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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Family History - Document EVERYTHING you find!

I have taught genealogy for years.  I have worked in Family History Centers and have been doing my own research since I was 11.  In these years, I have accumulated much information about my ancestors.  In the days of paper, I had a fantastic filing system that I also taught.  It made finding anything and everything easy - BUT - the age of computers and Internet have changed my whole way of doing things.

I have begun using a program called Roots Magic.  There are a huge variety of programs out there and most of them do pretty much the same thing.  I personally chose Roots Magic because I liked the way it looks, the way it allows me to enter and document all information, it allows me to make a "to do" list and follow it, and to access church information that I use with ease.  It is a great program for newbie's, those only wanting to do church related work, and professional genealogist alike. 

One of the greatest features of Roots Magic is that you can download a "To Go" program onto your Flash Drive.  You can take the flash drive with you everywhere and can use it on any computer that has a USB port available.  The genealogy program does not have to be on the computer you are using.  Pop in the flash drive and the menu shows up in a popup window.  Select for it to start and you are in your Roots Magic program.

One of my biggest tasks has been to transfer all of the information I have gleened over the years from paper to my computer program.  This can be a very time consuming and sometimes boring process but it really needs to be done.  What I love about this program though is that I can enter each item as a new listing (such as a birth, marriage, death, census, residence, etc.) and then I can make notes about each item or I can make formal documation.

When you look at most every document, it will have information that applies to more than one person.  You need to make sure you enter this information for every person that it may apply to.  For instance, let's take a birth certificate.  Of course the information is mostly about the actual person born but it will also contain information about the mother, father, and sometimes grandparents.  The information should be recorded for each of these people.  You may also make a copy of the certificate and attach it to each of these individuals in your genealogy program.  Take the time right then to make your notes complete or you may miss vital clues for future information - for instance, write down the dates, places, occupations, and any other tid-bit of information even if you think it insignificant. 

As you do your research, whether it be from old records gathered or new infomation found, be sure to document everything for everyone.  Think of your record as the only history of this family and it is up to you to preserve it.  Even if you think there are many in your family doing research, make your notes understandable and complete.  Have it so that anyone at any time will be able to take over from where you left off and not have to redo anything that you have previously done.

Finally, be sure to save your information in more than one place (make backups!).  Share your information with others to have copies in more than one place.  I will often email my file to one of my online email addresses to keep it in cyberspace and available in case of any kind of disaster.

For more information on how to begin doing genealogy, check out some of the many online classes at Cyndi's List, Family Search, or  For some detailed information on how to use Roots Magic, check out their  website.

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