|We are often asked for advice on how to go about researching family genealogy when little or nothing is known about a family, and no relatives are available. And, we've written the same advice many times over until it occurred to us that Iwe should write it once, and publish the article so that it will be available when it is needed. Please bear in mind that this is just a primer... something to start with. We've written out some thoughts on the beginning steps... how to start when you have no idea. As you progress in your experience in genealogy, you will certainly want to consult more comprehensive and more professional sources.|
|Reference List of Acadian Researchers, Genealogists and Historians|
|Consentino, Lucie LeBlanc||"I am available to research family lines for people of Acadian descent and French Canadian descent." In her website, Lucie indicates that she descends from the Acadian LeBlanc family and the French-Canadian Lévesque family. She is a member of the American Canadian Genealogical Society of Manchester, New Hampshire and has published several articles on genealogy and has been interviewed by several radio stations and newspapers.||
|Coté-Dubé, Linda||"...Theriault, Bouchard, Paradis, Ouellette, Cote, Dube, Plourde, Levasseur, Roy, etc. but I also have an extensive collection from A-Z focusing on the St. John Valley families on both sides of the St. John River into Canada." Linda is fully bilingual and knows some Latin.||
|Lévesque, Fernand||"...le territoire qui m’est le plus familier est celui du Nord-Ouest du Nouveau-Brunswick, soit la région du Madawaska. Les demandes peuvent m’être adressées en anglais ou en français." / "...I am most familiar with the northwest area of New Brunswick which is the Madawaska region. Requests may be in english or in french."||
|Reader, Karen Theriot||Louisiana THERIOTs (my specialty), or any other Cajun Louisiana family before the Civil War. "I do not as yet do French-Canadian genealogy after the diaspora of 1755. I can connect the THERIOTs and most Cajuns to their Acadian roots, however." Karen is fluent in reading French and Spanish and even some Latin.||
me fera plaisir de correspondre avec toi concernant l'histoire et la généalogie
de la famille Thériault. Comme je viens de prendre ma retraite,
je dispose d'un peu plus de temps pour ces questions-là. Tu
peux mettre mon nom sur ta liste de collaborateurs ou chercheurs
de ton site internet."
Monsieur Thériault is author of the book "Les Familles de Caraquet: DICTIONNAIRE GÉNÉALOGIQUE" and expert researcher on the families of New Brunswick.
|Thériault, Serge A.||"You can count me among the researchers. Beside the Theriaults, I research my mother's line, the Bordeleaus." The Bordeleaus was the subject of a book that Serge wrote in July 1991 titled: "Notre famille Thériault-Bordeleau. Histoire et généalogie". In addition, Serge just finished a paper on his mother's German line (Schiller) that will be published in January 2003 in Germaniques Ahnengalerie.This is the Journal of the Association des Familles d'Origine Germanique du Québec. You might wish to check the following website where he contributed research on the ancestor: http://www.myerchin.org/||
First Things First. When putting together the genealogy of your family, there is one thought that should receive utmost attention: unless your information comes from a trusted source, you do not have a genealogy... you have a fairy tale. A family tree is of no value unless it is factual or at least based on authoritative research and opinion. When you receive information from others, do not hesitate to ask them the difficult question: "Where did you get this information?" and "How do you know this is true?"
So now as you undertake this very honorable task of researching your family genealogy, make sure that this important work will continue to be useable by your descendants. Although it will be very interesting to them to know that you were the person who researched this information, unfortunately that will not be enough unless you become a very well-known and very authoritative genealogist in your lifetime. So my message here is, make sure that you identify and document the sources for the data that you record in your genealogy. It is not enough to note that you researched it. It's important that you identify whether your data is based on official certificates, a book, a conversation with one of your favorite aunts, or is your considered opinion or just a guess. And let me add, that sometimes your guess is all you will have and in the absence of any other information, your guess might be important to your descendants.
The range of possible sources of information include the following (from most trusted to least trusted):
Resources.There are certain resources that you can count on to help recover your family genealogy records:
As shown on the right, a complete set of data for an individual will include the following (click on the form to zoom):
There are two variables which will determine how difficult it will be to research all of the data for one generation: (1) the time period of the generation being researched... it is easier to research a person born in the 1900's than one born in the 1800's, and (2) the extent to which the person and spouse moved around during their lifetime.
The process for documenting each generation in your genealogy is typically a two-step process (unless you're lucky and you find everyting in the first step. Once you have completed these two steps and are finished with one generation, you start all over again with the next generation. Here are the two steps:
"My father died in 1969 in your town. (He was a member of your church.) I need a record of his burial or of his death. My father's name was Joseph E. Smith. His wife's name was Mary Brown. If you don't have a record of his burial, would you please recommend me to someone in that town who keeps those records?"
This step will be complete when you receive a copy of your father's death or burial certificate for your records. Although it's much better to have a copy of the record, sometimes that may not be possible. You may only be able to get the information verbally over a telephone, or written in a letter to you.
If the individual did not live his entire life in the same place, then the death certificate should also identify the spouse and perhaps also where the individual was born. By the way, if you find the obituary for the individual in the local newspaper, those will typically also list the children, brothers and sisters and parents.
If the individual was living after the Social Security Act was passed in the 1930's, then you can submit his name to the Social Security bureau to get a copy of his application for an account which will give his birth date/place, the name of his mother and father, his address, and his employer. Alternatively, there are websites which will provide some of that information as well if you have the Social Security number.
Record-Keeping. The importance of documentation and the organization of that documentation cannot be overstated. It is important that you organize yourself to record all of the data that you uncover as thoroughly as possible. For this you will need some paper forms or computer software that you can use to enter, store and organize this data.
(I have created a form which is shown in the illustration above, that I think you might find helpful. You are welcome to download the form on your computer. It is a file that was created in the RTF format and will therefore work with MS-WORD and most other word processors.) So, print out several copies of this blank form and keep them handy.
My recommendation is that you start simply and just let yourself grow as you progress in your avocation to become the family genealogist. It is not absolutely necessary for you to immediately become involved with a computer and genealogy software if you don't want to do that. You can start out simply with paper records and continue with that approach until your records become too cumbersome to manage. Then, you can take the step of investing in a computer and a good software package.
I would recommend that you use the attached form to begin and see where that leads. Later you will certainly want to progress to invest in a software package, most of which you can purchase for less than $50. In fact, according to Karen Reader, the LDS site (www.familysearch.com) offers "Personal Ancestral File 5.0" or "PAF" which is a FREE program and is available online. According to Karen, it is... "one of the best--I use it." Instructions (in english or french) are given for downloading the software at that site.
Before you start, create a folder for each of your generations and during the progress of your research, file all of your notes in those folders.
Getting Started. So let's get started. Don't procrastinate because one thing is for sure: the longer you wait, the more difficult it will be for you to conduct your research. If you have members of your family available to you today, they will not always be available. Take advantage of that time now to talk to them about a topic that both of you will enjoy talking about: your parents, your grandparents, your great-grandparents and all of the stories that will come out of that very enjoyable discussion.
Sit down now and create your first genealogy records for your parents, your siblings and your children. Then call some of your aunts and uncles and start talking now about your parents and grandparents. Where and when they were married, where and when they were born. Did they move around? Did they go to school? If so, where? But get going now, don't procrastinate. Time is not on your side.
As you start out with your project, let us know how you are doing and especially of lessons you might learn that you think we should note in these 'Do-It-Yourself' instructions. Also, if you have questions or run into problems, let us know as well. If we think we can help you, we will.
Additional Reading. If you want more information and more details on researching your family genealogy, I would recommend the following: