It’s the time of year when we think about family—sometimes fondly, and sometimes not. Family can add to our stress or ease it. We all cherish memories of family gone by during the holidays—which prompts me to think about my family history. I know “a little bit” but would like to know more. I do know my family settled in Western North Carolina, but I’ve learned little about their history in England.
As today’s Mind Your Body TV guest, I’d like to introduce genealogy expert Michael Leclerc, author and chief of genealogy at Mocavo, a free genealogy search engine. If you’re ready to “dig a little deeper,” he has these easy tips for you to start the process. What a great idea for early 2014—researching family history!
Researching family history
1. Begin with you. It may be tempting to start with the most intriguing part of your lineage such as an old immigration record or military draft card. However, start with yourself and confirming information for all of your closest family members initially, and you will have more clues to lead you in the right direction when you are further along with your research.
2. Do not make assumptions. One of the most rewarding parts of your genealogical search is when you can follow a clue into a new discovery. However, skepticism will be your greatest tool when gathering and analyzing your information. Although stories and records can seem relevant at the time, validate your sources to ensure you are not making an assumption that can lead you down the wrong path.
3. Stories are often exaggerated. Many families’ histories include legends and traditions passed from one generation to another, so it’s important to separate fact from fiction. It will be your mission to prove the validity of your family legends to ensure you can use the information to aid in your search.
4. Be sensitive to skeletons in the closet. Although we like to view our past in a positive perspective, there are sometimes sensitive matters that families have encountered in the past. Situations such as divorce and adoption should be handled with respect and care so as not to offend living relatives that may have been impacted by the circumstance.
5. Record everything and keep organized. Throughout your genealogical journey, the most important step to take for every piece of information that you encounter will be to record your findings. When recording your findings, ensure you record both positive matches and negative matches so you do not end up duplicating your search. Organization is also key to a successful project. There are many different suggested ways to organize your information, such as paper forms, filing, online software, and family history websites, but pick what makes you feel most comfortable.
Now, you’re on your way to finding out “who you really are.” Write me here and tell me how this goes. (Maybe we’re related!) Thanks, Michael, for unlocking the key to the family tree.