar changes must also be considered. In , England and her American colonies changed from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. In the same year, the date the new year began was changed. Prior to it was 25 March ; this was changed to 1 January. Many other European countries had already made the calendar changes before England had, sometimes centuries earlier. By there was an day discrepancy between the date in England and the date in other European countries.

For further detail on the changes involved in moving from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, see: Gregorian calendar. The French Republican Calendar or French Revolutionary Calendar was a calendar proposed during the French Revolution, and used by the French government for about 12 years from late to , and for 18 days in in Paris. Dates in official records at this time use the revolutionary calendar and need "translating" into the Gregorian calendar for calculating ages etc.

There are various websites which do this. Occupational information may be important to understanding an ancestor's life and for distinguishing two people with the same name. A person's occupation may have been related to his or her social status, political interest, and migration pattern. Since skilled trades are often passed from father to son, occupation may also be indirect evidence of a family relationship.

It is important to remember that a person may change occupations, and that titles change over time as well. Some workers no longer fit for their primary trade often took less prestigious jobs later in life, while others moved upwards in prestige. Census returns may contain some embellishment; e. Names for old or unfamiliar local occupations may cause confusion if poorly legible. For example, an ostler a keeper of horses and a hostler an innkeeper could easily be confused for one another.

Likewise, descriptions of such occupations may also be problematic. The perplexing description "ironer of rabbit burrows" may turn out to describe an ironer profession in the Bristol district named Rabbit Burrows. Several trades have regionally preferred terms. For example, "shoemaker" and "cordwainer" have the same meaning. Finally, many apparently obscure jobs are part of a larger trade community, such as watchmaking, framework knitting or gunmaking.


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Occupational data may be reported in occupational licenses, tax assessments, membership records of professional organizations, trade directories, census returns, and vital records civil registration. Occupational dictionaries are available to explain many obscure and archaic trades. Information found in historical or genealogical sources can be unreliable and it is good practice to evaluate all sources with a critical eye.

Factors influencing the reliability of genealogical information include: the knowledge of the informant or writer ; the bias and mental state of the informant or write; the passage of time and the potential for copying and compiling errors. The quality of census data has been of special interest to historians, who have investigated reliability issues. The informant is the individual who provided the recorded information.

Genealogists must carefully consider who provided the information and what he or she knew. In many cases the informant is identified in the record itself. For example, a death certificate usually has two informants: a physician who provides information about the time and cause of death and a family member who provides the birth date, names of parents, etc. When the informant is not identified, one can sometimes deduce information about the identity of the person by careful examination of the source.

One should first consider who was alive and nearby when the record was created. When the informant is also the person recording the information, the handwriting can be compared to other handwriting samples. When a source does not provide clues about the informant, genealogists should treat the source with caution.


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These sources can be useful if they can be compared with independent sources. For example, a census record by itself cannot be given much weight because the informant is unknown. However, when censuses for several years concur on a piece of information that would not likely be guessed by a neighbor, it is likely that the information in these censuses was provided by a family member or other informed person. On the other hand, information in a single census cannot be confirmed by information in an undocumented compiled genealogy since the genealogy may have used the census record as its source and might therefore be dependent on the same misinformed individual.

Even individuals who had knowledge of the fact, sometimes intentionally or unintentionally provided false or misleading information. A person may have lied in order to obtain a government benefit such as a military pension , avoid taxation, or cover up an embarrassing situation such as the existence of a non-marital child. A person with a distressed state of mind may not be able to accurately recall information.

Many genealogical records were recorded at the time of a loved one's death, and so genealogists should consider the effect that grief may have had on the informant of these records. The passage of time often affects a person's ability to recall information. Therefore, as a general rule, data recorded soon after the event are usually more reliable than data recorded many years later. However, some types of data are more difficult to recall after many years than others. One type especially prone to recollection errors is dates.

Also the ability to recall is affected by the significance that the event had to the individual. These values may have been affected by cultural or individual preferences. Genealogists must consider the effects that copying and compiling errors may have had on the information in a source. For this reason, sources are generally categorized in two categories: original and derivative. An original source is one that is not based on another source. A derivative source is information taken from another source.

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This distinction is important because each time a source is copied, information about the record may be lost and errors may result from the copyist misreading, mistyping, or miswriting the information. Genealogists should consider the number of times information has been copied and the types of derivation a piece of information has undergone. The types of derivatives include: photocopies, transcriptions, abstracts, translations, extractions, and compilations.

In addition to copying errors, compiled sources such as published genealogies and online pedigree databases are susceptible to misidentification errors and incorrect conclusions based on circumstantial evidence. Identity errors usually occur when two or more individuals are assumed to be the same person. Circumstantial or indirect evidence does not explicitly answer a genealogical question, but either may be used with other sources to answer the question, suggest a probable answer, or eliminate certain possibilities.

Compilers sometimes draw hasty conclusions from circumstantial evidence without sufficiently examining all available sources, without properly understanding the evidence, and without appropriately indicating the level of uncertainty. In genealogical research, information can be obtained from primary or secondary sources. Primary sources are records that were made at the time of the event, for example a death certificate would be a primary source for a person's death date and place.

Secondary sources are records that are made days, weeks, months, or even years after an event. Organizations that educate and certify genealogists have established standards and ethical guidelines they instruct genealogists to follow. Genealogy research requires analyzing documents and drawing conclusions based on the evidence provided in the available documents. Genealogists need standards to determine whether or not their evaluation of the evidence is accurate. In the past, genealogists in the United States borrowed terms from judicial law to examine evidence found in documents and how they relate to the researcher's conclusions.

However, the differences between the two disciplines created a need for genealogists to develop their own standards. This section does not cite any sources. Please help improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources. April Learn how and when to remove this template message. Child Namesake 1st son paternal grandfather 2nd son maternal grandfather 3rd son father 4th son father's oldest brother 1st daughter maternal grandmother 2nd daughter paternal grandmother 3rd daughter mother 4th daughter mother's oldest sister.

Online Etymological Dictionary. Retrieved 19 March Meaning "study of family trees" is from Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved Are Genealogy and Family History different? National Genealogical Society. Retrieved 12 July What's the Difference? Society of Genealogists. Retrieved 10 Aug SCNow Morning News. Self Magazine. The Alcalde. University of Otago. Retrieved 11 November Kingston Strategic NZ Ltd. Retrieved 24 June Hence the term Whakapapa is used to describe both the recitation in proper order of genealogies, and also to name the genealogies. Te Ara, Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

MAI Review. Latter-day Saints believe that the eternal joining of families is possible through sacred sealing ceremonies that take place in temples.

These temple rites may also be performed by proxy for those who have died. Consequently, for Latter-day Saints, genealogical research or family history is the essential forerunner for temple work for the dead. In Latter-day Saint belief, the dead have the choice to accept or reject the services performed for them.

And what do they do with them? ABC News Australia. Members of the church use family history records to perform sacred temple ordinances, such as baptisms, eternal marriages and sealings of children to parents, for their kindred dead if the deceased family members were unable to perform the rites themselves. This gives deceased ancestors the opportunity to accept these ordinances in the afterlife. The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 2 Jul The Times of Israel. Inside Edition.

Unofficial Guide to Ancestry.com Second Edition: Your Road Map to Genealogy Success

Topic Magazine. San Francisco Chronicle. In the Academic World? China Internet Information Center. Xinhua News Agency. February 16, Archived from the original on Archived from the original on May 16, Retrieved September 14, Allen et al. Retrieved 20 November Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co. The New York Times. India Times. Salt Lake City: Ancestry Pub. February 3, Retrieved May 9, Deseret News.

April 29, March 14, December 25, April 22, Prologue Magazine. Washington, D. National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved 2 Aug South China Morning Post. Hong Kong. The Deseret News. During the Korean War, the Communists tried to destroy genealogies and replace the strong family government with a dominant Communist figure. Refugees fleeing from the north brought their genealogies with them on their backs as one of their most precious possessions. Many of these genealogies are now found in fragmentary form in South Korea.

Federation of Genealogical Societies. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Olive Tree Genealogy. In order to protect the patronymics system, in Iceland it is forbidden by law to introduce a new surname. Wrigley, English population history from family reconstitution, — ; Catherine Quantin et al. Census," Demography vol. Board for Certification of Genealogists. Retrieved 23 July International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. Association of Professional Genealogists.

The Genetic Genealogy Standartds. This article's further reading may not follow Wikipedia's content policies or guidelines. Please improve this article by removing less relevant or redundant publications with the same point of view ; or by incorporating the relevant publications into the body of the article through appropriate citations. July Learn how and when to remove this template message. General Christian, Peter The Genealogist's Internet 5th ed. London, England: Bloomsbury.

McClure, Rhonda Indianapolis: Alpha. Merriman, Brenda Dougall Toronto: Ontario Genealogical Society. Morgan, George G. How to Do Everything: Genealogy. New York: McGraw-Hill. Simpson, Jack Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited. British Isles Durie, Bruce Scottish Genealogy. Stroud, England: History Press. Grenham, John Tracing Your Irish Ancestors 3rd ed. Herber, Mark D. Hey, David Oxford: Oxford University Press. Ryan, James G. China Ching, Frank Ancestors: Years in the Life of a Chinese Family. Yan, May Research Guide to Chinese Genealogy 2nd ed.

Global Research and Archival Management. Continental Europe Adams, Suzanne Russo Provo, UT: Ancestry. Chorzempa, Rosemary A. Malka, Jeffrey S. Bergenfield, NJ: Avotaynu. Riemer, Shirley J. The German Research Companion 3rd ed. Sacramento, CA: Lorelei Press. Washington, DC: National Archives.

CS1 maint: extra punctuation link Greenwood, Val. The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy 3rd ed. Kennedy, Patricia; Roy, Janine Tracing Your Ancestors in Canada 8th, rev. Ottawa: Public Archives Canada. Rose, Christine Smith, Marian L. Immigration Daily. American Immigration LLC. Taylor, Robert M. Mercer University Press. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. See also: List of general genealogy databases and List of national archives.

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The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Genealogy, 3rd Edition

Genealogy at Wikipedia's sister projects. Parent father mother Child son daughter Sibling brother sister. Grandparent Grandchild Aunt Uncle Niece and nephew. Spouse wife husband Parents-in-law Siblings-in-law Son-in-law Daughter-in-law. Stepfather Stepmother Stepchild Stepsibling. Agape parental love Eros marital love Filial piety Storge familial love. Mother's Day U. Wedding anniversary Sociology of the family Museum of Motherhood Incest. Categories : Genealogy Kinship and descent. Namespaces Article Talk.

Views Read Edit View history. In Unofficial Guide to Ancestry. Nancy Hendrickson is a genealogy author, blogger, and instructor at Family Tree University. A contributing editor at Family Tree Magazine , Nancy writes almost exclusively about Internet genealogy, research, and American history. You can find her at her website www.

Used by permission. This means I make a percentage of sales via these links. Some items may be sold out and have limited inventory.


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Disclosure statement : I have material connections with various vendors and organizations. Ask any experienced user of Ancestry. Records is a massive section and Hendrickson is on top of all the updates! She offers some great tips and tricks.

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