Tuesday, May 22, 2007

12 "Suggestions for Researchers"

One of the questions that I was prepared to answer on Sunday at Questing Heirs was "What are the most important things for a beginning genealogist to know?" I was going to just read off Bill Dollarhide's 45 laws or rules, but I thought it would be too long. I decided to be serious and try to make my own list. We ran out of time before I was asked the question, but since I have it written down, I thought I would put it in a post.

I won't call them commandments, even though I put them in that format. Let's call them "Suggestions for Researchers:"

1) Thou shalt interview all of your living family members, and collect or borrow their family papers, photographs, books, etc..

2) Thou shalt learn to use the "tools" of the profession - pedigree chart, group sheet, time line, forms, software - and put your data on them.

3) Thou shalt educate yourself about genealogy and family history, and join local, regional or national genealogy societies.

4) Thou shalt work backwards in time in your research - one generation at a time.

5) Thou shalt learn to use the scientific method - collect data, hypothesize, analyze, identify needed data, find new data, then do it again - to evaluate all of your evidence.

6) Thou shalt visit all repositories in your locality, and those where your ancestors lived.

7) Thou shalt use the Internet to find what other researchers have posted - web sites, databases, message boards, mailing lists, etc.

8) Thou shalt understand that the Internet does not have ALL genealogy and family history data - and won't for a very long time.

9) Thou shalt use the data of other researchers - from repositories, books, periodicals, or the Internet - as a "finding aid" only, not as gospel truth.

10) Thou shalt strive to find primary information, original source documents and direct evidence of all names, dates, locations and relationships.

11) Thou shalt apply the Genealogical Proof Standard to all of your work.

12) Thou shalt share the fruits of your labor with other researchers, including sources and evidence evaluation.


Of course, each one of those "suggestions" has been the subject of blog posts, periodical articles or even books in past genealogical times. There are many articles and web pages at Cyndi's List for Beginners - see them at http://www.cyndislist.com/beginner.htm.

What do you think? What have I missed here? Any more "suggestions?" Any links to other lists of genealogy rules, laws or commandments?

1 comment:

Drew Smith said...

Thou shall treat others (family members, other genealogists, librarians, archivists, and anyone else one comes into contact with while doing research) with appropriate respect and courtesy.