Old-School Genealogy Tips for Making Genealogy Easier

Genealogy and family history research somewhere. Many professionals will recommend starting with simply what you know.

We all need some help now and then and we all could use a few tips for making genealogy easier! Here are some tips that you may not hear that often as a new researcher or a reminder for those more experienced.

While most genealogists today rely on modern technology, web searches, online databases and DNA data to trace their roots and uncover their distant relatives, there is also a great deal of wealth and wisdom to be gained from the old-school approaches to genealogy research.

Slow down!

Genealogy is not a race to see who gets done first. So many people today are in such a rush with everything. Genealogy cannot be done that way. It does take time and it will be hard at times (brick walls). You may get frustrated.

This may be the time to slow down your research, maybe even take a step back and look at everything you have so far. What have you missed? You never know what tiny piece you may have missed if you rush through everything. Think of your genealogy path like following a trail of clues. Go too fast and you will miss an important detail that may unlock everything for you. There is so much to learn and enjoy and uncover.

Genealogy is not a competition.

People doing family research are seeking the same result, finding their ancestors. Everyone’s path might be different but no one is in direct competition with each other. DNA match? Ok, who are they and what kind of information do they have versus what they are looking for? What information do you have that you might be able to exchange with them? This could be a mutually beneficial relationship as well as making a connection with a distant relative you didn’t know that you had.

Make family research a family activity. 

Not everyone has family around or nearby, so if you do have family that you see often, get them involved. Genealogy is about tracing backstories. Spend time with the people you care about. Let them help you with your genealogy searches. Even kids. Give them something to do so they feel important. You learn so much with these searches so imagine how much kids can learn about their family, heritage, and where they come from.

Not finding what you’re looking for is not a failure.

Many people look at genealogy today as a win or lose situation. Every time research, you’re learning something whether you realize it or not. You’re learning about the time period, the area they lived in, the political and economic status of the time, and many other wonderful details that bring your ancestor’s story to life and explains why certain things happened.

If you do not uncover that elusive ancestor, find inconclusive information or determine that a record was for someone with the same name, this isn’t a failure. You can learn from these situations just as well as those that are successes. Basically, now you know what information either isn’t where you expected, you know the difference between your ancestor and someone with the same name or you know where not to look in the future.

Revisit old research 

It’s often recommended that you revisit old records, census, births/baptisms, deaths, marriages, etc. because they hold more information than what you might realize you’re looking for. Sure it’s a birth record for your great-grandmother that gives her maiden name but that record also holds the names of her parents, where she was born, and a baptism record typically has witnesses that could be other ancestors that place them in that specific area for the time. Same thing with a marriage record, who else is listed as a witness or in attendance.

Look at the backgrounds of old photos. Are there other photos in the background? Are there clues in the clothing, cars, and other background items that give clues to dates, locations or people who may be in that image?

Get out of the house!

Most public libraries and some universities have a section dedicated to city and state records, census reports, and similar documents and they may not be online or indexed. You might find buried treasure on microfiche that isn’t available online. What’s microfiche? Check out this blog that will tell you all bout microfiche The size of these resources may vary depending on the size and population of the area it covers but it is an important part of your genealogy toolset.

What are some basic tips that you have for making genealogy easier that you use? Share them in the comments!