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How to get started in studying your family history

December 13th, 2006

How do you get started in studying your family history? What information do you look for? See this list of information to look for.

I would add that whenever possible you should look for reliable documentation for your records. Documentation can be divided into the following types:

  1. Primary official documents (birth certificates, marriage licenses, etc.)
  2. Secondary written public documents (newspaper articles, etc.)
  3. Written family records (e.g. family history records in a family Bible)
  4. First hand oral reports of events by someone who witnessed them
  5. Second or subsequent hand reports of events

Each piece of information in your family history should be documented as to its source. Later on when you have a lot of information you will want to know where a particular fact came from and how reliable it is. When I first started to collect information I did not document all the sources, and later on I founding myself wishing I knew he source of my facts.

Sometimes there will be conflicting information and you will need to decide which version is more likely to be correct. Sources higher on this list are generally more reliable than those lower down. Try to get copies of official documents whenever possible. But even second or third hand stories are better than nothing, as long as you realize that they may not be completely accurate.

Posted by Ken in Genealogy

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