20 Tips for Genealogists

As we know learning never ends, and the same goes for genealogy too. I’ve decided to compile a listing of 20 Do’s, Don’ts and tips for genealogists. For my regular readers I’m sure you know all of these things already, but this list is meant or those who happen to stumble upon my list when they are starting their genealogy journey. And hopefully there will be points that they’ll learn from it.

  1. Don’t expect to find your whole tree online.
  2. In fact, if you find info online, never assume that it is accurate until you’ve verified it for yourself.
  3. Always start with yourself and work backwards.
  4. It is wise to always write on a chart in pencil, and only overwrite it in pen when you’re 100% sure the details are correct.
  5. Don’t show living people in your online tree (unless it is a private tree).
  6. Don’t take information from others without giving something back. Put yourself on the opposite side and see how it feels.
  7. Don’t expect that you can do it ALL for free, there will be times you need to pay for things (certificates, researcher, products, subscription etc).
  8. Don’t be a ‘name collector’, look for the stories that MAKE the people.
  9. If you hit a brickwall, don’t give up. Just look at it from a different direction, or head on over to another branch for a while.
  10. Never be afraid to ask for help.
  11. It is wise to join a group or society, as the more you mingle with other genies, the more you’ll learn.
  12. Do your homework, and learn about the area your reli’s came from.
  13. Honour family members wishes when they give you family photos, stories and information.
  14. Expect to find variant names and dates – there isn’t a family that doesn’t have them.
  15. Get organised: both on the computer and your paperwork. Trust me it snowballs very quickly, and can become very overwhelming.
  16. Visit (or at least get in touch with) a many living reli’s as possible. Let them know that you’re the family genealogist, you’ll be surprised at what stories and memorabilia you might be trusted with as a result.
  17. Be consistent in the way you record your data.
  18. Back up your files at least once a month, and be sure to have a copy in a separate location offsite.
  19. Expect surprises … it’ amazing what you will find out about your family. It is true when they say that truth is stranger than fiction.
  20. Always question information (this is similar to number 2, but relates to more than just online).

And if any of my readers have further suggestions, please feel free to share them with us all by writing a comment.

Happy researching!

10 Responses to “20 Tips for Genealogists”

  1. Ros Dunstall says:

    Hello Alona, Could I obtain your permission to pass out this information to our Australian Interest Group of the Fleurieu Peninsula FH Group. I would have your details on the handout. Thanks, Ros 10.1

  2. A great list Alona. May I also suggest – using social networking to connect with cousins around the world and involving other family members in the research. My daughter enjoys hunting for headstones with me. She doesn’t want to know the full story so I give her snippets of information. Young people may like to photograph headstones with a smart phone which records the GPS coordinates and upload them to a website such as Billion Graves.

    • Alona says:

      Good point. And social media is pretty much second nature for the younger generations, so it will be an ever increasing part of the way they interact and communicate with potentially distant reli’s. It’s what I do with my 4th cousins in Finland. Through Facebook I get to see and hear a little of what they do, without it I wouldn’t, as you just don’t write a letter the same as you write on Facebook.

  3. Fi says:

    The only point I would add is to be generous with your research, but also careful not to overwhelm. A great list, Alona.

  4. Diane Hewson says:

    Great List and some very wise words.

    • Alona says:

      aww thankyou Diane … I hasn’t considered them to be wise words, as in reality its things that have been learnt from experience ;P.

  5. Pauleen says:

    A great list Alona. I’m particularly fond of #8. I think that snowball may have caught up with me, but I’m working at it.

  6. Sharon says:

    Great list. I can relate to them all.

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