Two of the suggestions made in Part 1: How do I start my family history? were to fill out a Family Tree Chart and a Family Group Sheet. Do not worry if you were not able to complete them fully. By filling in what you do know, you will be able to identify the information that you do not know. From there you can decide which ancestor to research first.
Who do I want to research first?
Circle all the incomplete information on both the Family Tree Chart and the Family Group Sheet, starting with your parents or grandparents. Choose a person to research. Fill out a Family Group Sheet with that person as a child. Record the parents and siblings. Then, fill out a Family Group Sheet with that person as a parent. Record the spouse and children. Each of the people on these forms have the potential of helping you learn more about your ancestor.
Most people start researching without looking at the people related to their ancestor. If there were not many records generated for your ancestor, you may struggle to find enough documentation to keep going. Researching these other family members when you run into a challenge can lead you to more resources.
Create a simple timeline of the events that happened in your ancestor’s life. This is an easy way to tell which years are not documented. You can work to identify historical resources that tell you more about your ancestor during these years. For example, look at the following timeline of Beverly Vance (1832-1899). It may be similar to the amount of information that you know about the ancestor you have chosen to research.
1832 Born 1832 in South Carolina
1861 Son, Lafayette Franklin Vance, was born
1899 Died South Carolina
Beverly lived from 1832 to 1899, and there were only three events recorded on the timeline of his life in the beginning. If you timeline looks similar, following this series of articles that will help you learn more about your ancestor. See the attached slideshow to for an example of other information that was recorded on Beverly’s timeline after researching.
What do other family members know?
Most researchers would start researching online next, but you must not neglect to find out what your family members know. You may be surprised to learn details about your ancestor that where never mentioned. Seek out the oldest living relatives to see if they remember any stories that can help you in your research. Take your time to record these details. After you have been researching for a while, this information may become very useful to you as records become scarce moving back through time. The next article will discuss how to conduct oral history interviews. Be sure to subscribe so that you do not miss it.