Tame the Family Data
So many papers, so little time.
Take a walk on the wild side! You know that you want to… Be the one to pull together a family history that would make the toughest person in your family break down into tears! You are about to embark on one of the sweetest adventures of your life.
I can clearly remember the first time that I typed my family information into a computer and saw familiar names and dates pop up for them. It literally felt like I had opened up a present and then found another one and then another one. Some might say, “Michele, you need to get a life!” I say right back at you, “Try it and then say that to me.”
So, where to begin? Of course, you start with yourself.
Here is a small list to get you started:
- Grab a cheap binder that you can put some page protectors in for the paper documents that you will start to accumulate.
- Label that first page with “Gen 1” and your name. (We will keep this first page empty for now. As you start to add documents, put them in the following pages.)
- On your computer start a new folder or a new library, if you prefer, labeled Family History Research.
- Within that new folder or library, make your first folder and label it with your Surname (Maiden name if that applies.)
- OK… this might seem tedious but open that Surname folder and make another new folder with your Last Name(Maiden) [space] First name.
- As far as the binder, we will start to locate some important paper documents that will be finding their way into this caretaker of our family’s paper trail. Go find your birth certificate and marriage record if married. If you are married, then you might want to go ahead and add your spouse’s birth certificate at this point as well. Put these documents into that first section labeled Gen. 1.
- If you have a scanner, take a few minutes to scan these documents and upload them into your folder labeled with your name.
- Now would be a great time to add that timeline and stories into your section of the binder as well. (Stick with me and even though you think you don’t have any stories that anyone would possibly want to read, I will gently guide you through the process — or journey as I like to think of it.)
Voila! You have officially started your own family history project.
It might seem a little puny at this point, but doesn’t it feel good to be well on your way? The really cool thing about birth certificates, other than the obvious fact that it notes your official name and birthdate, is that it also gives your parents’ names. In the world of genealogy, this is golden. It is the official tie back to the previous generation. As you start to accumulate earlier and earlier birth and death records, you will start to appreciate these listings of parents’ information because there are times when it will be the only way to get back to a previous generation.
The next step will likely require you to do some type of sleuthing work on your own. You will want to begin to fill in the outline of your parents’ information – the underpinnings of their lives. Once we have that, then we can go back to those stories that you hopefully have started to accumulate as well and place those right along the official documents.