First, get a genealogy program like Roots Magic to record your findings. Starting with yourself and moving backwards generation by generation, try to answer these questions:
Who was this person’s parents and why do I think so?
Who did this person marry and why do I think so?
Who were this person’s children and why do I think so?
Exact dates are nice to have but not necessary. If I don’t have a date for a marriage, I assume they were married before their first child was born. If I don’t have a birth date, I assume that males were at least age 21 and females age 18 before they married. While this can vary somewhat, it puts you in the right decade for evaluating the reasonableness of your research.
It is important to answer the question “why do I think so?” with references to source material. The quality of your sources determines the potential accuracy of your research. It often takes more than one source to adequately establish the answer to one of these questions. For example, before a marriage takes place, both families are probably residing in the vicinity so not only do you need a marriage record but proof that the family lived in the area at the time.
Family Search (free) and Ancestry (paid) are great resources for data but be aware of the that not all source data is equally reliable.
Sources can be classified as primary, secondary and questionable. Most people can document the first few generations of their family with primary sources.
Primary sources while they can contain inaccuracies are often the most reliable information. In a perfect world, we would document our genealogy with primary sources such as:
Birth, marriage & death Certificates
Wills, probates, etc.
Land records - deeds, leases, etc.
Secondary sources are less accurate and subject to errors of memory or clerical mistakes. Some of these include:
Transcriptions, extracts, and abstracts
Bible entries predating date of bible
Events recorded at a later time
Diaries & Letters
Questionable sources are those that give you a clue to where to look but should be confirmed with primary & secondary sources. These include:
In the beginning, I must have made all the mistakes that someone new to genealogy can make and that are too numerous to list here. Finally, I settled into this simple but adequate approach for establishing a paper trail of my ancestors.
~ Becky ~
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