Three Easy Steps

This is the third issue in LDS Living’s new family history column. The articles are designed as an easy step-by-step illustrated guide to help you do your family history. They provide easy-to-understand answers to: Where do I start? What records should I look for? What can they tell me about my ancestors and heritage? And what has already been done by others? I suggest three easy steps to doing family history work.

Step One: Identify Your Ancestors

In the last issue, we started on Step One by suggesting that you write everything you know about your family and your ancestors—starting with yourself and working back one generation at a time. Look around your house for anything that might provide new information or verify the information you already have, and use other members of your family to help you discover more information. Once you have created your own four- or five-generation pedigree chart, you will use it as a road map for doing more research. 

To help make the task of recording and organizing your information much easier, use basic family history forms (pedigree chart, family group record, and a research log) and a family history software program for your computer. We listed several Internet sites where you can obtain these forms in the last issue.

We’ll go more in-depth on other computer software programs in a future issue, but right now, go online to familysearch.org, scroll down, and click on “Download PAF” and download this free program to your computer.” PAF (Personal Ancestral File) is a free genealogy and family history program from the Church.

PAF allows you to quickly and easily collect, organize, and share your family history and genealogy information. PAF helps you to create a computerized family tree (a database), beginning with you and continuing with your parents, grandparents, and so forth. Initially, you will start a new file, then each time you open your file, you can add, delete, or edit the information in your file, link families together, store the source of the information, add notes about people, print forms and lists, search for people in your database, and share your information with others.  

Getting Started with PAF

After you have downloaded PAF to your computer you can click on “Help” at the top of your screen, then click on “Getting Started Guide,” “User’s Guide,” or “Lessons,” which are designed to give you the help you need. 

Seven lessons, plus navigation tips, are available from the Help menu:

     1. Getting Started: Typing in Your Family             

     2. Getting Started: Making Changes                              

     3. Notes and Sources                                                 

     4. Printing Forms and Reports 

     5. Sharing Files 

     6. Match/merge 

     7. Advanced Focus/filter  

In addition, Brigham Young University offers lessons as part of its Religion 261 “Introduction to Family History” classes, located online at 261.byu.edu.These eight excellent lessons include:

1. Gather Information                              5. GedCom Files    

2. PAF                                                    6. Research    

3. FamilySearch.org                                 7. TempleReady    

4. Family History Centers                          8. Sharing 

Choose a Family or Ancestor You Want to Learn More About

Look on your pedigree chart and family records and select a family or ancestor with missing or incomplete information. Start with the generations closest to you, and work your way back.  Identify questions you want to answer about your ancestor, such as: "When and where did he die?" Select one question at a time as your objective. 

Ask Relatives for Information

Make a list of relatives and the information they may have and then contact them. Be sure to ask specifically for the information you would like. Add the information you obtain to your pedigree charts and family group records. Be sure to record your relatives’ names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, relationship, and the dates of your interviews.  

Special Help

In doing family history, many people have felt that they have received special help and guidance from those they are researching. Many have commented that it is sometimes as if their ancestors are right there guiding them in the right direction. Your ancestors love you and want to be found. Often we make invaluable discoveries of things we’re not even looking for. While we’re looking for something entirely different, we may coincidentally make significant family history discoveries. 

You can find many inspirational stories of how people have experienced amazing incidents in the search for their ancestors at these web sites:

· genealogytoday.com (click on “Family History, then “Serendipity”), and

·  ancestry.com (click on “Learning Center” and do a search for serendipity).  

So as you start this journey into your family’s history, prepare yourself, mentally and spiritually, to receive loving help from some of those for whom you are working.

Suggested Activities

·  Look at your pedigree chart and make a list of the records you need to verify your information. You probably have some blank spots on your chart; think about what kinds of records you need to help you fill in those blanks.  

· Contact relatives to find out if anyone has already compiled a partial or complete family history that might contain the record(s) you are looking for. Obtain a digital copy of their information if possible to add to your records. A digital copy saves you from retyping the information.

· Open PAF and start a new family history file with your name; enter your name, your spouse and children, and all the information you may have already gathered.

· Learn to enter data, navigate, search, and print in PAF. 

In the next issue we’ll discuss how to use the Internet to help you identify your ancestors.

Comments and feedback can be sent to feedback@ldsliving.com