Bobbie's 10 Step Program for Genealogical Research

1 Conventional Wisdom says : Work from the known to the unknown. (And, in general, work backwards )

2. That means your first step is to establish and report what you know. At this stage, it is best to use forms or genealogy software because they provide prompts for some of the most valuable information. Create a family group sheet., write down everything you know about the person. Gather all the documents, e.g. obituaries, bible records, military papers, pictures etc. Start to organize material in a way that will work for you as it grows.

3. Pick a family to focus on. Take the family group sheet for that family and start to visualize the family. You should begin to feel that you know them. What information is missing? For example, do you lack the date and place of the marriage of the family. What information is incomplete? You might have the date and place of death, but do you know the cause? How old was the person when he or she died? What was the makeup of the family left behind? What do you know about their lives? Did they farm? Did they own their land? Serve in the military? Send their children to school? Did all the children survive to adulthood? As you start to make the family real to you, questions will arise that can form the foundation of your research. (sample )

4. Now physically PLACE your ancestor. Get maps, atlases – use gazetteers to find where places were located. How do you do that if you don't know where the person you are researching came from or went to?

  • IGI (and like resources) can be very helpful
  • Census indexes, depending on how common the name is
  • Clues in documents available from locations you have identified.

5. The next step is to place your ancestor in TIME. Look at whatever dates you have and start to create a timeline. Start to gather historical information on the locality, then place your ancestor in context of the larger world around him. One of the best ways to learn of events specific to the lives of your ancestors is to read the local newspapers for the time period he or she was in an area.

6. Get all the census records. You will want them anyways, no matter what. Use your time line to learn which are available. This will add information and give you more clues for your research.

5. NOW you are ready to really get started… so the second first thing you do is: Define your research problem.

6. Learn what resources are available to help you solve this problem.

  • Start with the FHL catalog (50%)
    • What’s been filmed can be ordered
  • See what has been published – not everything that has been published is at the FHL
    • How can you discover what else is available?
    • How can you get your hands on material once identified?
      • Use OCLC to see which library owns it
      • Ask the librarian about Interlibrary loan
      • Purchase it
      • See if you can find a free lookup
  • Find out what is available that hasn’t been published.—not all unpublished material has been filmed by the FHL
8. Now unfocus… try to see your family as part of a large picture. “Cluster genealogy” Think harder and expand your field of contacts. There are several books that can help you develop useful search strategies.

9. Round out your family. Try to find details and stories that will add depth to your research. Fit that family into historical and local events. See if you can find artifacts of their lives -- bible records, pictures, dishes, recipes. You will probably have to contact other descendants to do that. One way to find them is through the family message boards at rootsweb.

10. Spread the word: Write it up. Cite your sources. Deposit your findings where others can consult your research. And keep researching… there’s always more to learn.