Fayette County Texas Genealogical Society

Genealogy Research and Education

What is Genealogy/How Do I Get Started/Survival Tips



                                 What is Genealogy?                                      



Genealogy is the process of researching your family tree. It is a fascinating and often addicting hobby. It can create bonds and friendships between family members and even distant relatives. It often engenders deep respect and awe for ancestors. You probably will uncover a few skeletons along the way. It's okay, we all have them. So, get started and have some fun!


How do I get started?

Start with a pedigree chart. Write down all the relatives you know - starting with yourself, of course. Add siblings and parents. Don't forget uncles, aunts, cousins. Everyone fits into the picture. Talk to older realtives. They may not be as good at remembering what happened yesterday, but those characters can sure remember what happened 25, 50, even 75 years ago. They love to talk so let them. Ask them if you can tape record the session. And ask questions.

They remember the strangest things. Like nicknames and odd habits. Their stories help to create images of real people in your mind, not just names and dates. Ask them if they have any pictures that you can have or get copied. Write the names and dates on the backs of the pictures. You may not remember who they are after they have gone.




Genealogy Survival Tips

Never be caught without a notebook handy.

Always write down where you found your information. If you have to go back to get more information you won't be forced to rely only on your memory. Remember, you are dealing with a lot of details.

Find a filing system that works for you and use it.

Researcing geneaology tends to run in spurts. If you associate with others who are doing reasearch they will keep your enthusiam going. Also, remember to give more of your time to the living - in other words - don't forget your living family!

Don't get discouraged if you run into brick walls.Take a break from that line and research a different ancestor. You can always go back to the original when you feel energized. Also, there are different sources for information, if you hit one dead end, try another avenue.

Always verify your information. Handwriting is difficult to read. Even public documents can have misspellings. Be careful. And for whatever reason, sometimes people don't tell the truth. They may be embarrassed by the "black sheep" of the family or just plain didn't like them.



        Group of People

Ten Commandments of Genealogy

Creating a first-class genealogy work is not difficult. In fact, it is expected. It should be the norm. Please consider the following "rules." If you follow these guidelines, you, too, can produce high-quality genealogy reports that will be useful to others:

1. Never accept someone else's opinion as "fact." Be suspicious. Always check for yourself!

2. Always verify primary sources; never accept a secondary source as factual until you have personally verified the information.

3. Cite your sources! Every time you refer to a person's name, date and/or place of an event, always tell where you found the information. If you are not certain how to do this, get yourself a copy of "Evidence! Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian" by Elizabeth Shown Mills. This excellent book shows both the correct form of source citation and the sound analysis of evidence.

4. If you use the works of others, always give credit. Never claim someone else's research as your own.

5. Assumptions and "educated guesses" are acceptable in genealogy as long as they are clearly labeled as such. Never offer your theories as facts.

6. Be open to corrections. The greatest genealogy experts of all time made occasional errors. So will you. Accept this as fact. When someone points out a possible error in your work, always thank that person for his or her assistance and then seek to re-verify your original statement(s). Again, check primary sources.

7. Respect the privacy of living individuals. Never reveal personal details about living individuals without their permission. Do not reveal their names or any dates or locations.

8. Keep "family secrets." Not everyone wants the information about a court record or a birth out of wedlock to be posted on the Internet or written in books. The family historian records "family secrets" as facts but does not publish them publicly.

9. Protect original documents. Handle all documents with care, and always return them to their rightful storage locations.

10. Be prepared to reimburse others for reasonable expenses incurred on your behalf. If someone travels to a records repository and makes photocopies for you, always offer to reimburse the expenses.

The above "commandments" apply to online data as well as to printed information. Following the above "commandments" will increase the value of your work and make it valuable to others.