Tips For Researching and Documenting Your Family Tree

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Having reliable information is critical to family history research. It will help future generations and improve the likelihood that other researchers will cite your work.

Double-check all facts. Make sure the ages and spellings are correct. When encountering a brick wall, broaden your search to other records and locations.

Document as You Go

The most crucial tip for researching and documenting your family tree is to be careful. You should ensure you have a full source footnote for each information you add to your family tree. This ensures that you have documented precisely where the information came from, making it much easier to corroborate and evaluate.

It would be best if you were consistent when using a software program to create your family tree or a handwritten research log. For example, be sure that you use the same formatting when entering information, such as surnames, first names, middle names, and dates. This helps ensure that all the information in your family tree is logical and easy to understand for anyone looking at it.

Another essential thing to remember is that you should treat each family unit as an independent entity and research both paternal and maternal lines. You must focus on one line of descent to ensure you get all vital clues and potentially save time on fruitless searches.

Finally, remember to contact extended family members as you begin your research. They can fill in some gaps in your knowledge or have documents and photographs you have yet to see. They can also point you toward additional records that you should search.

Don’t Get Distracted

Whenever you find a new piece of information or clue, it is tempting to follow it wherever it leads. However, this is one of the most extensive genealogy mistakes you can make because it will essentially stop your research progress.

Instead, take the time to analyze that information and determine if it is helpful for your research goals. If it is, then make a note of it and use it as a guide for your next search.

The other thing to remember is that not all family tree information is created equal. If someone else has published family trees online, consider where their data came from and whether it is reliable. It is also a good idea to review the sources cited in that family tree to see what other information was used for it.

Also, when you finish a research session, mark your genealogy plan where you stopped. This will help you resume research the following day with a clear direction.

Stay Focused

Documenting every piece of information you find during your family tree research is essential. Fortunately, several online tools help you organize and save your findings: data-organization sites, cloud-saving sites, and online trees are provided at subscription sites. Consider using a digital scanner to document old photographs and keep originals stored in a fireproof and waterproof box.

When researching, exploring unanticipated family information, and adding new branchlines to your tree is tempting. 

To prevent getting distracted, dedicate a specific space to your genealogy work. Use a home office, a quiet corner of your house, or even the table at your local library. If you must work at a computer, limit your time on social media and download focus apps. These apps will allow you to block websites, ensuring that you stay focused on your genealogy tasks. You can also use a research log, an online tool that helps you record pertinent details such as ancestor names, dates of searches, and records found.

Keep a Research Log

A research log helps you keep track of your findings and sources. It’s easy to get confused when you have multiple sources, and if you don’t know where the information in a particular record came from, it will be challenging to determine how reliable it is.

When you create a research log, it’s essential to include the following information:

The name of the source. This may be a specific person, place, or event. The type of record you’re searching for. The date you searched for this information. The repository where you found the record, such as a library or county office. The citation for the source (including all pages that you looked at)

make sure to take notes and mark where your information comes from. This makes it much easier for other researchers to use your information, as well as to check whether or not it’s accurate. Also, don’t be afraid to add new information you discover to your family tree if it will help with your research goals. However, ensuring the new information doesn’t overwrite well-researched or verified data is essential. That way, your family’s history will be as accurate as possible. The more detailed you are with your research, the better it will be for future generations to build upon.

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