Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Best Genealogy Advice I Ever Got Was

I love genealogy advice, little nuggets of wisdom that can completely change the way you view a certain aspect of family history or mystery person.

Since I love getting genealogy advice, I'm asking for you to let me know what (in your mind) the best piece of genealogy advice you ever got was.  It can be as broad and basic as "start with yourself and work your way back" or much more specific .  It can be one sentence or a long paragraph.  It can be something that you heard or read and were struck by and have taken to heart or a piece of advice that was passed on to you.  It can be something well known that has stood the test of time or it can be advice for genealogy in the 21st Century.  It can even be something that you just thought up 10 seconds ago!  Here is some of the best I have come across:

On Lineage Societies:

"Start small and build up to the big leagues.  Go after a pioneer or century certificate from one of the counties an ancestor settled in before tackling something like the DAR on your first run." - a kind lady from a local genealogy society event I went to

On Early Ancestors and Places:

"Keep a list (and check it often) of when US states and counties were formed that pertain to your research.  You don't want to waste time looking for someone in a place that didn't exist yet. " - a distant cousin of mine, one of the first pieces of advice I ever got

On a General Outlook/Words to Live By:

"One of the biggest mistakes that the genealogist makes is to erect ethnic or religious walls around them self... the records themselves weren't segregated...  Our ancestors lived cheek and jowl, they shared a world, they interacted, they created records together..."- Elizabeth Shown Mills, in this video (actually, the entire video is some of the best genealogy advice you'll ever hear)

These are just some of my favorites and are words of wisdom that have stayed with me.  So I told you some of mine, what are yours? 

If you would like a chance to win a ticket to the CA Family History Expo, e-mail me your "best advice" (first one to e-mail me wins it). If you aren't interested in the ticket but still want to share your "best advice" with me (which I'd love to hear), comment this post. (Contest closed)


  1. Best advice I have ever received (from a professional genealogist) was "don't give up," and, "keep an open mind."

    Both have served me well in my many years of researching ancestors. Sometimes the unexpected can be the break or clue you need.

  2. Remember that spelling doesn't count! If you only assume that "your" family spelled it only one way, you are likely wrong.

    I have seen Harmon as Harman, McNeill as McNeal or McNeil or Mcneal or Mcneil, and the list goes on.

  3. "As you turn up information, make a note of where you found every single piece of that information." Every time I have failed to follow this advice, I have regretted - make that REALLY regretted - it. That little thing that pricks your mind but you think it can't be connected - it will be.

  4. I second Mary's, Tracy's, and Greta's advice!

    I believe it was Martin at the Slovak Yankee who recently suggested typing up your research. Great advice. When you type up your research you become aware of the holes, inconsistencies, and missing information. Unfortunately I have a lot of typing ahead of me.

    It's time to refer back to Mary's advice--don't give up.

  5. Along the lines of Tracy, very early on, another patron at the library who saw me browsing the genealogy section said "If it sounds right, it is right."


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