Welcome to iHCPL: The Next Generation. This site was created as the next step in Harris County Public Library's iHCPL Learning 2.0 Program; a discovery learning program designed to encourage staff to explore new technologies. The original iHCPL program was adapted from The Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County's Learning 2.0 Program.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Genealogy #67: Genealogy Genesis

Many have often wondered about their ancestry, but get discouraged because they are unsure of where to even start. Some have begun the searching process only to reach a block in the road. The goal of this module is to lead the way for those wanting to begin the process and to provide a few suggestions for those stuck at a roadblock. Library staff members who complete all 4 posts in this module (#67, #68, #69, #70) will receive three hours of training credit.

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Genealogy Genesis

One of the first things you’ll notice as you begin researching genealogy is the amount of time it takes to gather information. Think of your family history as a complex jigsaw puzzle. While you may never find every piece to fully complete your puzzle, each piece that you do find will bring you one step closer to seeing the big genealogical picture.

Here are the basic steps to get started when researching genealogy. Don't forget to pace yourself. Remember, this process takes time.

  1. First you have to select which family surname to start with. If you decide to work on two or more at the same time try to organize the information separately.
  2. Interview any living relatives or family friends that are willing to share information. Ask open-ended questions. Ask them to share stories from the past with you. Write down every detail and if the speaker feels shy about their every word being documented, just listen and write down everything they said down at a later time.
  3. Take pictures or scan any documents/photos that hold an importance to your ancestry. For example, if Aunt Mary is the only one in the family to have a copy of your great grandmother’s birth certificate and wedding photo, take pictures of these documents for your records. This is a lesson learned from personal experience as my family lost many cherished documents and photos due to a house fire.
  4. Organize your data. You can decide whether to document your family history on a paper or computer format. Here are a few downloadable genealogy charts available. Two free genealogy software programs available for download are Legacy Family Tree (SD edition) and Family Tree Builder. When beginning your family tree, start with yourself and then work backwards in time.
  5. Begin entering your gathered information into the genealogical sites, message boards and databases. Remember to record your sources and keep a research log. Post any queries you have onto message boards.

    Once you begin searching through U.S. Census records, it is important to understand that by law a census year cannot be released until the information obtained is 72 years old. During your research you may discover that there are some standard abbreviations used in the field of genealogy. Six Strategies for Finding Roots Online & 10 Steps for Finding Your Family Tree Online provide great online researching guidelines. You may also find it helpful to read the Freedom of Information Act. Visit the actual places where your family lived. Find out what churches, schools, courthouses, and libraries are located in that area that may have stored documents.
  6. Find your inner Sherlock Homes. Do some old fashioned detective work by visiting the places your family lived and locating any large genealogical depository such as Houston Public Library’s Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research that may house large amounts of documentation. The Clayton Library offers genealogical orientations to inform customers about the resources available.
  7. Share your information through social networking.

Additional Resources

HCPL: Genealogy contains links to a variety of genealogical websites on more specific areas: African American, Jewish, Hispanic, and Texas.

Online Genealogy Classes provides free online courses on topics such as beginning genealogy and tracing immigrant origins.

Genealogy Learning Center shows you how to organize your information.

Suggestions for Beginning Genealogists presents a listing of genealogy abbreviations along with suggested standards of recording your research.

About.com: Genealogy provides basic to advanced articles on researching genealogy.

10 things I Could Not Live Without in Genealogy lists tips by a genealogist researching her family history.


Have you studied your genealogy in the past? If so, what advice do you have for those new to genealogical researching? If you have not begun researching, list at least three steps you would take when beginning your research?

This module brought to you by Jorie Nissen (FM), Laura Smith (FM) & Rhiannon Perry (LAP).


Anonymous said...

Most death certificates list where the person was buried. I was able to find a great-great grandmother's and many great uncles' graves from one death certificate!

Anonymous said...

I found the topic very interesting. I've watched my mother work on the family tree for many years. I have my husband's side of the family but it lacked information I would have like to know. Thanks for the links. They were very helpful.