I was recently contacted by a former student and asked for advice about how to start researching his family history. He had one line that his grandmother had researched back for thirteen generations but many other lines with brick walls. He is using Ancestry.com. I gave him my abbreviated version to get him started and I know there are many, many resources out there that describe the process but I was wondering this...
- What was the biggest mistake you made when you started?
- What is one thing you wish someone told you when you were starting out?
- What is your most helpful resource today?
- What is one piece of advice that helps you keep your enthusiasm going when you feel lost and frustrated?
My answers - if you are willing to contribute to a follow-up post, please leave your answers in the comments and if you blog about your genealogy, leave me a link so I can include it in the future post.
- Biggest mistake - not keeping track of/documenting sources of information
- I wish I knew - how poorly documented and inaccurate many of the online family trees are
- Most helpful resource - probably Dropbox - it's where I save images of the documents I find online to source my family tree. It's important to source but it's taken awhile to find a way to keep electronic images so I can easily go back to them. I create a surname folder and then subfolders for each family group and file census records, relevant images from NEHGS etc. in the appropriate folder. A very close second is the online geneabloggers community. I encouraged him to start a blog.
- One piece of advice - keep two trees. One that is carefully documented and one that is undocumented or partially documented to be used a clues for future research. When one line gets you down, switch to another so you get some success to keep you motivated.
I don't believe that genealogy is the realm of the retired. I know plenty of young people like this 21 year old who are very interested and excited by exploring their ancestry. It's a matter of finding the time in their busy schedules and encouragement. Like most of us, they will make rookie mistakes but they will get better with practice.