Genealogy Tips and Tricks

Basic Genealogical Research Practices and Organisational Skills

1. Start from the known and proceed to the unknown.
Documented facts are the solid foundation on which to build research strategy, not family traditions, theories, or hopes.

2. Take complete, documented notes.
Take notes in as permanent a form as possible. Every time information is copied there is an additional chance for error.

3. Analyze what you know.
Write out a research plan for each new generation, including names, places, known and probable dates, and sources likely to provide the missing data.

4. Keep an accurate, up-to-date research log.
List all records searched, the date of the search, names of ancestors investigated, and annotation on the usefulness of the source. Did you find surnames you were looking for, what time period did these records cover, were new family connections found?

5. Prove that each ancestor you claim is yours, truly your own.
Use either direct information or prove indirectly by eliminating the possibility of his or her being anyone else of the same name.

6. Do not use secondary sources to the exclusion of primary, or vice-versa.
Both have their place in genealogical research, and must be used in accordance with their own nature and limitations.

7. Never attempt to abstract a document you do not fully understand.
Have it photocopied or hand copy it exactly, taking care to include spelling and punctuation as given in the original document. Use a law dictionary or the advice of more experienced genealogists to unravel the mystery at your leisure.

8. Do not translate names or dates from original or secondary material into contemporary usage.
Failure to copy the data exactly as given in the record can cause distortions which will lead you astray. When dates are given numerically {3- 2-29} as is common in Quaker and German records, before leaving the record, check other dates in it to determine if the first digit is the month or the day.
{since there are only 12 months, 13-2-29 = day-month-year, and 3-13-29 = month-day-year.}
If your research is prior to 1752, be sure you understand the distinction between the Julian & Gregorian calendars.

9. Where to begin, start with yourself.
Progress to your parents, and then your grandparents and so on until your home sources are exhausted.


Record Keeping Suggestions

1. Research notes must be simple enough so that anyone can understand them.

2. They must be complete enough to reflect adequately the research done.

3. They should be done well enough the first time that it is unnecessary to have to re-copy them.

4. Keep a research calendar, in footnote from, to list all sources searched.

5. The research calendar will list sources in which nothing is found as well as those that contain useful information.

6. Notes should include the date of the search when you make it.

7. References to sources searched must be sufficiently adequate that anyone else who should use them will be able to locate those sources.

8. The research calendar will make direct reference to the notes that you take,and serve as a table of contents to those notes.

9. File your notes systematically. A good system is to file them alphabetically, first, by surname and, under each surname, chronologically by locality.

10. Notes must indicate the condition of the records being searched and the condition of the search itself. Perhaps the reader you were using had a poor lighting condition or you couldn't get a clear focus.

11. Notes will be tabulated in some form suitable to you, such as family group sheet or individual summary sheets or genealogical information sheets, and evaluated periodically to determine if your objectives are being reached.

12. Notes should be easy as to analyze and evaluate as possible.

13. One of the most important parts of the note file is a detailed periodic report of the searches you have made and the results of those searches.

14. Never throw away any of your research notes.

15. Make a copy of every letter that you write and date all correspondence.

16. Buy modern specialized genealogical software for you computer and get your records automated as early in your new hobby as possible. Don't attempt to keep your records in general purpose software packages such as word, excel, or access database software.


Scottish Naming Patterns

The use of traditional naming patterns gradually fell away during the 19th century.
Not everybody followed the pattern anyway but its surprising how often you come across it.

The first son was named after the father's father.

The second son was named after the mother's father.

The third son was named after the father's father's father.

The fourth son was named after the mother's mother's father.

The fifth son was named after the father's mother's father.

The sixth son was named after the mother's father's father.

The first daughter was named after the mother's mother.

The second daughter was named after the father's mother.

The third daughter was named after the mother's father's mother.

The fourth daughter was named after the father's father's mother.

The fifth daughter was named after the mother's mother's mother.

The sixth daughter was named after the father's mother's mother.

If a child died in infancy, his or her name was frequently given to a subsequent child.

It was also quite common to give sons and daughters a middle name denoting the maiden surname of the mother.


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