Genealogy

I have been an amateur genealogist, on and off, since the 1990’s. My research has been focused on my own family, beginning with my parents and working backwards.

If you are a potential new relative who has matched either my family tree or one of the DNA kits that I manage, please start with my “Welcome Cousin” page. That will guide you through the first steps to analyzing our potential match.

The genealogy research process starts with knowledge about the family history that has been gathered by other family members. From there, we work backwards in time and heredity, searching for vital records that can give a clue about details that we don’t already have. Sometimes we find that the family lore is exaggerated, or wrong. Usually it is best to start with one person and work your way backwards, one person at a time, until you can learn no more, then backtrack. It is very slow, tedious work.

DNA testing for genealogy has added a new trajectory to genealogy research. Various testing services are giving people lists of “cousins” and “close matches.” The testing services neglect to tell people that these results are based on statistical models — not hard facts. The services don’t tell you that you simply can’t find a long-lost cousin because you have some segments of DNA in common. You still need to have a good family tree that goes back many generations to establish a match. Everybody is in a hurry, but there are no easy “shortcuts” in good genealogy research.

Some things have become easier. When I started with genealogy research, everything was done on paper. It was necessary to travel to where the records are. At the least, it was necessary to travel to a local Family History Center (FHC), order records on microfilm, wait a few weeks, travel back to the FHC to review the records, and repeat. Many vital records have now been digitized, indexed and made available on the Internet through online services like Ancestry or MyHeritage. It is still tedious work to translate, review and record matching information … but I can do it from home at my leisure.

The Internet has also made it possible for anyone to publish their family trees and share them with other genealogists. Sometimes this leads to finding an answer that breaks down a “brick wall.” Unfortunately, there are many family trees that contain unverifiable or completely incorrect data. Computer algorithms can do a very fast job of matching two trees to find common ancestors. What they can’t do is assert whether either tree (or both) contains incorrect data. That still has to rely on the slow tedious work of validating information against vital records.

Most of what you will find written on these pages and posts relates to my own family history and my quest to learn and document as much as I can. I am not going to try to teach you how to do genealogy. There are plenty of good resources on the Internet for that.

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