I thought maybe now would be a good time to include some resources for those of you who have been bitten by the genealogy bug.
For those experienced genealogists out there, bear with me for a moment. Most of what you are about to hear you probably already know.
But to those of you who are new to this hobby, a few words about useful tools may be helpful.
I started doing genealogy in 1977 – which coincided with two important events.
First, Alex Haley’s chronicle of his hunt for his African ancestors, the blockbuster book, Roots, was made into a TV mini-series. Like thousands of other Americans, I suddenly developed a burning curiosity about all the family stories I had heard over the years and wondered if they were true.
Second, the birth of my son also happened in 1977.
There is nothing like having children to arouse your curiosity about your family history. After all, every good parent wants to be able to answer an inquisitive child’s questions. And when you start having children, you start wondering who your child resembles: does he take after Grandpa Speer? Or does she have dimples like Great Aunt Sarah?
Genealogy can supply some of the answers to those questions.
There was a third reason – I did it as a gift for my late first father-in-law. He had absolutely no clue what nationality he was, where his ancestors came from – in short, he knew nothing. And I could tell it bothered him.
His wife’s family knew their origins. He, on the other hand, couldn’t even claim an “old country” from which his family hailed.
So I set out to find what I could about his family tree. After all, it is part of my son’s inheritance, too.
Over 30 years have passed since I began this hobby.
A lot has changed – the internet has revolutionized genealogy research:
- Records are online in digital format now – and many are FREE!
- Plus – the best part – researchers can share information with each other
- Email and blogs make it easy for far-flung family members to stay in touch – or even meet new cousins online that you didn’t even know existed
- A lot of research in the old days was via “snail mail” – postage added up fast, as did time spent waiting for a reply. It’s a lot faster and cheaper now with email.
- When I started, genealogy meant paper records kept in filing cabinets. Now, special genealogy software makes it so much easier to update records as new information is discovered. And sharing files with other people is as easy as a few mouse clicks!
But genealogy doesn’t require a laptop, software or anything fancy. It can be started on a shoestring budget, with just a loose-leaf notebook and a pencil.
It does help to have some paper forms handy for your next trip to the library or even when you’re browsing some old newspaper obituaries.
- Lineages.com has a great 31-page document called the Genealogy Toolkit that you can download that contains most of the forms you need to get you started, including: a Pedigree Chart, Family Group Record, a Research Calendar, Research Extract forms for birth, marriage and death records, a Contact Log Sheet, a Source Checklist and U.S. Federal Census Abstract Forms.
- Cyndi’s List also has a bunch of links to sources of FREE downloadable forms – and a wealth of other information, too.
- ObituariesHelp.org also has a nice collection of downloadable pedigree charts containing from three to ten generations on a single chart!
It would be great if all of the Knapp cousins could print out one of the Family Group Records and fill it out – and then bring it to the 2010 Knapp Family Reunion. I don’t have much information on the more recent generations, so it would be nice to be able to “fill in the blanks” there, too!
Happy ancestor hunting!