Genealogical research has become easier, more prevalent,
and increasingly popular in the past several years,
since the advent of internet access. Tracing your
family tree from leaves to roots is a fun, addictive,
and rewarding experience.
In order to join most hereditary societies,
you need to document your direct lineage from
a given ancestor. Although it may take some time
to complete this task, your search is aided by a myriad
of resources, and the foundation laid by those who searched
For the beginner, we recommend you
start with the living. Interviews with parents,
grandparents, aunts, uncles and other family members
may provide the facts and clues you need. The
four most recent generations in your family's history
can probably be documented by collecting records in
the family archives. They may be in a relative's
attic. They may be in your father's basement.
Or, they may be in the possession of some family member
who showed vague signs of genealogical interest before
you came along; and thereby collected valuable records
which were never reviewed. Lay your hands on these
items first and document all the names, dates and places
of your life, up to the lives of your great-grandparents.
With this you will have laid an important foundation.
Do this before you concentrate too heavily on one line.
When you have the preceding data,
you may want to acquire software to record your genealogical
information. There are many different brands.
Use whatever suits you. Also, be sure to make
photocopies of everything. The word of your relatives
is many times inaccurate, and true hereditary research
is validated only in actual, primary sources.
This would include birth, death and marriage certificates,
as well as vital records, church records, family bibles,
probate records and town records. Most hereditary
societies accept only primary documented sources.
When you have your primary lines (you
should have eight established if possible), then choose
the line you want to track and begin your work.
By now you will have an idea what part of the country
from whence these people came. Generally, the
next two or three lines back can be more difficult than
those which are even older. The late nineteenth
century saw much travel, and poor record-keeping in
some areas. If your family stayed in the east,
you should have very little problem obtaining the documents
you seek. Write to the vital records departments
at the city, county and state levels for about five
to ten specific documents you would like to obtain.
Be as specific as possible and include the correct payment.
At this point, it is also wise to search the census
records between the years of 1850 and 1900. Before
1850, national census records included only heads of
households. The latter half of that century included
all family members.
Plan a trip to a large library in
your region and spend a few days acquiring documentation
when you have as much as you are able to secure from
writing to various vital records departments.
You may need to continue writing, but it is wise to
check a variety of sources. There will be a librarian
at the library who probably knows how to educate you
in genealogical library research. Listen carefully to
them. In addition, locate the LDS research center
in your area. The Mormon Church is a wonderful
resource for ordering all sorts of records.
Remember, what you are looking for
is an actual record or photocopy of an original record.
This is your proof of the line. An old story handed
down verbally is family lore. Notes jotted down
by a relative may simply be very, very old family lore.
The records probably exist...it is your mission to find
them. There is no greater reward in genealogical
research than to find the missing link in a family line,
and to have the documentation in-hand.
Online resources are good because
they are easy to use in the comfort of your home, and
they may give you some direction when you actually track
down the true records. Remember though, printing
off genealogical records from the internet is little
more than printing off clues for your mission.
The person who put the information there may be reciting
family lore of their own.
Once you have established documented
lineages, you will begin to notice more precisely the
deeds and lives of specific ancestors. The hereditary
society community is a means of preserving the record
of your ancestor's history, as well as providing you
a satisfying end to your hard work. In addition,
many books have been printed by hereditary societies
which may assist you in your efforts to identify which
ancestors may qualify you for future or present memberships.
In summary, the key to genealogical
research is perseverance. The road to locating
lost lines and elusive ancestors is strewn with roadblocks.
Over time, the keys to removing these obstacles become
available as more resources are uncovered, and as you
network with other genealogists.