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Family History Search

Posted by Grace Mitchell on September 28th 2011 under Family History

Family History SearchAs starting genealogists, many of us are often eager to get in the thick of things. And while eagerness is a commendable quality and a very important ingredient in a world where there are more things to be done and avenues to be researched than you can shake a stick at, it can also lead to unpreparedness, which inevitably produces those little genealogical annoyances and setbacks that waste time and resources on our family history expedition. I have complied a short list of uncommonly thought of items that might prove beneficial and time saving to those who tend to under-plan. Here are the top items:

  1. Paper clips & paper sleeves: In the course of your family history research you will come across precious heirlooms, records, certificates, pictures, letters, and other documents which are likely to be worn and weathered by the ravages of time. The last thing you want to do is allow them to deteriorate further. That’s why it’s important to use paper clips (as opposed to staples and pins) to bind documents together and protective paper sleeves to keep them out of harm’s way (this is especially applicable to those of us who enjoy drinking coffee while examining and scanning though documents.) Take special care of documents which were lent to you by others, because a surefire way of not getting any more documents is ruining the ones you are currently loaning.
  2. Extra batteries: Those first interviews can be both unnerving and exciting. You’ve prepared the most thoughtful, relevant, deep questions, arrive right on time, are cordial and funny, and... there are no batteries. Good luck getting another interview or writing it all down instead! This is why it’s so important to bring spare batteries. Also, while you’re packing up batteries, why don’t you check that the recorder actually works?
  3. Notepads: Paper products are a genealogist’s best friend, and notepads are the bread and butter of every proper paper product professional (try saying that 5 times in a row). Notepads are so important because they bind together all these ideas you have when you’re just walking along, minding your own business, and then BAM (no, not a bus) – you have a genius idea. They’re also nifty while doing interviews – there will be many comments you will want to add and it’s not appropriate to stop the interviewee. Plus, some people aren’t too excited about being recorded. You have to take people’s feelings into consideration.
  4. Binders & Organizers: Stuffing papers, documents, photos and the likes in your bag/purse and/or throwing them on your floor is very spontaneous and pleasing to your inner child, but it will do nothing to help your genealogical search, to say nothing of your schedule. You will find lots of information and you will need to find a methodical and structured way of organizing it. Buy organizers at your closes office supply stores – and don’t be lazy with the labels. They will pay off in the long run.
  5. Pencils: Pencils are essential because genealogy and family history researches are bound to include mistakes: misspellings of names, wrong dates, etc. Scratching off pen writings isn’t a particularly appealing way of covering up for your small mishaps. That’s why a pencil is so handy. Sticky notes are also supremely useful in case you don’t want to write directly on documents - especially if they are borrowed (again, take special care with other people’s documents. Do not write on them – even with a pencil – without explicit consent.)
  6. Scanner: Scanners are nifty and important since they help you preserve documents, categorize them, and store them on your computer. They’re also great if you have loaned or borrowed documents that you must return. Also, in the case of typed documents, there is OCR software which can actually derive the text from the pictures and produce a text document. As I said, nifty.

Now it’s your turn – tell us what supplies you always use for your family history research. Don’t be shy!

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