Publisher of Quality Genealogy Materials
Volume 9, Number 5 Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369 March 23, 2017
Publisher's Notes In this article we discuss starting out in genealogy. It has been a really long time since I started my genealogy search, but I am always asked about how to get started. It is always best to start with those closest to you and then work from there. Hopefully someone has bibles, diaries, or old letters that they are willing to share.
As always I enjoy hearing from you at email@example.com.
James L. Douthat
LOOK IN THE MIRROR
I can’t say how many times through the years of doing workshops and leading discussion groups in the field of genealogy that I have been asked, “How do I get started on my family?” There is always someone in the room that is just beginning their genealogical research and has a keen desire to know more about their family. At first, most just want to know something about their family and really do not have a goal of joining some patriotic society or club. My answer is usually about the same, “Look in the mirror.”
This is not to be taken as being glib about the process. I then go on to tell them that the first step in doing your genealogy is to start with yourself. You know what you know and that is the first place to begin your efforts. Take time to write down everything that you know about your family. Don’t worry about organization or outline, forget about charts and computer programs. These will all come later. Just write down on paper or type what you know. Full names and dates will come later in the process, but just now write down ‘Grandpaw Jones’. You need not have all of his biography in mind at this point, just that you loved to hear him talk about growing up in the country with all the animals, etc.
Once you have exhausted all of your memories, it is time for the second step. Now we pick the brains of those around us, parents, siblings, cousins, uncles/aunts, and even ‘Grandpaw Jones’, if he is still living. At this stage of the process, you might become overwhelmed with all the different names, relationships, and even dates. Now is the time to get with the outlines and charts, but I would wait on the computer programs. There is plenty of time for them to come into play.
In the second step, you will begin to collect a lot of names and who is related to whom and you will probably get completely confused. This is normal until you begin to get all these names into some sort of order that you can understand. My suggestion to take one family at a time and write down the parents with each of their children/grandchildren, if they have any yet. By getting the first set of families into some sort of order, you are beginning to build a chart and a genealogy. When your family is just talking ‘off the cuff’, dates may or may not be correct so don’t take them as ‘gospel and true’. You can verify those with more careful research. Older people may not get the dates right, but they generally do get the facts and the names straight. After all, they have lived those times and knew the people in their own setting.
Once you have contacted all the possible relatives that you can identify, it is time to get the records in some sort of order. This is where charts will come in handy. Just remember that these charts are only outlines of the whole group. The individual facts and information about their life and times is definitely more interesting and more important in the whole scheme of history. Notice that so far you have not spent money other than a little postage or telephone calls. Your time is your major investment so far.
Once you have gotten your materials in some form that you feel comfortable with and you understand most of the relationships, you are ready for Step Three. You are ready to venture into the world of research in a true form. Now you can go to the local library to see what they might or might not have that will help you. Today far too many of the local libraries have stopped the purchase of books and microfilm and have instead taken what little money their government gives them and have purchased subscriptions for some of the genealogy websites.
I must caution each of you at this point to not think you can find everything on the internet. The Association of Professional Genealogist ascertain that between 15-20% of information that is out there is on the internet. Where is the other 80-85%? The answer to that is found in your real research and efforts. First of all, you probably will not find much on the internet about your immediate family or even your extended family. If you have done your job right in step two, you have that material anyway.
I would start with some of the free sites that will give you some general help first. These can be great resources for getting started. You may not be ready for the full load of the ‘paid’ sites just yet. In time, you will come to appreciate their efforts as far as they go. Here a few of the free sites to start with in your research.
Remember these are just the tip of the iceberg as there are hundreds more out in the internet world. These will just get you started. The rest of the adventure is determined by the direction you need to go.
CARTER COUNTY, TENNESSEE - TOMBSTONE INSCRIPTIONS : These tombstone inscriptions collected by the workers in the W. P. A. era contains some of those stones that have been lost or destroyed by developers in more modern times. In the late 1930s little vandalism had taken place, so these have become a very good source of burial places for many of the older citizens of the county.
MADISON COUNTY, TENNESSEE - COLORED MARRIAGES : This volumes come right after the Civil War when the blacks were freed and legally able to unite in marriage. It is important to note that many of the parties, brides, grooms, bondsmen and even ministers and Justice of the Peace could not read and write, but all made their marks to the marriage license and bonds.
ROANE COUNTY, TENNESSEE - COLORED BIBLE RECORDS : The WPA Workers went around the county gathering the Bible Records of the area from both black and whites. This is the material gathered from the black community in the late 1930s.
Virginians and West Virginians in Missouri Prior to 1900 - The vast majority of this material is found in a series of records produced by the state of Missouri called “Atlas”. In the late 1870s each county in Missouri took a census of the citizens listing the following: Name, Address, Occupation, Nativity, and date migrating to Missouri. This information is of great importance as it gives the year they migrated to Missouri from Virginia/West Virginia and where they are living in the year of the census.
Tazewell County, Virginia Early Settlers 1810 to 1850 - In this volume we have taken the census for 1820 through 1850 and added the tax list for 1810 to create a record of those living in the area at the time. Here are many names on this list that today would not be considered a part of Tazewell. At the time of its creation, Tazewell was more than three times the present size including the counties of Wyoming, McDowell, and Mercer in West Virginia as well as portions of the surrounding counties in Virginia.
If you have any questions or suggestions for future editions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.