The Fun and Frustration of Family Research
I fall into this latter group. In the beginning, my search started simply in order to fill out my memories for my grandchildren, memories that I had begun to write down. Somewhere along the way, I got sidetracked and began wanting to find out more about my grandparents lives when they were young.
Then I found my cousin Wendy, who I'd not seen in over 20 years, and a lady (Valerie) whose mother's brother,Will Lashmar, married my grandmother's sister, Aunt Ivy, so who shared Ivy's children as cousins, with my mum and Aunt Irene. Then a chance posting on a message board had me trying to locate a lady named Louise - who it just so happened Valerie knew and sent me Louise's email address that I was desperately searching for.
Finding Louise opened up the floodgates as she had been researching the same family line, the Poysers, for eighteen months. Her great-grandfather, Henry, and my great-grandfather, Samuel, were brothers. Constant emails back and forth, and a telephone conversation involved the swapping of copious amounts of information - however she gave me much more than I gave her.
Among my wanderings, I posted for information on various message boards and also searched some sites for people with the Poyser name, living in the area my grandmother's family had come from.
Far better to get this book at the beginning of your searching, rather than after you have accumulated piles of papers and have no idea of where to find a particular record, or copy of a certificate or form.
This is an excellent book, whether for the professional or family genealogist, and includes forms that may be copied. The author gives ideas that have worked for her, to help organise all the research, the contacts, the documents, that you will receive over the course of your investigations.
If you only ever buy one book on researching and organising your research, THIS must be that book."
Beginning Searching Your Family History
First, talk to your relatives and write down all the things they tell you. Their information can get you off on a wonderful journey; some may not seem relevant at the beginning, but may tie-in with something else later on. Get as much info from the still living as possible, dates of births, baptisms, weddings, addresses, occupations, where they went to school, etc.
I would recommend the book Organizing Your Family History Search: Efficient & Effective Ways to Gather and Protect Your Genealogical Research by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack as a way of collecting and organising your material from the beginning, as it makes it so much easier than taking stacks of papers months or years later, and trying to put them into order.
A file system of hanging files works well for keeping some papers in order, communications between you and people/places you have requested information from in your search. I made mine up with a separate file for each of the individuals names for the family members. Then I also did one for the families in general, and in that one I added a brief family rundown of the information that I knew. It is always worthwhile making note of references - who gave you this information, or if a record from a church or organisation, which one, date, reference number if there is one. This is particularly vital with census information.
There are hundreds of genealogy sites online that are as useful for the new researcher as they are for the professional. Some have so much information, that you just wade through and bookmark to come back to snippets that you really feel need further browsing.
A Beginner's Guide to Family History Research
Online version of Desmond Walls Allen's booklet (available as a print edition on the site) teaches how to search and organize your family records - how to utilise courthouse, military and census records, how to make requests for documentary assistance, etc. This is an excellent resource, and you can bookmark the site and come back to peruse it.
British History at About.com
Genealogy.com not only has an area where you can buy genealogical supplies, but gives you access to various databases online, has a learning center and Genforum center where you can post messages on the boards. These are not only available by specific names, but also by areas (for instance, London, England, is a separate area). This is a most incredible site, and one which I have utilized over and over since I began researching my family history.
Origins.net is the one to go to if you know your ancestors came from England, Scotland or Ireland, as they have entire sites devoted to each. Again, this is one to peruse at leisure, there is so much information available for you. They operate a pay-per-view system for certain documents, and that grants you 150 credits for access within a certain time frame (24 or 48 hours), and is very economical.
However, no matter what books you read, how many people you talk to, how many census documents you pore over, there are going to be times when you reach a brick wall - and this is when the Fun turns into the Frustration! It will often drive you crazy, you need that one bit of information as it elusively hides just out of reach. No matter how many boards you post on, or how many other useful snippets of information you get, this particular line of enquiry comes grinding to a halt.
What can you do? My experience has shown me that the best tack is to put that to one side and pursue another area of research. It has taken me over a year to finally find my mothers cousin, and thus re-establish the connection to that part of my family. Along the way there have been so many "almosts" but they were just that, almost, and followed by this dark brick wall of nothingness.
In this passion/hobby or whatever you choose to call it, you have to learn patience. Believe you me, if you don't have it, eventually you will be humbled enough into finding it - I was. It is not a virtue I was born with.
Do not be discouraged though, this is a very fulfilling pursuit - chasing down the people to whom we owe our existence - and if you (like me) want more than just the pedigree information, then there is the delving into the very lives of those people. Finding a greater understanding of WHO they were and the lives they led.
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