The internet continues to excel at what it was designed to do: Share information. For family history researchers, the free sharing of methods and resources has transformed a pastime that was once championed by the elite eager to prove descendancy from royalty to a hobby that proves we are one family.
I’ve compiled a list of free resources and learning opportunities for people who are just getting started or want to make sure their documentary genealogy research is on a firm foundation.
FamilySearch: FamilySearch is the largest database of free genealogy records and guidance on how to do genealogy. The FamilySearch Wiki is one of the first places I turn when starting a new project.
- Research Resources: This part of the Wiki includes a section on Beginning Genealogy with a section on the research process, tips on choosing software, how to use the Wiki and research tools. There is more information on this page than any one genealogist knows.
- Guided Research: This feature of the Wiki will walk you through how to research birth, marriage and death records in many localities around the world. Use the map to identify the locality you want and follow the links.
- Main Wiki Page: From the main page, you can find the resources available for any locality, down to the county level in the US.
National Genealogical Society: This membership group has been around for over 100 years and publishes the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, the most prestigious genealogy publication. Recent diversity and inclusion efforts are encouraging.
African American Research: The continued efforts to share records related to African American history and the legacy of enslavement has meant more is possible than ever. Because of systematic attempts to hide the reality of slavery, records can be hard to find. African American research does require a great deal of persistence and unique approaches to discovering ancestors.
Legacy Family Tree Webinars presents genealogists talking about what they do best. Members have access to the full library of recordings, and many recordings are free for the first week.
- Register here for free live webinars and check out other pre-recorded webinars on the same page.
Family History Research Companies all have free resources, often as a blog or as a series of videos. Taking the time to learn from their experts can make your research more efficient.
I set aside time every week to continue to learn more about family history research. I’m grateful there are free resources for researchers of all experience levels.
This is the final week that I am serving as a peer group leader for Family Locket and the Research Like a Pro Study group. It’s been fun, useful and I’ve made progress on my Stoker family project! The focus for the last week was on productivity and further education.
I’ve been a fan of David Allen’s Getting Things Done approach for several years now. I was introduced to it at work. I use Omnifocus for Mac to help me stay organized. It is designed around the Getting Things Done approach. I really don’t know how I would keep track of different client projects, my own work and even household reminders if I didn’t have Omnifocus.
I began keeping a yearly education plan when I was in ProGen 46 almost 3 years ago. My study buddy from ProGen and I update our plans yearly and give each other feedback. My plan focuses on genetic genealogy. New tools keep the field lively! I also continue to gain skills and experience in African American research. I have reminders in Omnifocus for weekly webinars on a range of topics. Most of the webinars I attend are sponsored by Legacy Family Tree, American Ancestors, the Virtual Genealogical Association or ICAPGen’s great YouTube channel. I have tentative plans to attend RootsTech in March of 2023.
I hope that sharing my experience with the Research Like a Pro Study group has encouraged you! It’s a big time commitment and worth the effort.
Genealogy Standard 62 is about integrity and ownership. It’s a reminder to respect copyright and ownership of other’s intellectual property. The Legal Genealogist, Judy Russell, writes about legal matters and updates on copyright law regularly in her blog. I’ve found her advice useful. I learned about two new resources for copyright: The BYU Copyright Decision Trail and the Fair Use Evaluation Log. For this project, I did not use any images that were covered by copyright. In the past I have had good luck by contacting the copyright holder and would not hesitate to do that again.
I am getting closer to a proof argument for separating the James Stokers, but there is at least one other proof needed – that linking James Stoker born in Kentucky to Edward Stoker, the Revolutionary War Veteran. I need to search land records, probate or local histories that would support parentage for either of the two younger James Stokers.
This seems potentially publishable eventually. The confusion between the James Stokers is evident on WikiTree, FindAGrave, and Ancestry Trees.
I began writing during the research process and I’m glad I did since my schedule threw some curves at me this week. I am incredibly grateful that I took the time to do the citations when I was researching! My flow is not interrupted by that technical element of the process.
I have a rough draft and will appreciate my classmates feedback. I’m relying on bulleted lists and tables to capture the information about the different James Stokers. I am focused on walking the reader through the evidence. I like the challenge of taking complex information and trying to make it understandable.
When I have difficulty writing, I find somewhere that intrigues me and start writing about that topic. I then go back to the parts where I had been stuck. I can re-write forever, so a deadline is helpful. My first drafts are generally too wordy and passive and subsequent drafts tighten that up. I’m finding that GoogleDocs supports me to outline documents. I am a huge fan of the header system in GoogleDocs.
Any professional genealogist will tell you that one thing that distinguishes professional-level genealogy is the consistent and disciplined use of a research log. In the past I’ve used spreadsheets and was marginally successful. I used them sporadically but persisted in hunter/gatherer mode in my non-professional days. AirTable has been a game changer for me. I like databases and I am still learning all the ways AirTable can support organization and analysis of genealogical information, but I am an enthusiast. Filtering! Sorting! Linking between tables! There are so many features to support genealogical research.
For this project, I used the AirTable base (database) developed by Nicole Dyer for Research Like a Pro. It includes both documentary and genetic genealogy tables. This project does not include any genetic genealogy but those tables may come in handy some day. I’ve been using and adapting Nicole’s bases for a couple of years. Since I am disambiguating men of the same name, I need the information in one table to look at each man over time, so I have relied on the timeline table and some extra fields to test different ways to sort the men. Filtering and sorting allows me to visualize the information in a variety of ways.
I learned almost three years ago to create citations when I first look at a document and that has been a boon. Creating source citations can slow down the writing process. I still occasionally miss documenting every negative search and find myself going back and doing that. It’s important to keep track of the search terms, locations and time ranges to avoid rework.
Writing is next and I did start writing as I was logging the information I found, because writing helps me sort out my thoughts and create a more coherent narrative. The course provides two weeks for doing the planned research, which was welcome.