Saturday, August 1, 2015

How I Research, Part One

For this post, I will do something a little different. Rather than sharing stories and information about various people in my family, I will start sharing a bit about how I actually research my genealogy. This will be a theme for the next couple of weeks.

To start things off, I thought I would share information about the various forms and resources I use. In general, I keep my family tree in a software program. The program I am currently using is Family Tree Maker, which is owned by Ancestry. I have used two versions of this program: Family Tree Maker 2012 and Family Tree Maker for Mac 3.
Screen shot of my Family Tree Maker for Mac 3 showing my great-grandmother and her family
As a Mac user, I like not needing to use Bootcamp to access my tree, but the Windows version does have a few features that I prefer to the Mac version, like being able to tab between certain information fields; but that's just my personal opinion.

In addition to my digital family tree, I also keep several notebooks with family tree information. These notebooks are filled with various forms I use to keep track of my research. While there are several forms I use, there are three that I definitely use the most.

First, I use the Five-Generation Ancestor Chart from Family Tree Magazine.
Five-Generation Ancestor Chart from Family Tree Magazine
This form is pretty much the staple-document for genealogists. You start with a single person or couple, typically yourself, and you work your way backward through the generations. The people in the chart are given a number. The first person is Number 1, then the rest of the numbers in the chart follow the pattern of:
Fathers = (Number) x 2
Mothers = ((Number) x 2) + 1

I like the chart from Family Tree Magazine because it has five generations and the layout is very clean. Ancestry offers a similar form, but it only has four generations and therefore requires many more pages.

The second form I use is from Ancestry. It is their Family Group Record.
Family Group Record from Ancestry
This sheet is fantastic for recording the basic facts for all members of a specific family. The form from Ancestry has a fantastic layout and works well for me because I write rather small.

What I love most about this form is that it has space for up to 12 children and their spouses. It doesn't help much if a family had more than 12 children, but it is good to see the spouses at a glance, especially when you have siblings marrying other siblings.

The third sheet I use I actually print on the back of my Family Group Records. It is also from Ancestry. It is the Source Summary form.
Source Summary from Ancestry
On the front of my Family Group Records, I cite my sources using numbers, similar to adding footnotes. The numbers correspond to the sources in the Source Summary on the back. This helps make a quick reference for where certain facts were found. It does not help much if you have numerous different spellings for a name or estimations for a date, but I list the first few differences in the "Information Found" column when I feel so inclined. All-in-all, this page suits my source citation needs for my paper records. (I keep much more extensive source citations in my Family Tree Maker program.)

As I said before, there are a lot more forms I use for my research, and I will highlight a few more over in a future post, but these three are my favorites by far. And, as for how I find the information for these forms, I use a few different sites and resources most frequently. These are a few of my favorites:
Ancestry, Fold3, and require subscriptions, but they often have free records available in full or in part. Sometimes they have free access weekends on holiday weekends too. FamilySearch, Chronicling America, and Find-A-Grave are all free. Microfilms can be found at a genealogy center or ordered from the Family History Library (run by local Mormon churches and based in Salt Lake City).

That pretty much does it for today. Look forward to my future posts on how I research my family history and other tips and tricks.

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