Special Help and Tips for Beginning Genealogists

Special Help and Tips for Beginning Genealogists

This information is provided to assist Beginning Genealogists in becoming familiar with the basic terms and intricacies of Genealogy Research. If you're new to Genealogy, it is our desire to provide you with some guidelines and knowledge of tools that will help you to understand the processes you must follow to successfully achieve the goal of finding and documenting your ancestors.

What is genealogy?

Simply, Genealogy is any Generated History. I like to look at Genealogy as it applies to the generation of the Family Tree as History defined at a personal level. As you begin your adventure of developing a Family Tree you may find it interesting to look into the general history and culture of the periods in which your ancestors lived. You'll expand your knowledge and acquire empathetic insight into their experiences, why they may have chosen their particular vocations, why they migrated from place to place and why they may have acquired or lost assets or fortunes. Were they're wars, famines, drought, important discoveries, prevalent industries or occupations, odd superstitions and practices, and other relevant cultural information of their time in History? Development of your Family Tree can and should be more than just an accumulation of Names and Dates. Dates of Events memorization is how most of us were taught History and truthfully it just isn't a very interesting way to relate to it. Put on a personal level, it can come alive for you! You'll see more clearly how your Ancestors experienced life.

Developing a record of my Family Tree.
Why do it?
People develop records of their Family Tree for various reasons. Some to prove their Ancestry included famous or infamous people, some to prove they aren't linked to famous or INFAMOUS individuals. The best reason to develop a Family Tree Record is for your posterity. Your Children and Grand Children will most likely not appreciate the record until they reach the age of realization that many they knew as youngsters have passed on and find they know little of them. Your record will provide that knowledge for them.

How do I do it?

Begin by contacting and conversing with known living relations. Share your recollections, acquire dates of birth, places born, learn about their migrations, names of children, marriages and document the information. Older Family Members will appreciate your interest and may (dependent on their cognitive condition) provide you with data that otherwise would be lost forever in the pool of inaccurate or insufficient public documentation. While an elderly relative may generally focus on the ailment of the day, you'll be surprised by their recollections and for them it is a healthier subject of conversation. By comparing stories you'll be able to develop a reasonably accurate picture of each individual. When Possible obtain information from others that is contained in Family Bibles and, acquire copies of Birth and Death Certificates, Obituaries from Newspaper archives, Social Security Record information of deceased relatives and copies of photographs. This information will provide an accurate, interesting and informative record of your Family Tree.

The next step.
When you have exhausted the resources available from living relatives (you'll be surprised how many Aunts, Uncles and Cousins are still around) dig into Public Census Records, Marriage Records, Church Records, Military Records, Land Deed Records, Survey Records, Probate Records, Wills, Cattle Brand Registries, Native Indian Rolls, Ship Passenger Manifests and Immigration records moving backwards from your most reliable data, tracing links to create your Tree Record. Join A Genealogical Society where you can share tips and develop your research skills.

How far back should I attempt to go?
The answer to this Question is one you'll have to answer for yourself. Time and personal resources are important considerations. Your research should be a pleasant experience. My best advice is to Stop when it becomes frustrating and unpleasant. What you have accomplished may help others later to develop a more complete record and you can continue if desired when your personal situation changes.

Documentation Tips.
The Paper Record:
Chronology is the most important aspect to remember when compiling any Genealogical Record. An adequate record should include data arranged by Date Of Birth, Parents and Children. Using this relationship you can easily trace lineage by back tracking through the record. Public Libraries and Genealogy Societies have blank forms you can copy for use in arranging your data into organized format.

The Computerized Record:
Computers have become an integral part of our culture and many public and private records are being converted from paper records to computerized data. If you choose to enter your data in Computerized Format it will be accessible for generations to come.

Cautions and Considerations when releasing data for public consumption:
When releasing data for public consumption there is an accepted etiquette that precludes you from listing addresses and personal information of living individuals. Unless specifically requested by a Living Individual that they not be included in a list released for public consumption, it is acceptable to list them by name only and declare all other information as private. Otherwise Gender, Date of Birth and Marital Status is the accepted practice. It should be noted that many Commercial Publications do list Living Individuals with addresses and other personal information. They have presumably obtained permission from the individual to provide this information. I've found that not all authors of these publications have adhered to accepted practice and you should contact the party directly to obtain permission to publish the information. You should respect a persons privacy preferences.

Ancestral File

Members of the Church are asked to submit at least 4 generations of family names and data to the Genealogical Society (Family History Library). If we have more then 4 generations available, we are encouraged to submit everything we have. The Church has a computer program which will update the data bank as new information is submitted, and it will link the new families into the records which already exist, so as to form huge pedigree charts and family groups. This information is put onto CD ROMs from time to time and is sent out to all the Family History Center in the world. (The IGI is updated through the same sort of process) So, (for example) when I found Chloe Smith, born in 1776 in the Ancestral File, and asked the computer to give me her pedigree, I found that her line went all the way back to Ximena Diaz de Vivar, wife of El Cid. (and to Eleanor of Aquitaine, and a host of other interesting characters). It took me nearly 2 hours to download the information!)

There is absolutely no guarantee that any of the information in this Ancestry File is accurate. It was compiled from material sent in by ordinary church members (as opposed to professional genealogists), and as you know, people are fallible. Often, in their desire to make connections, they will assume that *this* Chloe Smith is the same as *that* Chloe Smith, and so lines sometimes go in directions that aren't accurate. The file does, however, have notations for source of information if the patron provided it, so you may be able to verify the information independently.

Census Records:
Census Records are updated every decade and are released to the Public after the passage of 72 Years to protect the privacy of living individuals. US Census Records from 1790 to 1920 are available from the NARA Archives and from various sources on CDROM and Microfilm/Microfiche.

The Table below outlines the data included in each available census year.

1790 Residence; head of family; # of free white males 16 yrs up; free white males under 16; # free white females; # slaves; # other persons.
1800 Residence; name of head of family; # of free white males and females under 10, 10-16, 16-26, 26-45, 45 up; all other free white persons except Indians not taxed; # slaves.
1810 Same as 1800.
1820 Residence; head of family; # free males & females, same age categories as 1810; foreigners not naturalized; male & female slaves & free colored persons under 14, 14-26, 26-45, 45 up; all other free persons except Indians not taxed; number of persons (including slaves) engaged in agriculture, commerce, and manufacture.
1830 Residence; head of family; # of free white males & females in 5 yr age groups to 20, 10 yr age groups to 100, over 100 yrs; # slaves & free colored persons in six broad age groups; # deaf & dumb under 14, 14-24, 25 up; # blind; foreigners not naturalized.
1840 Residence; head of family; # free white males & females in same age groups as 1830; # slaves & free colored persons in six broad age groups; # deaf and dumb; # blind; # persons employed in each of seven classes of occupations; # in school; # white persons over 20 illiterate; # pensioners for Revolutionary or military service.
1850 Residence; All household members Names; ages; sex; color (white, black or mulatto); profession, occupation, or trade for each male person over 15; value of real estate owned; place of birth; whether married within the yr; whether attended school within the yr; whether illiterate over 20; whether deaf & dumb, blind, insane or idiotic; whether a pauper or convict. Supplemental schedules for slaves listing slave's age, sex, color (B or M), fugitive from the state, # manumitted, deaf, dumb or idiotic.
1860 Same as 1850 plus value of personal property. Supplemental slave schedule adds # of slave houses.
1870 Same as 1860 plus whether parents were foreign born; month of birth if born within the yr; month of marriage if married within the yr; male citizens 21 and over, # of such persons denied the right to vote for other than rebellion.
1880 Same as 1870 minus citizen info plus street address; relationship to head of family; whether person sick or temporarily disabled, if so what condition; whether maimed, crippled or bedridden; place of birth of father and mother.
1890 Same as 1880 NOTE: A 1921 fire destroyed the majority of this Census and The Special Schedule of Union Veterans and Widows of Alabama through Kansas, and about half of Kentucky's. Only a few counties remain from the states AZ, DC, GA, IL, MN, NJ, NY, NC, OH, SD, & TX.
1900 Residence with street address; relationship to head of family; color or race (white, black, Chinese, Japanese, Indian); birth month & year; age; marital status; # yrs married; # children of wife; # children living; place of birth; parents' place of birth; citizenship; yr of immigration & # yrs in U.S.; citizenship status; occupation; can read, write & speak English; ownership of Home or Farm. Separate schedules for institutions, military establishments, and Indian reservations.
1910 Same as 1900 plus mother tongue of person and parents; whether out of work during the year; school attendance; whether a survivor of Union or Confederate Army or Navy.
1920 Residence with street address; name; relationship to head of family; sex; race; age as of Jan 1, 1920; marital status; if foreign born, yr of immigration, whether naturalized, and yr of naturalization; school attendance; literacy; birthplace of person & parents; mother tongue; ability to speak English; occupation, industry, and class of worker; home owned or rented, if owned whether free or mortgaged.

Researching the Census on Microfilm:
The USCensus on Microfilm has been indexed. Using the []Soundex Index Code you can search the Index to find the Film Roll# and page number of the Individual(s) You're searching for. You can rent Microfilm Census Records by becomming a member of theNational Archives Rental Program or through your local Library. The cost for 30 days rental averages $2.25 per roll.

What Is a GEDCOM File?
A GEDCOM file is a file format that provides some inter-changability between Computerized Family Tree Documentation Programs. When purchasing a Genealogy Documentation program you should be certain it provides the option of saving to GEDCOM Format and Importing from GEDCOM Format so you will have the ability to share Computerized Family Tree information with others.

What is the Soundex?
The Soundex is a coded last name (surname) index based on the way a name sounds rather than the way it is spelled. Surnames that sound the same, but are spelled differently, like DEAN, DEHN and DEEN, have the same code (D-500) and are filed together in Public Records. The Soundex coding system was developed so that you can find a surname even though it may have been recorded under various spellings.

The 'National Archives and Records Administration' NARA has a Soundex Converter written in Perl where you can enter a name and convert it to the Soundex Code. This information will be invaluable when you are researching Microfilm records and for ordering data from various resource libraries. The URL for the NARA Soundex Machine is: NARA Soundex Machine

Basic Soundex Coding Rule
Every soundex code consists of a letter and three numbers, such as 'W-252'. The letter is always the first letter of the surname. The numbers are assigned to the remaining letters of the surname according to the soundex guide shown below. Zeroes are added at the end if necessary to produce a four-character code. Additional letters are disregarded.

Guide to the Soundex System

The Soundex filing system, alphabetic for the first letter of surname and numeric thereunder as indicated by divider cards, keeps together names of the same and similar sounds but of variant spellings.

To search for a particular name, you must first work out the code number for the surname of the individual. No number is ever assigned to the first letter of the surname. If the name is Kuhne, for example, the index card will be in the "K" segment of the index. The code number for Kuhne, worked out according to the system below, is 500.

Soundex Coding Guide

Code KeyLetters
1b, p, f, v
2c, s, k, g, j, q, x, z
3d, t
5m, n

The letters a, e, i, o, u, y, w, and h are not coded. The first letter of a surname is not coded. Every Soundex number must be a 3-digit number. A name yielding no code numbers, as Lee, would thus be L 000; one yielding only one code number would have two zeros added, as Kuhne, coded as K 500; and one yielding two code numbers would have one zero added, as Ebell, coded as E 140. Not more than three digits are used, so Ebelson would be coded as E 142, not E 1425. When two key letters or equivalents appear together, or one key letter immediately follows or precedes an equivalent, the two are coded as one letter, by a single number, as follows: Kelly, coded as 400; Buerck, coded as 620; Lloyd, coded as 300; and Schaefer, coded as 160.

If several surnames have the same code, the cards for them are arranged alphabetically by given name. There are divider cards showing most code numbers, but not all. For instance, one divider may be numbered 350 and the next one 400. Between the two divider cards there may be names coded 353, 350, 360, 364, 365, and 355, but instead of being in numerical order they are interfiled alphabetically by given name.

Such prefixes to surnames as "van," "Von," "Di," "de," "le," "D'," "dela," or "du" are sometimes disregarded in alphabetizing and in coding.

The following names are examples of Soundex coding and are given only as illustrations.

Name Letters CodedSoundex Code
Allricht l, r, cA 462
Eberhardb, r, r E 166
Engebrethson n, g, bE 521
Heimbach m, b, cH 512
Hanselmannn, s, lH 524
Henzelmann n, z, l H 524
Hildebrand l, d, b H 431
Kavanagh v, n, g K 152
Lind, Van n, d L 530
Lukaschowsky k, s, s L 222
McDonnell c, d, n M 235
McGee c M 200
O'Brien b, r, n O 165
Opnian p, n, n O 155
Oppenheimer p, n, m O 155
Riedemanas d, m, n R 355
Zita t Z 300
Zitzmeinn t, z, m Z 325

-- The National Archives, Washington, DC. Soundex codes are used in 1880, 1900 and 1910 census. Published indexes may be available on most states for prior census years.

What is a Surname?
A Surname is the last name.

The Beginnings of Surnames

True surnames, in the sense of hereditary appellations, date in England from about the year 1000. Largely they were introduced from Normandy, although there are records of Saxon, surnames prior to the Norman Conquest. During the reign of Edward the Confessor (1042-1066) there were Saxon tenants in Suffolk bearing such names as Suert Magno, Stigand Soror, Siuward Rufus, and Leuric Hobbesune (Hobson); and the Domesday record of 1085-1086, which exhibits some curious combinations of Saxon forenames with Norman family names, shows surnames in still more general use.

By the end of the twelfth century hereditary names had become common in England. But even as late as 1465 they were not universal. During the reign of Edward V a law was passed to compel certain Irish to adopt surnames as a method to track and control them more: "They shall take unto them a Surname, either of some Town, or some Color, as Black or Brown, or some Art or Science, as Smyth or Carpenter, or some Office, as Cooke or Butler." And as late as the beginning of the nineteenth century a similar decree compelling Jews in Germany and Austria to add a German surname to the single names that they had previously used.

WWW (World Wide Web) Information, How Reliable is it?
Most information available on the WWW has been provided (as is) by individuals and the creators of WWW Pages do not have the time or resources to research every piece of data. Individual lines may have errors and should be thoroughly researched to confirm accuracy. Your objective using the WWW as a resource is to look for names of individuals matching the surname you are researching for clues of ancestors to link to your Family Tree. You are going to run into many dead ends but don't be discouraged. Once you've found a link and confirmed it in public records, your search will blossom into a full fledged Family Tree.