Introduction to Genealogical Research

Genealogy is considered the fastest growing hobby in the world today. In fact, it may have reached the status of number one hobby in the United States. The incredible amount of information available on the Internet and on various CD-ROM publications are probably responsible for a significant part of this growth. Students entering a beginning genealogy class today usually enter with a genealogy software program, a collection of CD-ROM publications, and hundreds of ancestors downloaded from the many family websites on the Internet. For many students, this information has given them a significant boost. For others, it has severely limited their efforts. This course has been designed to incorporate modern technology with good, old-fashioned leg work.

Remember that your goal is finding people, not surnames!

Genealogical research consists of proving identity and relationship. [Note: The words "prove" or "proof" when used in genealogy do not carry the same meaning as those same words used in mathematics or scientific fields. Contrary to popular opinion, genealogists do not deal in "facts;" they deal in evidence and construct hypotheses. These hypotheses are always open to new interpretations based upon new evidence. However, "prove" is a much shorter word.] Name, location, and birth, marriage and death dates are the simplest pieces of evidence used to show identity. But, these may not enough to formulate a strong hypothesis. You must include an individual's associations as well: parents' names, siblings, spouse, children.

Research Steps

All problem-solving progresses from the known to the unknown. Begin with the person in your family that you know best: yourself.

Finding the Evidence

Before you can interpret the evidence, you must find it. The ability to find evidence requires background knowledge we seldom consider.

Analyzing and Correlating the Evidence

The Genealogical Proof Standard, or GPS, is genealogy's gold standard. The five elements of the GPS are quoted from the Board for Certification of Genealogists' website.

Additional Introductory Information

Class lessons will illustrate types of records and how to find them; analysis of the information contained therein, and the documentation of all information. Using the GPS, we will gradually build a solid family picture by correlating evidence from census records, vital records, land and probate records, and military records.

Begin your search for family evidence with your immediate family and those records they keep in attics, basements, dresser drawers, and their own memories. Let's start with Family Records.

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