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.

Tree Tips

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.

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.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


8 Epic Emoji-Themed Crafts, Activities & Recipes
Check out the best emoji crafts, activities, and recipes! They're perfect for an emoji-themed birthday party or anytime you need DIY (and screen-free!) summer activities for kids, tweens, and teens.

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme!

10 Free Summer Learning Worksheets
Print these free printables for preschoolers and kindergarteners to help your child's mind stay sharp until September!

Ready for Kindergarten?
Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks