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Questions to Start Family History Research

Questions to Start Family History Research

At the beginning of every family research project are core questions that are asked over and over again as research progresses.  Starting with the primary person at the base and for every new person added to the branches of the family tree certain facts are necessary to continue quality research:  name of the person to be studied, birth date and location, marriage date and location, death date and location.  Other facts are not only interesting but helpful in tracking down pertinent records:  occupation, schools, residence address, religion and church attended, and burial location.  The more facts known about a person, the more records can add to the picture of how the family lived. 

For every name, date, or fact about the members of a family tree, a source must be cited such as a book name, a census page, a family member’s letter, emails, the family bible, etc.  There is an accepted pattern of source citation that was popularized by the famous genealogist, E. S. Mills which is similar to the footnote patterns accepted in academic circles for well-documented term papers.  Good family histories use source citation with standard documentation so that the work can be respected as thorough and well-researched as well as expanded upon at later dates.

From each living relative who is willing to help with the Family History Project:

Ø  Personal Memories put into Chronological Order:  Start with an outline of important dates and add details.

Ø  Details about persons no longer alive such as physical description, personality, dislikes, hobbies, occupations, residence, church, etc.  Descriptions of the family homestead.

Ø  Detailed descriptions of migrations, courtships, neighborhoods, and family dynamics.  Family lore such as the tradition of immigrant ancestors or how and why the family moved to a new area.  Interesting family skeletons of past generations or fun tidbits. 

Ø  Recipes, photographs with labels, maps, and documents such as certificates of birth, death, and marriage or immigration.  Photos of family heirlooms with background stories, photocopies of family bibles.  Documentation of the location of those family treasures and the person responsible for them at present. 

Ø  Add dates, names, and locations that can be the start of further research should be added to each family group sheet.  Sources can then be found to verify the data and also add to the family tree. 
o    Names should be full and not nicknames. 
o    Women should be listed by maiden name. 
o    Dates should be written in the 12 April 2008 pattern to avoid confusion of month and day.
o    Location should be recorded as Town, County, State, (Country if necessary)

Ø  Nicknames, location of the burial, date of baptism, church affiliation, military service, and occupation can be added as additional facts to give clues and point to important research sources.

By following established genealogical patterns the research can be understood by other researchers and respected as quality research.  Family members can get us started as genealogists and then research to document family stories and organization of findings can be put together to make a wonderful family treasure.