Tips for Young Geneologists

+11 votes
I'm a young (in my 20's) geneologist, which means I am predeceased by a good many of the ancestors in my family tree. Does anyone have any tips for young geneologists? I'm sure I'm not the only one who regrets not paying attention to stories about great-grandparents and cousins I'd never met!
in The Tree House by Kari Wentworth G2G6 (9.3k points)
I started when I was in my early 20s too - but that was 20+ years ago!

One of the great tips that helped me back then is still a great tip for today...

Write letters to all the oldest living relatives you can.  This might involve asking family (grandparents) to look over their old school address books for those addresses and almost always will involve you introducing yourself to those you write to.  This is the single most valuable step.  

With some branches of the family tree you may already have a good amount of info and may want to include a pedigree chart or family group sheet, for their reference.  With others, may be there is not much solid info but a bunch of family stories that you can mention.

As you add to your research, be sure to share your findings with all those you write to or speak with  - you'll be surprised how much folks' memories get jogged by doing this.

Another source for addresses/phone numbers - the informant on death certificates. Probably only useful for relatives who had died within the last 30 years or so.  I was able to reunite with my Mom's long lost cousins this way.
great advice
I'm young (in my twenties as well), so this is encouraging that other young people are interested in genealogy as well.  My grandmother loves genealogy, and I paid attention.  I have found that my aunts and uncles also often know more about family members than I do just by picking things up through the years.  So, ask yours if able.  If not, look around and see if anyone in your family may have written any sort of genealogy.  After going back a few generations, I was able to make connections based on work that distant family members had already done.  Also, if you find a source, talk to them and ask about stories.  You won't be disappointed!  They often have great stories to tell!

7 Answers

+7 votes
Best answer
by James LaLone G2G6 Mach 5 (57.8k points)
selected by Gerald Baraboo
+7 votes
One advantage of genealogist of today over those of the past is that we can usually find lots of source material to print out and take with us as we go talk to relatives who are still alive and show them as a way of getting these ancestors talking about things they'd not think of on their own.  A gravestone you got online may get them talking about a trip on a memorial day of long past and something their mother said about the relative they were taking flowers to.
by Dave Dardinger G2G6 Pilot (407k points)
+10 votes
As a fellow 20-something, the only special tip I have is to remember that not everything is online! You will probably have to go to some libraries or archives, learn how to use a microfilm reader, and possibly mail a letter.

And interview any living relatives as soon as you can, ask if they have any photos, letters, etc that you can scan. I put off interviewing my only living grandparent because I thought I had plenty of time, but you never know how long someone will be around.
by Jamie Nelson G2G6 Pilot (332k points)
+5 votes
If yo have any old family photos make sure to write who is on them! I have some photos but the persons are unknown although I know they're most probably family.

If you visit someone elderly (or not even that old) with the photos it also seems to trigger forgotten everyday things/stories about the persons and sometimes you even get an estimated date of the photo which will help you if there is other unknown persons on photos.
by Maggie Andersson G2G6 Pilot (117k points)
+6 votes
Don't write down anything without also writing down the source.
by Anne B G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
this is a very important tip... I'd write down a fact, then later find conflicting information, but then couldn't remember where I got my original fact from.
+3 votes
I found that my local library was a big help.  They have tools like Ancestry that can be used without charge.  In addition,many of the library personnel are very knowledgeable in genealogy and were able to assist at times for a  short length of time.
by Marion Spohn G2G1 (1.2k points)
+1 vote
You have to go and sit down with your grandparents and have them tell you about their parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles and anyone they can remember. If they're close by and you can visit have them dig out old photo albums and scrapbooks and go through them with you. Use your cell phone and get take pics of all of the photos. I started doing this in 1997 when I was 25 and by that time my mother's parents were gone and my dad's mother had dementia and didn't remember much. His dad just passed away at 97 in 2015 but had limited knowledge beyond his parents.  So, go pester the old folks until they give up the info!
by Jim Tareco G2G6 Mach 2 (29.7k points)

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