Embarking on the Journey

by | Sep. 01, 2006

LDS Life

In The Holy Temple, President Boyd K. Packer wrote about getting started on our family history: “There somehow seems to be the feeling that genealogical work is an all-or-nothing responsibility. That is not so. Genealogical work is another responsibility for every member. And we may do it successfully along with all the other responsibilities that rest upon us. . . . You can fulfill your responsibility to redeem your kindred dead . . . without forsaking your other responsibilities. . . . You can do it without becoming a so-called ‘expert’ in it.

There is an old Chinese proverb which states: ‘Man who sits with legs crossed and mouth open, waiting for roast duck to fly in, have long hunger.’ Once we started, we found the time. Somehow we were able to carry on all of the other responsibilities. There seemed to be an increased inspiration in our lives because of this work. But the decision, the action, must begin with [you]. . . .

When we research our own lines . . . our interest turns our hearts to our fathers—we seek to find and to know and to serve them. In doing so we store up treasures in heaven.”

I propose three-easy-steps to get started with your family history. We’ll discuss these in more detail in future issues.

Step 1: Identify Your Ancestors Using Your Family Information

First, start by writing everything you know about your ancestors. It’s fun and easy. Begin simply by picking up a pencil and writing down information on a piece of paper, or hopping on a computer and typing away.

Start with yourself and work back one generation at a time. Gather information about yourself, your siblings, your parents, your grandparents, and your great grandparents. Then write down each member in your family that can help you discover more information about your ancestors. Typically, information about your close relatives is readily available simply by talking to them, or searching through information in your home.

Write down specific information such as names, dates, and places of important events such as birth, marriage, and death, ancestral village, occupation, etc. Try to gather information on four to five generations of your ancestors.

Step 2: Use Forms and Computers

You can start just by writing information on paper. Then get forms and computer programs you can use to record your family information. They make the task of recording and organizing your information easier and fun. There are many useful forms, but the first forms of most value to you are a pedigree chart and Family Group Record.

Pedigree Chart:

Lets you list your pedigree (your parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and so on)

Family Group Record:

A family group record is a tool to help you organize your research by families. Because information about an individual ancestor is most often found with information about your ancestor’s siblings or parents, this form is a helpful organizational tool. It includes room to write information found about a husband and wife and their children. You will need several copies.

Step 3: Use Free Genealogy Charts and Forms

Visit these sites and find a program you think you will be most comfortable using:

·        Family Search: familysearch.org        ·        Family Source: family-source.com/qry/genealogy+forms/st

·        About.com: genealogy.about.com/cs/freecharts 

·        PBS Ancestors Series: pbs.org/kbyu/ancestors  

·        Dear Myrtle: dearmyrtle.com/bookshelf/supplies.htm

Once you have installed a family history software program on your computer, you can print the forms for free just using your computer program. Have fun!

Quick Tips on Getting Started

Begin with a pedigree chart like the one pictured above. It will be a road map for your family history search. Create your own four-generation pedigree chart. From memory, begin to fill in information on the lines indicating your father, your mother, your grandparents, etc.

Start with yourself and what you already know about your parents and grandparents.

Work back one generation at a time, from the known to the unknown.

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

Look around your house for photographs, documents, old letters, journals, wedding announcements, newspaper clippings, and family Bibles—anything that might provide new information for your pedigree chart or verify the information you already have.

Document your own life first by gathering records and information about your birth, marriage, graduation, military service, etc. This is the same process you will eventually use to document the lives of your ancestors.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the process.

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