Friday, September 17, 2010

The Need to Know

By now you should be a long way out one of your tree branches. The further out you climb, the thicker the leaves. The thicker the leaves the more difficult it is to see where you are going. The more difficult it is to see where you are going the easier it is to feel you are lost. Don't give up. Sometimes it is helpful to take a break and put everything aside. Climb down out of the tress and go to the mall, the movies, the park, or where every it is that gets your mind off the tree climbing.

Sometimes it is helpful to show another family member what you have put together. They may be suprised, and be willing to help, or add some insight that might get you going in a new direction. Don't worry, there are enough tree climbers out there that will encourage you along the way.

Now you have it. A true time machine expert. Remember that documentation is important and be prepared for skeletons. The heart of a genealogist is to know. Know who we are. Know where we have been. Know what we did. Know why we survived. Know where the family existed and is buried in the dust of the earth. At the age of nine, I stood before my first ancestors cemetery. I wanted to thank them. Be sure and thank your ancetors too.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Public Records

If you have made it this far, you must have the infection...that genealogy infection that unites all us crazy tree climbing folks. Hopefully you will survive, so let's keep going.

Public records are available at three levels. You have already made your trip to your local courthouse, and identified the county clerk's office. Here are the local documents so important to include in your families' history. Make a couple of trips to orient you to the resources available.

The second level is the state or territorial records. In the U.S.A., each state has a capitol which is the center of the state's history. There is usually a State Archives which is specially interested in preserving the state's history and records. These archives begin with the date of admission of the state to the Union. Once you have identified which state your family comes, this would be your next attention getter if you have made the rounds at your local level. They will house many records that have no genealogical value and yet others will contain considerable family history. There is usually a State Historical Society, the State Library, or the State Historical Commission.

The third level is the national. Federal records are kept in the National Archives, Washington, D.C. There are census records, land records, ships' passenger lists, naturalization records, military service and pension records, and bounty land records. The National Archives was founded in 1934 and holds records from 1775. Genealogical records comprise but one per cent of all the records stored in the Archives.

So there you have the next travel itenterery. When your tree climbing takes you further back in history, the second and third levels may be your best resource.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

From Private to Public

By now you should have used up all the family records you have at hand. Remember to check for photographic albums, engraved jewelry and silverware, insurance papers, Social Security papers, employment records, memory books, inscriptions in gift books and the like.

It is time to move from private to public records. What makes a record "public" is regulated by state law. Each state may vary somewhat but a public record can be defined as any written or printed book, document or paper, map or plan which is the property of the state or of any county or municipality or part thereof, and in or on which any officer or employee of the state, or of a county or municipality, has received or is required to receive for filing or recording. The courthouse is the center of public records and offers the location of these records often needed for genealogical research. The county records include criminal court records, civil court records (foreclosures, divorces, register of probate), wills and letters of administration, land records (deeds, mortgages, powers of attorney), vital records such as marriage licenses, marriage records, and certain miscellaneous records such as tax rolls, register of voters, and Coroner's files. Wow, enough already. Beware, it is only the beginning.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Along the Way

Now that you have your map, you need to stop a few places along the way. The first is your local library. Here there is usally a person who has an interest in local history and genealogy. Find out who this is because they will become a real help in time of trouble. Next, find the genealogy references that the library has on the shelf. These will often include local genealogies of the families near by, and maybe even one about your own family. It is here that you will usually find the census books that have been collected by the library. They will be an invaluable tool as you progress in your tree climbing. Also, there is usaually a city directory going back in time which is always fun to travel to see if you can find great granddad or grandmaw among the papes. The library may also have county and state records, newspaper files, family files, local maps, and all the things that may help you establish your documentation. When in doubt ask, and more often then not you will have to turn the librarian's button to off. Finally, check the book stacks for the county and state's history. Understanding the history which surrounds your time travel will make the journey much more exciting.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Get the Map

Now that your a time traveler (genealogist), your next step is to get your map. A map is the direction that you want to go back in history. It gives you the routes, bridges, pathways, detours, and construction sites that will or might lay ahead. For me, the best way to get your map is to start from what you know the most certain, and decide which tree branch you want to explore. You have your five generational geneogram, your notebook, your blank graph paper, pencils, ruler, and sheet protectors. Start your map by placing the grandparents on their own page by using square and circles. This would mean four sets of grandparents, two for you and two for your spouse. (That is if you have a spouse.) Then date the pages in the upper right corner such that you can just flip the edges to find a date. Next write the state, (or country), county within the state, and hometown that each grandparent resided. Then write the surname and maiden name of each couple at the side of the page. You will soon find out where you need to go. For example, say one grandparent's married name is Jones. (of course) The spouse's surname is Slaughter. They were both born in KY.(of course) The Jones lived in Clark, Co., and the Slaughter family lived in Madison Co., KY. They lived roughly in the 1850s. Now, I don't known any more than this about these grandparents. 1850 would be written in the right upper edge of the graph paper page which contains their square and circle. Jones, Slaughter, Kentucky, Clark Co., Madison Co., would all be written on the page large enough to be seen easily. Do this for each set of grandparents and you have begun your map.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A "Time Traveler"

Just call yourself a "time traveler" from now on. You have history at your fingertips. A few notes to take along. First, be prepared for skeletons. No matter which family tree branch you climb out, there will always be surprises. These surprises may be good or bad, but you must be willing to accept the facts as you find them. Second, even the "official" documents may have errors. I spent 10 years climbing out on the wrong branches do to an error in the 1850 census. The census had my relative born in KY 1796, when he was actually born in VA. This caused me to eliminate the very Jones line I came through until I discovered this error. Third, remember to document everything. This is where you obtained the information, if reference, cemetery, library, court house, Bible records, family records, and so on. The documentation will be the "bread crumbs" that others may follow your trail of time travel. Now push the buttons, and let's start traveling.