Posted on 25 December 2014 | 44 comments
Genealogy has rules. There are Do’s and there are Don’ts. There are Rights and Wrongs. Commandments to follow. And it pays to know and follow these rules from the beginning of your research.
So let me share some Golden rules of genealogy with you …
Let’s start with some Don’ts …
- Don’t expect to find your whole tree online.
- In fact if you find information online, don’t assume it is accurate.
- Don’t show living people in your online tree unless you have it hidden and Private.
- Don’t take information or photographs from others and not give anything back.
- Don’t expect that you can do it ALL for free.
- Don’t be a name-collector. Look for the stories that MAKE the people.
- Don’t believe everything on a Birth, Marriage or Death certificate.
- Don’t give up if you hit a brickwall. Take a look at it from a different direction.
- Don’t write on a chart in pen until you are 100% sure of the details.
- Don’t assume that if you can’t find the data you’re looking for on a website, that it doesn’t exist. Especially if that website infers that it would be there. Not everything is indexed or digitised yet.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are plenty of people willing to guide you on your genealogy journey.
- Don’t forget to write your OWN history. Afterall you know your own life history better than anyone else.
Now for the Do’s …
- Always start from yourself and work backwards.
- Get organised: both on your computer and your paperwork.
- Join a genealogy group or society. The more you mingle with other researchers the more you’ll learn.
- Do your homework and learn the social history of the area your ancestors came from.
- Honour family members wishes when they give you (or let you copy) photos, stories and other information. Not everyone is happy for it to be online.
- Learn to expect name and date variants. EVERY family has name variants.
- When filling in a pedigree chart, the male line is always on the top with his wife’s details in the box below.
- Be consistent in the way you record your data.
- Verify everything with at least two separate sources for each piece of information.
- Back up your files at least once a month and have a copy OFF of your computer, and preferrably a copy at a different location.
- Expect surprises. It is truly amazing what you’ll find out about your family.
- Use ethics when you do find out shocking tales about a family member. Not all stories need to be aired to everyone.
- Visit as many living relatives as possible to get their stories now. Often family stories have some truth in them. But don’t believe them till verified.
- If a document exists, read it. Every detail that is written on it.
- Learn to record your sources of where (or who) you obtained information from. The sooner you start doing this, the better. And later you’ll be thankful that you took the time to note it now.
27 rules might seem a bit overwhelming to some, but in reality these aren’t hard to follow. For the most part they are just common sense. And if you do take the time to follow these golden rules, it’ll certainly help make you a better researcher and family historian.
And if anyone thinks of other golden rules that I’ve missed, please feel free to leave a comment.