2. Were Related To ... Someone Famous• It must be human nature to want to claim descent from a famous ancestor. Many people become involved in genealogy research in the first place because they share a surname with someone famous and assume that it means they are somehow related to that renowned individual. While this may indeed be true, it is very important not to jump to any conclusions and begin your research at the wrong end of your family tree! Just as you would research any other surname, you need to start with yourself and work your way back to the "famous" ancestor. You will have an advantage in that many published works may already exist for the famous individual you think you are related to, but keep in mind that any such research should be considered a secondary source. You will still need to look at primary documents for yourself to verify the accuracy of the authors research and conclusions. Just remember that the search to prove your descent from someone famouscan be more fun than actually proving the connection!
3. Genealogy is More Than Just NamesDates• Genealogy is about much more than how many names you can enter or import into your database. Rather than be concerned about how far back youve traced your family or how many names you have in your tree, you should get to know your ancestors. What did they look like? Where did they live? What events in history helped to shape their lives? Your ancestors had hopes and dreams just as you have, and while they might not have found their lives interesting, I just bet you will.• One of the best ways to start learning more about your familys special place in history is to interview your living relatives- discussed in Mistake #1. You may be surprised at the fascinating stories they have to tell when given the right opportunity and an interested pair of ears.
4. Dont Accept Family Legends As Fact• Most families have stories and traditions which are handed down from generation to generation. These family legends can provide many clues to further your genealogy research, but you need to approach them with an open mind. Just because your Great-Grandma Mildred says that it happened that way, dont make it so! Stories about famous ancestors, war heroes, surname changes, and the familys nationality all probably have their roots in fact. Your job is to sort out these facts from the fiction which has likely grown as embellishments were added to stories over time. Approach family legends and traditionswith an open mind, but be sure to carefully investigate the facts for yourself. If you are unable to prove or disprove a family legend you can still include it in a family history. Just be sure to explain whats true and whats false, and whats proven and whats unproven - and write down how you arrived at your conclusions.
5. Dont Trust Everything You See in Printf Its On The Internet, It Must Be True!Just because a family genealogy or a record transcription has been written down or published does not necessarily mean that it is correct. It is important as a family historian not to make assumptions about the quality of the research done by others. Everyone from professional genealogists to your own family members can make mistakes! Most printed family histories are likely to have at least a minor error or two, if not more. Books which contain transcriptions (cemetery, census, will, courthouse, etc.) may be missing vital information, may have transcription errors, or may even make invalid assumptions (e.g. stating that John is the son of William because he is the beneficiary of his will, when this relationship was not explicitly stated).The Internet is a valuable genealogy research tool, but Internet data, like other published sources, should be approached with skepticism. Even if the information you find seems the perfect match to your own family tree, dont take anything for granted. Even digitized records, which are generally fairly accurate, are at least one generation removed from the original. Dont get me wrong - theres plenty of great data online. The trick is to learn howto separate the good online data from the bad, by verifying and corroborating every detail for yourself. Contact the researcher, if possible, and retrace their research steps. Visit the cemetery or courthouse and see for yourself.
6. Dont Neglect to Document YourSources• Unless you really like having to do your research more than once, it is important to keep track of where you find all of your information. Document and cite those genealogy sources, including the name of the source, its location and the date. Its also helpful to make a copy of the original document or record or, altematively, an abstract or transcription. Right now you may think you have no need to ever go back to that source, but that probably isnt true. So often, genealogists find that they overlooked something important the first time they looked at a document and need to go back to it. Write down the source for every bit of information you collect, whether it be a family member, Web site, book, photograph or tombstone. Be sure to include the location for the source so that you or other family historians can reference it again if need be. Documenting your research is sort of like leaving a breadcrumb trail for others to follow - allowing them to judge your family tree connections and conclusionsfor themselves. It also makes it easier for you to remember Iklat youve already done, or go back• to a source when you find new evidence Iklich appears to conflict with your conclusions.
7. Dont Jump Straight to the Country ofOrigin• Many people, especially Americans, are anxious to establish cultural identity- tracing their family tree back to the country of origin. In general, however, its generally impossible to jump right into genealogy research in a foreign country without a strong base of preliminary research. Youll need to know who your immigrant ancestor is, when he decided to pick up and move, and the place where he originally came from. Knowing the country isnt enough - youll usually have to identify the town or village or origin in the Old Countryto successfully locate your ancestors records.
8. Dont Misspell the Word Genealogy• This is fairly basic, but many people new to genealogy research have trouble spelling the word genealogy. There are several ways that people spell the word, the most common being "geneology" with geneaology coming in a close second. A more exhaustive list will include almost every variation: geneology,• geneaology, genlogy, geniology, etc. This may not seem as if it is a big deal, but if you wish to appear professional when you are posting queries or want people to take your family history research seriously, you will need to learn how to spell the word genealogy correctly.• Here is a silly memory tool that I ca m e up with to help you remember the correct order for the vowels in the word genealogy:• Genealogists Evidently Needing Endless Ancestors Look Obsessively in Grave Yards ▫ GENEALOGY• Too silly for you? Mark Howells has an excellent mnemonicfor the word on his Web site.• Kimberly Powell, About.coms Genealogy Guide since 2000, is a professional genealogist and the author of "Everything Family Tree, 2nd Edition. n Click herefor more information on Kimberfy Poweff.
9. Dont Forget Your Living Relatives• Genealogy can be a very fascinating and addictive hobby. Each step that you take in researching your familys history can lead you to new ancestors, delightful stories and a real sense of your place in history. If you are new to genealogy research, however, there are ten key mistakes that you will want to avoid in order to make your search a successful and pleasant experience.• Dont Forget Your Living Relatives• If only .... is a lament that you so often hear from genealogists who regret having put off visits with elderly relatives who have since passed away. Family members are a genealogists most important source, and often the only source for the stories which bring our family history to life. Visiting with and talking to your relativesshould be at the top of every genealogists "to-do" list. If you just cant get in a visit right now then try writing to your relative with a list of questions, send them a memory bookto fill with their stories, or get a relative or friend who lives nearby to visit with them and ask them questions. You will find that most relatives are eager to have their memories recorded for posterity if given the proper encouragement. Please dont end up as one of the if onlys ...
10. Were Related To ... Someone Famous• It must be human nature to want to claim descent from a famous ancestor. Many people become involved in genealogy research in the first place because they share a sumame with someone famous and assume that it means they are somehow related to that renowned individual. While this may indeed be true, it is very important not to jump to any conclusions and begin your research at the wrong end of your family tree! Just as you would research any other surname, you need to start with yourself and work your way back to the "famous" ancestor. You will have an advantage in that many published works may already exist for the famous individual you think you are related to, but keep in mind that any such research should be considered a secondary source. You will still need to look at primary documents for yourself to verify the accuracy of the authors research and conclusions. Just remember that the search to prove your descent from someone famouscan be more fun than actually proving the connection!
11. Beware GENERIC Family Histories• They are in magazines, in your mailbox and on the Internet - advertisements which promise "a family history of *your surname* in America." Unfortunately, many people have been tempted into purchasing these mass-produced coats of arms and surnarne books, consisting mainly of lists of surnames, but masquerading as family histories. Dont let yourself be mislead into believing that this could be your family history. These types of generic family histories usually contain• a few paragraphs of general information on the origin of the surname (usually one of several possible origins and likely having nothing to do with your family)• a coats of arms (which were granted to a specific individual, not a specific surname, and therefore, in all likelihood, do not belong to your specific surname or family)• a list of people with your surname (usually taken from phone books which are widely available on the Internet)• While were on the topic, those Family Crests and Coats of Arms you see at the mall are also a bit of a scam. There generally is no such thing as a coat of arms for a surname - despite the claims and implications of some companies to the contrary. Coats of arms are granted to individuals, not families or surnames. Its OK to purchase such a Coats of Arms for fun or display, just as long as you understand what youre getting for your money.