CLIMBING YOUR FAMILY TREE

Why document your family history?

Because we are the “carriers of history”, what we document today will become an invaluable resource for future generations! Imagine finding documents written by your great great grandmother! This is your chance to become a part of history, and find out a little about yourself in the process.

How do I get started?

Start with yourself and choose either your paternal (father) or maternal (mother) side.

Work slowly, one generation at a time.

Gather all the information on that one person you can find before moving on to the next.

As you uncover information on the one person you will uncover information on other family members.

Resist the temptation to get off track!

File away anything that does not pertain to the individual that you are currently working on – you can come back to them later!

It is very important to note where you found each and every piece of information that you uncover.

Do this directly on the item or keep a notebook.

Send family members a questionnaire and ask them to fill out as much as they can. Relatives can be one of your best sources of information and the older ones have fabulous stories to tell!

I suggest keeping a folder on every ancestor. The Church of Latter Day Saints once gave me the idea of using small, round, colored stickers on my folders. Red denotes a direct ancestor, yellow denotes a family member who is blood related yet not my direct ancestor (example: my uncle), green denotes ancestors not blood related but an in-law (example: my grandmother’s second husband). This system of filing is invaluable when you are searching for something!

Keep a separate box of research notes. Files included are the original documents given to me or found such as: Marriage, death, birth certificates, newspaper articles, census records (file by year), military records, etc. I make copies of each document and place these copies in the individuals file.

Overwhelmed? Don’t be. Remember, work slowly and start with yourself!

Your first assignment to get your files in order and start working on YOUR family chart.

Happy Hunting!

About Karen Y. Hamilton

Walt Whitman says about his autobiography, Specimen Days “…At any rate I obey my happy hour’s command, which seems curiously imperative. May-be, if don’t do anything else, I shall send out the most wayward, spontaneous, fragmentary book ever printed.” This is what I feel at this juncture of my life, the need to gather together memories of my ancestors as well as my own memories into some semblance of order. Because all of those fragments, all of the fragments that make up any life, become stories. I am the mother of three sons, who affectionately (I hope!) call me 'gypsy mom' because I tend to wander around a bit soaking in the universe's wonders. I am currently working towards an MFA in Creative Writing at Florida Atlantic University. I have published essays with Heritage Press, Florida Living, and the St. Pauls Review. I am currently working on a book of poems about the Florida Everglades pioneers and a memoir about grief and the bonds of friendship. I live in my hometown, Jupiter, Florida and work as a freelance writer and curriculum specialist.
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