The basics of putting together puzzles are the same for family history research. Here are some analogies I found:
1. Identify the edge pieces ( parents) and put them to the side.
2. Group together similar colors and patterns ( put in file folders those who are in the same generation and then separate them into family groups).
3. Start with the edges and work on putting together the puzzle as you have time, making sure that your piles are undisturbed!
Note: Here’s a little bit of a shift from the big picture to a smaller one. Each puzzle equals one family group. Finish it! The knowledge and experience gained by sticking to it ’til it’s done will take you to the next group better equipped to succeed.
So, let’s say you’re starting from square one. Where do you begin? After you’ve done what I outlined as homework in my previous post Getting Started: Gather Your Tools, it’s best to start at the logical place: with yourself and your family.
1. Get your worksheet and the file box you made.
2. Take out file #1 and fill out the family group and pedigree forms that you put in the file. Use all of the collected documents that you placed in there with names dates and places.
3. If you don’t remember birth dates and places, write a letter, get on the phone, or use email or Facebook for a quick conversation to get the information you need. Ask for copies of documents to support the birth, marriage or death of a person. Remember to put those copies in the corresponding file folder.
4. Transfer this information to box #1 on the worksheet. File the folder away!
5. Repeat the process for #1′s parents ( #2/3). At this point you can look to Ancestry.com or FamilySearch.org to get copies of original documents. Do as much as possible to get the family information complete. It’s hard to explain why, but if you take the time and make an effort to work on completing a whole family, the next generation’s research is easier.
Now, whenever you have a few minutes you can pull out a file folder, fill in some information, transfer it to the worksheet, file the folder away and do a little research on that family group, adding new facts to the worksheet and adding newly-found documents to the corresponding file folder, updating the pedigree / family group forms as well.
Sometimes during a conversation you’ll get a random tidbit of information that’s relevant to another family group. Add it in pencil immediately to the worksheet. You may be excited to follow a new path made available to you, and that’s fun. Just don’t let it distract you for too long from your objective of completing and connecting family groups one generation at a time.
If you ever get stuck and can’t get through a virtual impasse, stop! Take a look at your tools. Is there one that you could revisit? Just like going through the available, unused puzzle pieces. Sometimes it’s best to look at things a second and third time to see them differently.Sometimes starting a new family group in the next generation will give you a clue to missing information in a previous generation.
Just remember, like a puzzle, we’re connected on many levels. One level is as families. We are responsible to find, organize, teach, nurture and cherish them no matter how diverse our beliefs, traditions or values have become. We are all richer spiritually and emotionally when we discover our connectivity on the many levels that this human experience offers.
Again, email me with comments, suggestions or needs at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading!
( Any grammatical, spelling or other kinds of errors are due to my talent of being intensely focused being momentarily overpowered by my fondness for very adorable distractions that time their need with my writing, and proceed to tell me how worried they are about missing cats and lost homework and how the world just might end if I don’t listen to them completely RIGHT NOW!)