Monday, April 28, 2008
I found the following post on a blog discussing genealogy. I will give attribution to the source once I identify it. Just know that it is not mine!
Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Beginning Your Genealogical Research at the Library
We're part of the Internet generation, so we all tend to do it.
Whenever we are seeking any type of information, we just jump
on the computer and type a phrase into a search engine. But in
years past, before nearly everyone had a personal computer at
home, most people doing genealogical research did most of
their work at the local library. And in spite of the fact
that getting on your computer in the comfort of your own home
is convenient,there are important reasons why you might want
to consider visiting your local library, or the library in the
town of your family's origin early on when you begin to
research you family tree.
Local libraries contain a great deal of information dealing
with family history. Often, they have entire sections, or
even rooms, dedicated solely to the function of genealogical
research. These libraries will usually be staffed with people
who can assist you in beginning your research. If you are
fortunate enough to live in a town where your family has lived
for generations, it is quite possible that the local library
may even have books specifically dealing with your family and
aspects of its history. In any case,they will contain
newspapers and indexes that are an ideal place to begin
searching. In addition, nearly all local libraries have
computers and Internet access, which means that all the
resources of print and Internet media are accessible in one
In addition, librarians are professionals who can offer
assistance in your research. Although not all of them are
family history research experts,they are thoroughly trained
in helping patrons to find information of all kinds. They
can assist you with basic library resources and how to use them.
They will often be able to direct you to specific sources that
you need and advise you of other sources that will contain
further information on the topics you are researching. Many
times, librarian will have had experience in helping others
with family research and can offer valuable suggestions that
have proved useful to others.
As many people have found over the years, libraries are an
ideal place to work, providing a quiet atmosphere, computer
access, and professional assistance when needed, without the
normal distractions found at home. So before you confine your
initial family research to your computer,visit your local
library and take advantage of the resources available to you.
Posted by Genealogy Research at 5:35 PM 0 comments
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
A Few Keys to African American Genealogical Research
If you’ve ever wondered why so many professional genealogists seem reluctant to do research for African Americans who are seeking to trace their family history, here are some of the reasons why:
Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of bloody civil war. The proclamation declared "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free." While the Proclamation only applied to slaves held in Confederate states not yet under Union control, and it was only the first step on the long road to slavery’s eventual destruction, it is a clear indication that that any African American whose ancestors lived in the United States before the Civil War were almost certainly slaves, and written records for slaves, if they existed at all, were rare.
So how can you go about researching these ancestors? One place to begin is with those who were free. Just as you would with an ancestor of any race or ethnic group, you trace your family history back as far as you can. It is common to run into problems just before the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s. Before that time, African American civil rights were heavily restricted. Many had received little or no formal education, were unable to read or write, and had a much more difficult time receiving documentation of their records. The further you go backward prior to the Civil Rights movement, the fewer records were kept and the fewer African Americans were able to receive an education or to read or write.
When you find yourself unable to discover written records, you must start to look at oral family history. These are the family stories, legends and even myths. Naturally, these are incomplete, and often exaggerated or partially forgotten stories that have been handed down, but they are still valuable as points to refer to in your search for facts. The rule of thumb is that if you can find the same story, with the same details, in three separate and unrelated places, you can tentatively regard the stories as true. However, it is still important that you continue to be diligent in looking for discrepancies or errors in the stories as you continue your research and uncover other information.
On the other hand, once you have managed to carry your research farther back in time, the records of slave owners and slave-ship captains can become a factor. For example, proceeding backwards, you can find bills of sale which show the dates your ancestors were purchased as slaves, many times following the trail in reverse from owner to owner until you find the earliest bill of sale from a particular ship, then follow the ship’s logs and journals backward to the particular area in Africa where the ship was docked to know where your ancestors came from.
Researching African American ancestors is an extremely challenging task, and it requires a great deal of patience, persistence, intuition, and luck, along with an even greater measure of determination. However, the results can be extremely rewarding.
Posted by Genealogy Research at 8:53 AM 0 comments
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Tips for Interviewing a Relative
Most of us remember how, when we were children, our grandparents and other family members used to tell stories about their past and about relatives from long ago. Unfortunately, we were young, and those family stories often held little interest for us. We were too caught up in our own lives to have much concern for the past events of our ancestors’ lives. But years later many of us finally reach an age when all the stories and family history that had seemed so unimportant when we were young start to hold new importance. This new importance often stems from the tragedy of having family members pass away, but sometimes it is simply a function of one’s own gradually- developing desire to know where he or she came from. Ironically, by the time we finally begin to become interested in our family history, many of those older family members who held this information in their memories are no longer with us.
This is why, once you embark on the journey of tracing your heritage, it is urgent that
you seek out the older family members who are alive and interview them. If this seems
easy, you may be in for a surprise when you first do such an interview.
Why? First of all, you may find that they are uncomfortable doing such an interview--particularly if the person being interviewed is not someone you see often. In addition, it’s often difficult to stay on track. Sometimes, the interview degenerates into small talk, and you find that you’ve come away with very little in the way of family history.
Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to make the interview more successful.
You should begin by deciding what the goal of the interview will be. Review any facts
you already have, and try to plan the questions you would like to ask beforehand. Take
a notebook, and with permission, a tape recorder to record the conversation.
An excellent way of providing a comfortable and neutral environment for the interview is
to invite your relative to do the interview over lunch or dinner in a quiet restaurant and explain that you will pay for the meal. This will provide an atmosphere that is relaxed, and show your appreciation for your relative’s time. Best of all, it will provide a basic time schedule for the interview.
The interview should be a comfortable process during which your relative gradually opens up and reveals the information from their memories. Don’t jump in at first with pointed family-related questions. Instead, try opening up by focusing on the person you are interviewing. Ask them about their childhood and try to get them to describe what their lives were like when they were growing up.
Then it becomes natural when they mention their father or mother to ask their names. This is then the opportunity to ask the dates and places where they were born, dates of marriage, and so forth. Keep in mind that you must always be sensitive about deaths of those close to them, but you should politely ask for this information as well, as part of your research.
Listen carefully and record every single thing they tell you. Some things may seem
unimportant to you at the time, but as you delve deeper into your research, you will often
find that some fact that seemed irrelevant at the time you first heard it can often be the
clue that leads you past a sticking point later on, or even opens a new direction for you to
Whenever you hear a name, write it down, and ask for the full name and the spelling. .
Many times a name like Jack will be a nickname for John or Bobby for Roberta.
Sue may be short for Susan, or Suzanne or SueEllen. And don’t limit your notes to
family members only. Friends, neighbors and others who were close to your family
members can often remember names, dates, and places that your relative has forgotten.
Always keep in mind that this type of interview is a starting point that will provide
background and basic information. Many times, you will discover that the details have
been forgotten, dates have gotten confused, and family stories have become subject to
exaggeration over a period of time. Don’t regard the information you get in your interview as factual until you have confirmed each detail with other sources
If you make an effort to be prepared, move methodically through the interview process,
record the facts, and show consideration and appreciation for your relative’s help with
your research, you will not only ensure a successful interview, but you will also leave
the door open for follow-up questions as you discover additional facts later...
Posted by Genealogy Research at 7:59 PM 0 comments
Friday, November 23, 2007
Where do I start?
What may have started out as simple curiosity about an ancestor, or a story about some family member in the past, often leads many people to begin researching their family history. Nearly everyone is naturally curious about where he or she came from, and nothing matches the excitement of discovering people in your family tree who were involved in historical events. But how do you begin?
The most important thing is just to start somewhere. For instance, you can take a family member’s name and enter it into the search engines and see what comes up. Or you can get out an old family Bible and begin looking at the names and dates entered in the front for births, marriages, deaths and other events. Or you can talk with (especially elder) family members, listen to their stories about the family and take notes. But wherever you choose to start, the information begins to come and then go off in all directions, like the branches of a tree. It won’t be long until you have several threads started, each leading you down a different road. Then each of these roads will branch off into several forks in the road until confusion starts to set in.
The best way to keep focused and avoid frustration is to decide before you start what you are going to look for. If you write down your goal, and keep it with you throughout your research, it will help you to keep moving in the right direction. Some people use a notebook, others use 3” X 5” index cards, and still others use a loose-leaf binder to organize their goal and the information that they discover along the way. Refer to your basic goals every time before you begin doing any research so that you remain clear and focused and avoid becoming distracted or scattered.
Keep an open mind and allow yourself to pursue research about a single person through several different avenues. Sometimes you will lose track of an individual in one town and pick them up at a later point when you are doing research on a different family member or town. Other times you will find an unfamiliar name listed as part of a family in a particular Census report, only to find that researching that name will lead you back to further information about the original people you were focusing on.
Try to develop a detective’s mindset. If you discover a thread in your family that seems to end, try looking in a different state, searching for clues in the way of surnames, occupations and first names that seem to appear often in your family’s history. Use your instincts and make educated guesses to pick up new threads, and then verify them to see if they are right. If you can’t find information about one family member, search deeper among the ones you can find information about. Sometimes that will lead to back to the original person you are seeking. As you proceed deeper into your family research, you will develop hunches and feelings that will help you choose which people you discover are likely to be related to you.
Whenever you have the opportunity to discuss your findings with a member of your family who may be able to add information or stories, always do so. Many time this can not only enrich the information you have discovered, but it can help you to clear up some of the mysterious dead ends you run into.
Genealogical research is a challenging and rewarding hobby that will help you develop your instincts for study, evaluation, and judgment, while blessing you with a deepened sense of who you are and where you have come from.