Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Working with Beginning Genealogists

One of the major benefits of any newspaper publicity is the influx of phone calls from people in the community asking for information about "how to find my ancestry." This was the case with the recent newspaper articles about CVGS that I wrote about here.

We had five phone calls in the last week to CVGS members asking for information and about joining the society. Four of them came to our Computer Group meeting today. Two of them have done no genealogy research, other than gathering family papers. One of them had drawn a rough ancestral chart with three generations on his father's side and two on his mother's side, which was an excellent start.

Rather than work on the computers today, John, Dearl and I took the two neophytes into the conference room and discussed the basics of genealogy research -- family papers and stories, obtaining vital records, obtaining other records, filling out pedigree charts and family group sheets, what resources are online and what are not, etc. They both asked great questions and we tried to answer them as best we could. We gave them the "homework assignment" of filling out the pedigree chart and family group sheets for each known family.

I have passed them a pedigree chart, family group sheet, and my Online Genealogy syllabus via email. I will pass them several other documents tonight, including the Research Process and my matrix of Record Types and where to find them.

They were intrigued by the thought of genealogy software, and how the software can make charts and reports. We recommended for discounted software to get started.

After the meeting, we took them over to the library computers with Ancestry Library Edition and found several census records for one fellow's family. He was pretty excited.

It was a good day for all of us - hopefully they learned something, and we helped two potential new members get started on their genealogy adventure. I realized that I need to carry more of a "beginning genealogist" kit in my briefcase for situations like this. CVGS holds a beginners class every year, but often times the need for help is immediate and we have to reel in these potential new members before they wriggle off the hook.

What ahould I include in my "beginning genealogist" kit? I have the pedigree, group sheet and record type charts, a list of online genealogy tutorials, examples of the charts and a genealogy report, etc. What else should I have?


Melissa Barker said...

Randy, you should keep WARNING labels in your briefcase saying: Caution: Genealogy Research can become addictive! Research at your own Risk!

I think it's wonderful the way you take these newbies under your wing and show them the ropes. You are to be commended!

Melissa Barker

Ann Smith said...

Not knowing exactly what your "etc" includes I would suggest a research log sheet, a correspondence log and the suggestion to purchase a good book on citations. I've wasted MANY hours of time and effort having to redo work because I didn't know the proper way to go about it in the beginning. Good luck to your newbies-may they be blessed with not too many Smiths and Jones! Keep up the good work. If I were in your area I'd join your group. It sounds very interactive and knowledgeable.
Ann Smith

Janice said...


I would suggest including a check-off list of possible information resources, divided by type. Most beginner genealogists don't automatically think about all the sources available to them.

I am providing links to 3 examples here. I liked #2 and I've created my own version of that with additional items. If you want it, just send me an email requesting it.

Resource Sheet #1
Resource Sheet #2 (PDF)
Resource Sheet #3

Hope this helps