If you are not a genealogist (yet), but are considering doing a complete history of your family to give your children or grandchildren, we’d like to encourage you to start soon (as in today, right now, we’re open until 8pm tonight) rather than waiting until December!
All too often, we see hopeful beginners come into our library on December 20, assuming that they only have to type a name and hit the print icon on one of our computers to have a ready-made gift. They are disappointed and frustrated when they discover that while their family’s history may be recorded in our Special Collections Center, it is far more likely to be scattered amongst our thousands of books and microfilm rolls than gathered neatly in an electronic chart with photos included.
One of the primary rules of family research is GIGO – Genealogy In, Genealogy Out. If no one has ever researched your genealogy and posted it online, then even Google won’t help you find a complete, accurate tree. If no one has ever written a book about your family, there will be no book available, even through Interlibrary Loan. There might be a hint or two on Ancestry, a clue or two in someone’s biography, but you are going to have to pluck these gems out of tons of unrelated facts (pun intended) yourself.
Talk about some assembly required!
Luckily, we’re here to help! We can guide you to the best indexes, thread microfilm machines with just the right year of county records, and gently explain that this particular George Smith can’t be your great-great-grandfather if he was born three years after your mother.
But please keep in mind that although we archive slices of time (as we fondly describe it), we can’t actually make more of it. So if you have your heart set on giving a family history to your loved ones this December, please keep an eye on the present calendar, as well as those of bygone days!
And if you start too late for this December, why not see it as a head start for next year?
Here are just a few items to help you begin:
Our webpage on Beginning Your Genealogy
Family history 101 : a beginner’s guide to finding your ancestors (Melnyk, 2005) – 929.1 MEL
Genealogy for the first time : research your family history (Best, 2003) – 929.1 BES
A genealogist’s guide to discovering your African-American ancestors : how to find and record your unique heritage (Smith, 2003) – 929.1 SMI
You may have noticed a call number theme, here. If your library uses the Dewey Decimal System, like we do, basic and how-to genealogy books are probably shelved under 929.1–unless your library’s cataloguer got creative. If your library uses the Library of Congress system, try under the CD classification (not the recorded music section, the other one). Or, as always, ask your librarian!