Success with Genealogy
There are no guarantees that you will be able to trace your lines successfully. But certainly, out of the 1,024 direct ancestors in 10 generations, there are some whom you can trace to their entry into America. Be patient and follow all clues. Those who achieve the most success are those who constantly follow all leads: church records, obituaries, vital records, military files, census—everything that could have a record created about their ancestor. They constantly restudy the material as new data is found, to glean clues they may have missed previously. If you are systematic and use sound research techniques, you will be rewarded. No one is pushing. If you need to take two years off from the search to complete your college education, no one is demanding that you write genealogy letters. When you are ready, genealogy is there for you to pursue.
Periodically reexamine the material you have accumulated. Today the name of “Elias Jenkins” in an old letter may mean nothing, but three months from now you may realize that had to be the son-in-law's name.
No Two the Same
Remember that every life is different. Each is important. Each had its joys and its sorrows. The stories of courtship, of moves by teams of oxen and early rail, will enthrall you. When I learned that one great-grandfather left New York as a small boy and sailed the Great Lakes to Wisconsin, it led to a study of the great sailing era when hundreds of boats dotted the lakes. Finding that a great-great-grandfather was a “forty-niner” to California and had sailed around the Horn was almost as much fun to study as learning that within a couple of years his young daughter followed from the East, by way of the treacherous Isthmus of Panama crossing.
The Past Has a Personality
You will find opportunities along every step of the search to bring history alive for you and your family. The search is not about collecting names. It is about identifying, with certainty, each of your ancestors and learning enough about their lives to forge a connection. When you read a will written in 1715 and realize what few possessions they had and how they parceled them out, you will understand their lives of bare necessities. When you find the 1850 inventory of an estate that lists shoemaker's tools, you will realize that your shoemaker grandfather was following in the family trade. The 1906 letter written from San Francisco will give a jolt when you realize that was the year of the big earthquake and fire. Opportunities to know your ancestors are endless. Enjoy them at every step of the search.
More on: Family History and Genealogy
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Genealogy © 2005 by Christine Rose and Kay Germain Ingalls. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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