on Your Irish Family History
Genealogy - Getting Started
- Work backwards beginning with any information that you have and what you know. There are several key pieces of information necessary to use during your search including family names, occupations, place names and dates.
- Early on it will become clear to you that you must start with the basics, no matter how basic they seem to be.
- You then need to go back systematically, generation by generation, verifying your sources at each stage.
- Start at home. Check with close relatives who may have useful information such as photographs, correspondence or addresses of people to contact. Gather together, or take copies of, all available birth, marriage and death certificates of family members. Make comprehensive notes. Ask your oldest relatives for their family stories.
- Try to establish as carefully and completely as possible the basic genealogical facts (date and place of birth/baptism, date and place of marriage, and date and place of death/burial) of as many of your near relatives as you can.
- Do not ignore family legends - but also do not take them as certain to be literally true. Rather, use them as yet another source of guidance for your efforts at finding out the truth about the past.
- Be organised & honest. You must be systematic and organised so start with a simple filing system and organise a file for storing letters, photocopies, certificates and other documents. Create a folder or directory in your computer, where you can put emails, notes and information gathered from the internet. Your record keeping must also be honest - there are always skeletons in the cupboard to a greater or lesser degree - do not ignore them.
- Determine fact from fiction - not all the information will be accurate.
- It will not always be an easy passage and you are bound to encounter blocks and obstacles along the way. The only way to deal with these obstacles is come back to the process over and over again to analyze your next move.
- For background information about the people and places you'll be researching, check the books in your local library, and maybe buy one or two of those that seem most useful. If you find useful information in any books, make sure you keep enough reference material to enable you to walk back into the same place at a later date, locate the book and find the reference again.
- Take care with your data from the outset - it will be a big help as you progress. Begin to build up a contacts list to help you make your first chart.
- Develop a plan. Think about which lines to follow. You have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, and so on. Set your sights and decide where to concentrate your research. You have to draw the lines somewhere. You can use your time better if you develop a plan to guide you. Don't aim to research your total ancestry as the data might overwhelm you!
- Avoid assumptions. Don't presume that you are related to somebody just because you have the same surname, however unusual.
- Consider geographical changes that may have taken place - towns and villages have expanded, district or parish boundaries may have shifted.
- It is always worthwhile joining a family history society where you will get a good foundation in the essentials of family history research and it will also give you the chance to meet people with a similar interest as yourself.
- While using technology is not a necessity, it can be a great help. A computer is an efficient means of storing, copying, sharing and presenting data and there are programs designed specifically to help you draw up your family tree and history.
- The internet is also home to lots of useful genealogical information and ideal for making contact by using email addresses supplied on websites, speeding up the flow of information dramatically.
- Researchers should only use reputable internet sites and must always excercise caution when giving credit card information to obtain information on ancestors and genealogy.