Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Work from the "Known to the Unknown"

In life, most aspects of daily living have guidelines or guiding principles which help us sidestep choices that might undermine or distract us from things that matter most and are of the most value.

In family history research, there are guidelines that, when implemented, can be of great benefit to us. Working from the KNOWN to the UNKNOWN is probably considered to be the First Commandment of Genealogy.

Beginners and dabblers don’t always heed this directive and either become whiners, frustrated with their progress or lack thereof or they waste a lot of time, energy, and financial recourses or they give up because the ‘hit a brick wall’.

But what is meant by working from THE KNOWN TO THE UNKNOWN ? It is not a secret formula nor is it a difficult method to learn. It does take discipline and some reigning in. Like a top race horse, a trainer does not give free reign when top performance and a quality outcome is desired.

Family history success isn’t going back as far as you can with names and dates as quickly as possible. It is systematically researching and gathering documentation on family one ancestor at a time whereby we become acquainted with them from generation to generation. Creating a web of identifying factors helps pinpoint our ancestor. Knowing names of the people in their family of origin (the family they were born into), their family of choice (spouse and children), occupation, church affiliation, event dates and places and other factors is essential. We then can be assured we have the “right people” and will be ready and able to go another generation back….and the process repeats itself. Document everything. Don’t take ‘Aunt Harriet’s’ word for it.

Begin with you….then your siblings and their posterity

Next your parents…. and then their siblings and their posterity

Next your parent’s parents…. and their siblings and their posterity

And so on with each generation

Immerse yourself in the lives of your ancestors by gathering credible evidence of their lives and the times in which they lived. You will feel a richness and an affection for them while getting to know them for from them came you.

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