Reconstructing Your Ancestral Family
Just as a builder uses several different types of building materials to erect a building, researchers must use several different record groups to build a complete ancestral family structure or to reconstruct their family history.
In the previous lesson, we likened record groups to different types of building materials such as cement, wooden beams, particle-board siding, asphalt, shingles, etc., etc. The building materials for genealogy and family history research are the various record groups which have been created over the years.
Variations in Record Groups by Locality
Life events are basically the same regardless of the locality involved. For example, people everywhere are born and die. Many men serve in the military, and many individuals eventually marry. However, the records kept of those events can vary widely from country to country or even from region to region within a country.
Just as a builder may use different building materials according to climate and customs of the area, family historians must adjust the use of their building materials, the basic record groups, according to the localities of residence of the families they are researching.
For example, county histories, so prevalent in the Midwest, are much less prevalent in the South. So, when a family historian is reconstructing a family from Indiana, they use county histories to help them build the outer walls of this structure. But when the family was from Alabama, other building materials may have to be substituted because of the shortage of the building material known as "county histories."
Variations in Record Groups by Time Period
Contractors today have a much larger range of building materials to select from than ever before due to many new man-made products. Reconstructing a family of the twentieth century also allows the family historian the luxury of a larger variety of available building materials. As the research extends to earlier generations, the variety of family history building materials becomes more limited.
Census records in later years include such items of information as month and year of birth, relationships, places of birth of parents, information about immigration, etc. Earlier versions of this same building material contain only the name of the head of family and information about the age groupings of other family members. Very little other personal information is found. So other record groups (building materials) must be used to supplement and enhance the final structure.
Just as a building contractor must use nails, glue, and other materials to hold his structure together, a researcher must use forms such as pedigree charts, family group forms, research logs and planners, genealogy computer programs, and other like items to pull the information together into a cohesive product.
And just as a builder uses hammers, wrenches, screwdrivers, and other building tools, the family historian must use tools such as maps, gazetteers, bibliographies, etc. as the building tools of their profession.
These tools and fasteners are the supportive materials that hold the ancestral family research together in a form that is meaningful to those studying their heritage.
The next lessons of this course will begin to explain a specific building material (record group) known as a Civil Registration which is available to you, the family historian, to reconstruct your ancestral family.
- Let examine one tool you use as you reconstruct your ancestral family--your genealogy computer program. As you know, the very same tool can be used in various ways. Let decide before we use this tool, how we will use it. For example:
- Have you determined how you will capture wrong, discrepant, or missing data?
- Does your program allow you to search this area to find notes you have made about discrepancies?
- Where or how does your program enter migration clues about your family?
- Where would you enter your "TO DO" lists regarding research on each individual?
- In order to keep track of numerous people in your database with the same name and birth places, how does your program assign identification numbers for individuals and families? Have you set up that option?
- Have you looked over the instruction manual for your program to be sure you will be able to share what you have gathered with others, particularly if you are using your "tool" in a nonstandard format?
- Can you make an index of localities and names you have entered in your computer? Do you know how to easily search these?
- Have you determined how to "cut and paste" notes from one individual to another to prevent typing errors and save time?
- Does your program give you a warning when you enter erroneous information such as entering a birth date of 1890 and a death date of 1750 (rather than 1950)?
- Most of us do not use our tools to their best advantage. Take time to become more familiar with your genealogy computer program, pedigree charts, family group records, research planners, or other tools. Perhaps you will find better ways to use them.
About Genealogy Research Associates
Karen Clifford is the Founder and President of Genealogy Research Associates. She is an Accredited Genealogist, an instructor in an Associates Degree program in Library Science-Genealogy and Computers at Hartnell College (Salinas, California) and Monterey Peninsula College (Monterey, California). She has authored several family histories and textbooks including Genealogy & Computers for the Complete Beginner; Genealogy & Computers for the Determined Researcher; Genealogy & Computers for the Advanced Researcher, and Becoming an Accredited Genealogist.
Karen currently serves as Vice-president of the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) and Vice-president of the Utah Genealogical Association (UGA). She is a member of the California State Genealogy Alliance, the Association of Professional Genealogists, the National Genealogical Society, and the New England Historic Genealogical Society. In 1998 and 1999, Karen served as Director of UGA's Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy.
She has received several awards for her volunteer work in the genealogy community including the FGS Award of Merit and the FGS Outstanding Delegate Award.