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Help for Beginners


This page has been put together to help those starting out in the great adventure of tracing back through your family and their ancestors. Beware though because it can become obsessive, ask any genealogist !

The first place to begin is at home and, like a pension funding, the earlier you begin the better. Go round your family members particularly the elderly ones and find out as much as you can by word of mouth. Record all these details as it's surprising how useful they may turn out in time, but always check the facts later if possible. Ask if they have any old birth, marriage, or death certificates and are willing to give them to you or let them be photocopied. Family bibles are a great source of your ancestors so find out if there are any in the family. Family photographs ( record all the names of family members in them ) are another good source and memory jogger of family members. Other good sources are family heirlooms, family letters, wills and property documents and deeds.

You are now ready to put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard. It is very much a personal thing how you wish to structure and record your information, but personally I think that using a good computer program takes some beating. A comprehensive listing is available here . One of the best is Family Tree Maker.  Basically you are building a structure going backwards in time from an individual ( yourself or anyone ). They have 2 parents, these two have 4 parents and those 4 have 8 parents, and so on. This is often referred to as a Pedigree Chart.

Now having set up with your means of recording your tree information and your starting information you are ready to start progressing back through the RecordsIn the Archives Section are listed the various Archives and Libraries that ( if you are researching in Ayrshire ) are available with their addresses, phone numbers, opening times etc.

The search begins by searching the records kept since formal civil registration was introduced in Scotland in 1855. From that time ALL births, deaths, and marriages had to be registered at the local office. These are available for searching at the Glasgow Genealogy Centre, for all records in the former Strathclyde area, and at the General Register Office for Scotland, New Registry House, Edinburgh for the whole of Scotland. If you are sure of a location of an event and have sufficient information you can book a two hour search at a Local Registrars or for an appropriate fee obtain a copy of your required Certificate. All searches involve using your acquired information to work backwards in time.

There is, of course, the internet which now brings an almost never ending supply of sites (such as this) which contain information for free from the results of others who may have already researched what you are looking for. There are also online sites where you pay a subscription and have access to all their information for a set period; or sites where you pay a small fee to search and print a number of their records from a vast database.

Beyond 1855 you will have to search other sources such as the Old Parish Registers Old Parish Registers (OPR), The International Genealogical Index (IGI), Monumental Inscriptions (MIs), Burial Records, Census Records, and many more sources; refer to Records Listing.

You are now ready and I hope inspired to make a start so make full use of all the resources available on this site and most of all - have fun and enjoy it. It's a great hobby.

Ancestry.com -- Discover Your Family!

Some good learning sites


Introduction to Genealogy

Beginning Genealogy

You'll find more sites to learn genealogy for free at www.familytreemagazine.com/ancestornews/current.html.


 Ten Golden Rules for a Beginner

The following was contributed to Ayrshire Rootsweb by Alex Hughes:-  


Where Does a Beginner Begin?

Ten Golden Rules


Rule Number One: 

* I shall endeaver, throughout this hobby, to self-educate, self-educate, and self-educate myself.

* I understand that there is no ONE person that knows about all facets of genealogy and that I, alone, am responsible for learning the roads to success on my line. Only my full siblings have the same personal history that I do.

* I shall read a good, basic book on genealogy paying attention to the lingo and abbreviations (even all the two letter U. S. states abbreviations) and the basic, common courtesy I should use and I shall plug into a good search engine such as yahoo.com and find the beginner's pages and see what the world of genealogy is all about.  

Rule Number Two: 

* I shall do my HOMEWORK before bugging others for information.

* I will read all census records that apply to my ancestors in a given time and and place.

* I will give all places a COUNTY name as I understand the name of a town or city is nearly always useless in genealogy (New England is sometimes an exception). 

Rule Number Three: 

* I shall, in any query ...Internet or snail mail... make it clear WHO I am looking for, WHERE I know he was, and WHEN he was there.

* If I have to give an estimate, I will tell why (such as a child of his, reportedly, born in that county in 1815). 

Rule Number Four:

* I shall NEVER ask anyone for EVERYTHING they have on a family.

* I understand that many genealogists have whole rooms devoted to a few of their lines.

* I will be specific as to who I have and what I need and will offer to pay for excess postage or copying costs if my "exchange" of information falls short.  

Rule Number Five: 

* I shall NOT hold back information or refuse to cite my sources or refuse to send the documentation with my material.

* I understand I cannot copyright research material and that my credibility in the genealogical world is at stake if my work is sloppy or incomplete (lacking sources). 

Rule Number Six: 

* I shall ALWAYS document every fact in my family history.

* I understand that DOCUMENTATION is just a fancy, long word for "Tell me where you got the information." If I interviewed Aunt Maude and she told me the information (traditional or "jaw bone" history) then I will make sure that Aunt Maude's full name and other information stay with the material whether it is written by hand or entered into a computer program.

* If I have used a public record, I will cite the location of the record, (the county, the Archives, etc.) the specific place that record was in (Will Book, County Clerk's office, etc.), and any other pertinent information.

* If I quote a census, I will give the year, the county, the township/post office, the page number, the enumeration date and the household number and all information and whether I took the info from a census film or a printed source.

* In my attempt to follow Rule Number One (self-education), I will find out what documentation is considered primary and what is considered secondary. I understand I will have to know these definitions if I want to join many of the societies that demand documentation such as DAR, SAR, pioneer associations, etc. 

Rule Number Seven: 

* I will ALWAYS keep in mind that someone, 50 or 100 years from now, will depend upon my research to prove their heritage.

* I understand that carelessness, on my part, will result in history being rewritten on a false note.

* I pledge that I will NOT, under any circumstance, download a gedcom or other electronic medium and load it into my own program. I will, first, check out the documentation that was provided to me (and if it wasn't, I will ask for it....nicely) and then proceed from there. When I do load the information into my program I understand I need to keep the documentation with the family grouping (all marriage, birth, death dates, etc.....not as something like World Family Tree, CD #0023, etc.)

* I also understand that this applies to any typed or hand written family group sheets or history also.  

Rule Number Eight: 

* Although I entered this hobby for the thrill of the chase I will take SERIOUSLY my responsibilty to history and other researchers to do the best job I can do.

* I understand that patience is a virtue and not all others, beginners or those that have been at the hobby for years, always understand what I am talking about. I will try to take the time to word my queries well (as in Rule Number Three) and I hereby pledge that, when I have gained enough experience to know what I'm talking about, that I will take the time to help a beginner. 

Rule Number Nine: 

* I will try, as soon as possible physically or financially, to JOIN a genealogical association and help others (as well as myself) find their family history.

* I realize that we all must give as well as take and I will try to compile cemetery statistics or paste in obits or other work needed in the genealogy world. 

Rule Number Ten: 

* I will ALWAYS remember that this is a FUN endeavour and NEVER become cranky or discouraged. Whenever I hit a brick wall, I will reset my goals and renew my spirit and go find some other ancestors and praise all of them for giving me the best thing of all....my LIFE!

by Bonny McDaniel - BONNYJIM@aol.com  

The preceding article, was published in the United States Internet Genealogical Society's newsletter, The SIGNAL, issue dated 15 April 1999 is 1999 Bonny McDaniel and is reprinted with permission from the author and USIGS. Additional articles may be found at: http://www.usigs.org/signal/signal.htm







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