Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Jumpstart Your Family History in Ten Steps: Step One -- Where to Begin

Since the development of the earliest codified methodology for doing genealogy, the first step has been to gather your readily available personal and family records. But today, we find ourselves saturated with electronic media. We recently passed a huge line of people waiting to vote in the national elections and nearly all of them were glued to some sort of electronic device, usually a smartphone. I don't believe I have received a paper letter from a relative for years, except for a few holiday or birthday cards and Christmas letters. Even my personal journal, which I have been keeping for over forty years, has long been entirely digital. In addition, I have digitized nearly all of our collection of photographs and other genealogically pertinent documents we have collected over the years. So the idea of collecting paper documents and records to start doing genealogy is probably a very narrow view of how one should begin in the electronic world we live in.

Today's reality is summarized by looking at the Memories section contain contributed photographs, documents and stories contributed by generations of my ancestors. Here is a very small sample of that page showing some of the people who have "Memories" on the website.

If I click on any one of these relatives, I will see all the items contributed by that person's family to the Memories section. Here is an example from my Great-great-grandfather.

In short, I have immediate access to more documents and photos than I could imagine existing just a few short years ago. So how does this change the idea of collecting records? The idea here is begin by collecting, digitizing and posting your documents online on the Memories section. Why not use someother online program? Well, is free, searchable, permanent and everything you put there will be available to anyone in your family. If you don't like that idea because of privacy concerns or other issues, then that is a different problem that I have written about many times.

What about our own personal memories or those of our living relatives? Should we put all of our own documents online? What about those of our living relatives? On the website and most others, items pertaining to living people are restricted from view by others than the person posting the items. I suggest you watch my video on the BYU Family History Library YouTube ChannelWhat will happen to your Genealogy when you Die - James Tanner, to find out what I think about preserving your own personal records.

Obviously, in many cases, when you go to the Memories section of the website, you might not find anything at all contributed. So here is where you start. You begin by entering you own basic information into the Family Tree and then your parents and other dead relatives. Once they are in the Family Tree you can begin adding whatever documents and photos you may have about these dead people.

As soon as you enter dead family members into the Family Tree, the program will begin looking for record hints. The record hints will be suggested indexed records in the vast Historical Record Collections. At this point you may wish to have some instruction about the whole process of researching your family. Concurrently with your efforts to add in a few of your dead relatives, I suggest that you begin learning about the process of doing family history from the online, free website, The Family History Guide or You start with the Introduction.

As you add in your relatives to the Family Tree, you might be surprised to find out that someone has already added a lot of additional people in your family. This takes us to the next step in the process.

Here is the first post in this series.

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