Collecting Previous Research by Others Part One: Home and Relative Sources
This article focuses on Home and Relative Sources. See also:
- Part Two: Online Family Tree Collections
- Part Three: Digitized Books
- Part Four: FamilySearch Wiki Tools
Checking for previous research on your pedigree is an important step. It can save time, provide clues you might not otherwise find, help avoid duplication of effort, and help cooperation between families on research. Now, with the literal explosion of online sources, you can effectively survey online databases of what we call compiled genealogy, where the researcher has compiled original sources to present an opinion of how family groups and pedigree connections probably are most truthfully represented.
Evaluating Evidence to Determine Quality or Resolve Discrepancies
Keep in mind that every compiled genealogy you find is another researcher's opinion or interpretation of the documents he found about the family. Depending on the expertise of the researcher and the quality of available records, compiled research is subject to error. Indeed, you will frequently find disagreements between different versions of the family records you discover. You should carefully evaluate everything you find with both an open mind and a little skepticism. Here are some articles to train you to effectively evaluate the compiled research you will gather:
- Evidence Baby Steps
- Conclusions and Baby Steps
- The Genealogical Proof Standard
- Evaluate the Evidence
What should you ask?
In order to extend your research on your ancestors, you are looking for names, dates, and places. Everything you learn that tells you about when and where a relative lived is a clue to a new record search. Be sure to ask questions that lead to that information, including about their occupations, military service, or associations with others, such as fraternal organizations. See also:
- Fifty Questions for Family History Interviews What to Ask the Relatives
- Genealogy: 150 questions to ask family members about their lives
- Creating Oral Histories
What documents should you look for and ask to copy?
"Aunt Martha", the Family Genealogy Buff
If you know of a family member who has been enthusiastically doing genealogy, it will be well worth your time to get copies of their work. If they have kept their pedigree and family group records on a computer application such as PAF, RootsMagic, Family Tree Maker, etc., you can ask them to send you a GEDCOM (Genealogical Data Communication) file of their work. They can export all their records to you this way. A GEDCOM file can then be opened in your own software application to import their pedigree and family group records to your files. Asking for copies of all their original research documents (certificates, censuses, etc.,) may be counter-productive, as they may have amassed extremely large files. It might be better to ask for copies of files in a more piecemeal fashion, family by family, as you research an individual family or as you need to resolve a discrepancy. Always offer to pay for photocopying costs.