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  • Margy Duke

Family Research Do's and Don'ts‏

Updated: May 17

With the thousands of ametur genealogists out there in the world these days, you really need to know there are rules to adhere to.


There are genealogy pitfalls everywhere and if you're new at family research, they can sneak right up on you before you know it.



1. DO interview family members, particularly older relatives while you have the chance. While they are alive!!!


For some reason or other...it doesn't cross peoples minds to ask older people in their families questions about...their own family. I know this is judgmental on my part...forgive me! But my mind simply doesn't comprehend that. When I've interviewed a client to begin some preliminary family research for them, it never fails to surprise me that when I've ask the names of their grandparents I'm met with a vacant stare! Now a grandparent is a very close ancestor, they are your parents, parent. I'm well aware of the exceptions to the rule, in the cases of adoption, divorce and estrangements, removals etc, but if you've grown up within your family, it boggles my mind the amount of adults who don't have the foggiest!


You know...if there is one thing I know, its that people love to talk about themselves. Formal or informal - if you audio record someone (get their permission to do so first) or if you're writing the answers down, make sure you accurately record who you've talked to, what the circumstances of the interview was, how old they are, their relationship to you make note of the questions you've asked...and whatever you do, don't forget to date and time the interview.


“Genealogy: Chasing our own tail”


2. DON'T store all your family research information in one place.


It can take literally seconds to lose years of genealogical research or old treasured family photos and historical family documents. Whether is be a computer crash or some other disaster, such as fire or flood...always make hard copies and digital copies and store them in different places. External hard drives, up in the cloud, in waterproof folders in different places. Many ameture genealogists become very protective and somewhat possessive of information and photos they have, often loathing to share with other relatives. The bonus of sharing these treasures around in your family is...you always have a back up. I'm not talking about giving away your originals...make copies to give them to hand out.



3. DO make sure that every single detail of our tree has a reliable source, preferably two.


If your family research is not accurate sources with primary source material, its worthless. It's just hereay, hold no weight and has no credibility.


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