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  • Writer's pictureKim Richardson

Tips for Beginner Genealogists

Just getting started on your genealogy journey? Good news! Beginners have wonderful opportunities to set themselves up for success. Here are six tips to remember.

Educate yourself on the basics. Before jumping in and clicking your way a family tree full of shaky leaf hints, take some time to learn the basics. Classes, webinars, and articles are available at your finger tips. Technology allows us to educate ourselves about anything we want to learn 24 hours a day. You'll be glad you took the time to discover how to conduct solid research.

Go slow. When we research too quickly, we tend to make mistakes. Take your time and go slow, thinking about each connection and each document as you go. In the long run, your research will be much stronger and reliable.

Make a habit of writing things down. One of the biggest lies that we as genealogist tell ourselves is, "I will remember THAT!" Noting searches and results in the best habit a genealogist can start. You'll save countless "re-searching" hours later when you don't remember what you searched.

Order death certificates. One of the most overlooked, but easy to obtain, records are death certificates. If you're unsure about how to get a copy, ask a genealogy society for help. Death certificates are a wealth of information! Don't neglect this important record.

Make sure to go through old family papers, even if you think they may not help. You never know when an old greeting card or letter will hold an answer. Maybe someone kept an old receipt or document that holds answers or clues. Ask relatives about the previous owners of old family heirlooms and take photographs of the items (and write down the information).

Ask questions of living relatives. Develop a list of simple questions to ask family members. It does not need to be perfect or complete before you start. Be sure to record your conversation or make notes. At the end of your conversation, always ask "is there anything that you think I would like to know that I didn't ask you? Or is there anything that you wish I had asked?"

Family albums are great conversation starters. Ask questions and record answers. Be sure to look at the backs of photos for names or other clues.

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