FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
- What is Genealogy?
Genealogy is a branch of history that determines family relationships. The word genealogy is derived from the Greek "genea" meaning race or family and "logos" meaning discourse or study of. A genealogy is an account of the decent of a person or family from an ancestor or family progenitor. In a narrow sense genealogy is the study of individuals and their relationships to their family. In a broader sense it is a scientific study of individuals, their life story and how their stories are interwoven into the fabric of history. Family history is the basis of all history. Combining family histories creates the history of a community, combining community histories creates state histories and so on until national and world histories are created. History is about people and that is what genealogy is about.
- What is Genealogical Research?
Genealogical Research is the discovery, investigation and interpretation of historical facts. It involves seeking out factual accounts of past events, and interpreting those findings in the context of history in an objective and logical manner.
- How long have you been doing genealogical research?
- What are the objectives and goals that you have for your genealogical work?
- What are your Policies and Practices regarding Genealogical Information
Our Policies and Practices are discussed an a separate page at Policy and Practices.
- How does one get started doing genealogy?
We recommend that people get started by simply going to the LDS Church web site FamilySearch.org at http://www.familysearch.org using an Internet browser. The site is free and open to all. You do not have to be a member of the LDS Church to join. There are thousands of videos, documents and articles on all aspects of “How to do genealogy”. Also the site has access to original digitized documents you may use in your research as well as the "Family Tree" where you likely will find some of your ancestors that that others have posted. One may also seek out and visit local genealogical societies and nearby Mormon Church family history libraries. There you will find very helpful, knowledgeable people that can help you get started and guide you in your efforts..
Basic genealogical information is called BMDB which stands for Birth, Marriage, Death and Burial. If you can obtain the date and place of these four events on any individual you will have recorded the beginning. middle and end of the major events of that individuals life. In fact, most hereditary societies (Daughters of the American Revolution, Mayflower Descendants, Sons of the Confederacy, etc. ) often require proof of at least two of the three (birth, marriage and death) events for each one of your direct ancestors to prove lineage back to the ancestor that allows you to become a member of that society. The major information you should be seeking is both the date the event took place and the place of the event. Many people record just the dates of events when they should also record the place. Beyond the basic four (BMDB) events are literally thousands of events that can be sought out and recorded on any individual. Some of these are immigration, naturalization, baptism, military service, divorce, employment, education and even prison and court proceedings. It is the involvement of our ancestors in these events and particularly how they handled their roles that provides the history and character of our families. Genealogy may not be for you if you are ashamed to have ancestors who do not meet your own social standards. For you will find illegitimate children, husbands that abandoned their families, suicides, outlaws and even the proverbial horse thief or worse. All families have them. You will also find far more of the opposite, where ancestors have distinguished themselves by their contributions to society by military service, establishing churches and other institutions, being preachers, doctors, lawyers, mayors, merchants, politicians, commissioners, chiefs and community leaders in a variety of ways. These are the people that make up the fabric of society as well as the fabric of your family. You may also find nobility and status in your search. However, it will do you well to remember the words of Sir Thomas Overbury, in his Characters (1614): "The man who has not anything to boast of but illustrious ancestors is like a potato - the only good belonging to him is underground."
In searching for records pertaining to your ancestors you should be seeking the facts and reporting them in an objective way so as to describe the truth of the matter. To alter the truth or color it in anyway is a serious disservice to genealogy and your family and serves no useful purpose.
- How does one do genealogy?
One does genealogy by seeking out factual information about events in peoples lives. This can and should be done by interviewing your parents and grandparents and older relatives. Find out what they remember of their parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, great aunts and great uncles, etc. You will find that this will often get you at least names and the make-up of your ancestor's family units which provides an excellent starting point for your research.. Attempt to get information on when and where these named individuals were born, lived and died. This information will guide you to places where you can look for records to confirm the information given you. You will quickly run out of information as you proceed backwards in time beyond peoples memories.
The best source of information is written documents. You should seek out basic BMDB (birth, marriage, death, burial) records. These should be sought for all your close family members and your direct line ancestors. Unfortunately, in the United States birth and death records were not widely kept by civil authorities until about 1920 when most states passed laws requiring vital birth and death records. Thus unless your ancestors lived in large cities, which had health departments and kept vital records, you may not find birth and death certificates for those events if they took place prior to 1920. This is why old family bibles with birth, marriage and death dates or other similar family records are extremely valuable as these are often the only written documents about pre- 1920 vital events that exist. Always ask your older relatives if they know of any family bibles and who might have them. Most states have recorded marriages from early pre-statehood colonial times and these records are quite valuable. Gravestones and cemetery records are good sources of information about deceased ancestors and one of the best ways to start researching your ancestors. Very often you will find other family members (and children who died young) buried in a family plot or located near each other in a cemetery. Be aware though that although the information on the gravestone is "carved in stone" it may not be accurate. Gravestones are often placed many years after the event and often have birthdate errors and even sometimes death date errors.
The next most important records from a genealogical research viewpoint, beyond birth, marriage, death and burial are census records. Ancestry.com has indexed and digitized these records and for a subscrition fee you can access and view them. They provide a picture of the family unit every 10 years (except in 1890 as that census was destroyed). It is true that they contain errors and inaccuracies. However, they show family relationships and place individuals in specific places at specific times. That information provides direct guidance on where to look for other records which more that makes up for any errors in census records. Knowing that the Jones family resided in say 1900 in Anytown, Any County, Anystate tells you to search the City and County records of Anytown in the period around 1900 for more information on the Jones family. A search of the courthouse records may find Jones marriages (marriages usually took place in the home county of the Bride, just as they do today), divorces, wills and other court records, tax records, deeds where they bought or sold property or gave property to their children. A search of the local library may find microfilms of local newspapers or genealogies that someone has written about the Jones family. Through deeds and tax records you may find exactly where they resided and may find relatives still living on the property or nearby. A search of the churches and cemeteries in the area where your ancestors lived may reveal graves of long lost relatives. Seeking and collecting these records and information will soon add up to an extensive account of the history of your family.
There are thousands of places where you can look for records pertaining to your ancestors. By being creative and resourceful you can seek those records out and add to your knowledge of your family. You should be searching for records in courthouses, libraries, archives, churches, genealogical and historical societies, and patriotic, hereditary, civic and business organizations. They all may have records on your ancestors. The task and challenge is to locate these records and determine what they tell you about your ancestors.
One other fine point is the "get them all" rule. When going thorough records you should record all the entries that contain the surname you are searching - "get them all", even if you don't think those entries are part of your family. Eventually you will find that many of those entries do relate to your family and it will save you a trip back to the courthouse or library. You will also need that information to determine how many other people with the same full name or surname are living in the area. There are often more than one person with the same name in the same area at the same time. It is thus imperative that you obtain sufficient evidence to be able to identify which of these persons are part of your family and which are not. Prior to this century most families were large, usually averaging a dozen children. Tradition was to use family names over and over again. Almost every family had a John or a William. In fact, it is difficult to find a family that did not have one of those names in it.. Thus in any given area there might be three or four John Unusual's. The Unusual surname may be very rare and due to that fact everyone with that surname is likely related. However, with four John's it may be quite a task to figure out exactly how they are related.
One also needs to remember that most people 100 years ago could not read and write. Thus names were recorded as the record clerk heard them and the clerk would write then down how he thought they were spelled or how they were spelled in that area. Thus there are numerous ways individuals have their name recorded in records, nearly always dependent on a clerk who did not know the individual but who did the best they could to record the individuals name. One must search for all spelling variations of a name to ensure finding all records. It is also a good practice to date and indicate where you found each piece of information. That will allow you or others to find it again in case there is some question regarding your copying of it.
- How does one use the Internet for genealogical research?
The Internet has had a major impact on genealogy. Every day more and more genealogical information is digitized and being posted on web pages making it easily available to all and reducing the need to travel long distances to find information. Browsers and search engines can instantaneously find information, search documents and make copies by the click of a mouse. This saves hours of boring line by line searches of documents and having to copy by hand what is found.
By far the greatest impact the Internet has had is in bringing researchers together. Researchers can share their information, ideas and problems easily and then proceed to quickly and efficiently work together to advance the genealogy of the family and very often solve genealogical problems that have plagued researchers for years.
We use the Internet primarily for finding distant cousins that are researching the same family lines that we are searching. We do this by
- By posting our genealogies on our web pages and having those pages indexed by a number of genealogical and commercial search engines.
- By posting our genealogies database on Rootsweb World Connect Site for others to view.
- By listing our ancestors and interests and placing queries on various lists maintained by USGenWeb, Rootsweb and the LDS Church. (www.familysearch.org)
These activities allow others to find us and we use these same lists to find researchers with common interests.
Today with genealogy sites like familysearch.org, rootsweb.com, ancestry.com, myheritage.com and google.com one can enter the name of an ancestor on those sites and quite often find much of their family ancestry. That is because someone had at some point done research in the old fashioned way by going to courthouses, libraries, archives, cemeteries, and interviewing relatives to compile a family genealogy. Unfortunately much of the information found on these sites, while probably accurate, is usually not documented as to where that information came from. That makes it difficult to verify the genealogy found on these sites. Also often dozens of individuals post the same and often conflicting information on these sites. This can make it difficult to determine which information is correct. We recommend you verify all key information on at least your direct line ancestors by seeking out original records. It is also very likely that through these sites you will contact a distant cousin who has done work on some branch of your family. This contact and the sharing of information will be very rewarding and help you collect information on your family very quickly.
- What are your favorite sites on the internet for genealogical information.
We use the LDS Church site www.familysearch.org , Rootsweb ( www.rootsweb.com ) and closely associated USGenWeb ( www.usgenweb.org ) much of our Internet genealogy searching. In recent years the LDS Church has started a "Family Tree" on their www.familysearch.org site The FamilySearch "Family Tree" consists of a private part contain living people (which only you have access to) and a public part containing deceased people. Family Tree is intended to become a single family tree for the entire human race with only one entry for each deceased person. Information in this tree is intended to be accurate and to be based on documented sources. This "Family Tree" can also be corrected and updated as new information becomes available. In time we suspect the LDS "Family Tree" will be a place to find a reliable and far more documented and correct listing of ones ancestry. In fact, we are currently posting much of the work we have done in the past 35 years onto the FamilySearch.org site in their "Family Tree". These organizations are non-profit, do not charge for their services and are run mostly by volunteers. They are the oldest, largest and most extensive sites on the internet dedicated to genealogy. There are also many commercial genealogy sites like www.ancestry.com and www.myheritage.com that provide searchable databases for a membership fee that we also use. All of these sites provide a vast amount of information on "how to do genealogy", have extensive searchable genealogical archives, and provide archiving of your family records for others to see. They also sponsor and support a variety of other services, like e-mail lists and queries, that promote genealogy. One needs to continually check with these sites just to keep up with their offerings.
- How do I get a print-out of the whole genealogy without having to call up each page and print it a page at a time?
- What genealogical software programs do you use?
- What genealogical software programs do you recommend?
- What genealogical areas do you have special knowledge of?
- What is a GEDCOM file?
- How do I prepare a GEDCOM file?
- How do I send you my data?
The best way to send us your data is in its the "native" format and not as a GEDCOM file. We are able to read Family Gathering, Family Origins, Family Tree Maker, Generations, RootsMagic, Legacy, Personal Ancestral File, Roots III+, and Visual Roots filesThey do not have be converted over to a Gedcom file. You can send your whole database or split out just a branch containing all the descendants of an individual branch of your tree.
We started doing research on our families in 1979 following a family reunion where we were made aware of some of our ancestry. That raised our curiosity and the next thing we knew we were reading books on "How to Find Your Ancestors" and visiting cemeteries, libraries, archives and courthouses.
Our main objective is to find out just who our ancestors are and learn about their life and times. We pursue all our ancestral lines with that same objective. Our goal is to determine as many descendants of our ancestors as we can by forward searching research and to publish those results when sufficient information is found. This practice has been the most rewarding to us as it has brought us into contact with hundreds of "cousins". We have become close friends with many of them and all of them have been most generous in sharing their family history with us. If it wasn't for our genealogy we would never have had the opportunity to meet so many interesting kinfolks.
The best way to read our genealogies is to go to the Title/Introduction page of the family line you are interested in. On that page will be gemera; background information, a family tree begining witht he family progentor, list of important family members and family phots or articles. Beginning in 2004, we have been updating our genealogies using a new format. We believe the new format takes advantage of the Internet and web browsers and allows one to "surf" the genealogy just like one "surfs" the web. If you are just interested in learning about the family's early beginnings it is best to start at the first generation or progenitor of the family and start reading about our earliest ancestors and continue reading about people in subsequent generations. If you are looking for a particular individual in our genealogies you can go to the indexes to find that individual.
If you would like a single file of one of our genealogies or even a part of a genealogy that you can send to your printer send us an e-mail with your request. We will send you a file that when printed, will read like a book and not have all the web page markings that one gets when pulling pages down from the web. Just be careful about what you ask for as most of the genealogies run several hundred pages.
We currently use The Master Genealogist (TMG) as our main genealogical program and use RootsMagic (RM) for interfacing with the LDS Church FamilySearch.org site and its "Family Tree". We use Second Site (SS) for publishing our genealogy on to our web pages. We used Ultimate Family Tree (UFT) and its ROOTS predecessor programs since 1986. Prior to 1986, we used the Mormon Church's Personal Ancestral File (PAF) program.. We used UFT and TMG for many years because it had superior source citation and genealogical report publishing capability that suited our needs better than other programs we had tried. Unfortunately, The Master Genealogist (TMG) has been discontinued and no longer available for direct purchase or being supported. Genealogy is now moving to web based programs.
For those who wish to have their own software program to be stored on their computer we recommend Roots Magic (from www.rootsmagic.com). It can be purchased on line and is compatible with the LDS Church’s FamilySearch site. Many other programs on the market are also just fine for most people’s use. Some have or are moving to be able to share and exchange data with the LDS Church’s FamilySearch "Family Tree". No matter which program you use it is important that it can share information between the program on your computer and the "Family Tree" on FamilySearch.org as that will be a major source of growing your tree. Also we suggest any program you buy be able to handle the Unicode characters sets. Many genealogy programs were written years ago using databases that recognize only the original 8 bit ANSI character set and have not been upgraded to recognizing the newer Unicode characters. These programs may not work when importing or having to enter accented or other non-English or non-Latin based characters that you may require.
On Clarice's lines we have done much genealogical work in the southern portion of the United States. Our work has centered primarily on Florida, Georgia and South Carolina going back to colonial or early state records. We have done work in North Carolina and Virginia to a lesser extent. Work in these areas has involved research in all the major genealogical libraries and archives in those states, visits to dozens of county courthouses, local libraries and cemeteries. We have also corresponded extensively with hundreds of cousins throughout the United States and Canada.
On Joe's line we have done much work in the Cleveland, Ohio area from the mid 1800's to present. In europe we have done work in the Czech Republic, Germany and Poland by searching microfilmed and digitized church records available from major archives and a few cousins in the Czech Republic.
A GEDCOM file is a special electronic file used to transfer genealogical data from one genealogical program to another. It is an abbreviation for GEnealogical Data COMmunication. It is a standard format that was developed by the Mormon Church for genealogical use. Over the years there have been newer versions of the standard format so as to be able to include more information in the transfer , beside the usual Birth, Marriage, Death and Burial. Although it transfers most of the information well it has a number of problems in handling complex citations, notes and comments so they do not transfer as well.
Below are simplified instructions for preparing a GEDCOM file from Family Tree Maker. If you use a different program you should review your manual to determine how to split out the branch of your tree that you want to send us and how to create a GEDCOM file. Most programs will work in a manner similar to that described below:
If you have your data in Family Tree Maker, use the following procedure to make a GEDCOM file.
First determine which ancestors you want to split out of your database and send to us. This can be best done by first putting the oldest ancestor of the branch you want to split out on the "Family Page. Lets say it is Alexander Bell (1802-1880). After highlighting Alexander Bell on the "Family Page" go to View and then to "Outline Descendant Tree". This will create a descendant tree starting with Alexander Bell . You may have to go to the "Contents" screen to increase the number of generations to over 10 to make sure you show all descendants down to current generations.. Then with the descendant tree in view, with as many generations as you want to send us, you go to "File", then to "Copy/Export individual in descendant Tree" and click on it. This brings you to a export screen where you have to tell the program where to save the file (you will need to remember where you saved the file), what to name the file (the program will try to give it the same name as your database program. We recommend giving it a different name like Abell) and then you have to select the type of file. Choose GEDCOM which will automatically ad the .GED to the file name. Then click on Save. This will take you to another screen where you should choose the destination as "ROOTS", the Gedcom Version as 5.5 and the character set as ANSI. Then save the file and the file Abell.GED will be created in the directory you choose. This file will contain all the information you have on each individual in Alexander Bell's descendant tree. It will include all information on each individual even if that information was not shown in the view screen of the descendant tree. To send us the file just attach it to an e-mail. You could also make a GEDCOM file out of your whole file by using the Copy/Export command under "File".