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Adult Genealogy Guidelines

The Local History Department at Plainfield Public Library holds many books that explain how to get started in genealogy. For example:

929.108 SMI
A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your African-American Ancestors by Franklin Carter Smith and Emily Anne Croom (929.108 SMI)

Family Tree Problem Solver: Proven Methods for Scaling the Inevitable Brick Wall by Marsha Hoffman (929.107 RIS 2005)

You can find more available titles in the catalog or get assistance from a librarian on the main floor or in the Local History Department. However, here are ten guidelines that you can consider right from the start:

929.107 RIS


  1. Gather Family Documents.  Collect any papers you may have that include information about you and your family.  Examples would be family bibles, diplomas, birth and christening certificates, family correspondence, obituaries and funeral cards.

  2. Consult Family Members.  The elderly cousin of your grandmother may be the person who can identify for you the faces in your wonderful old family photograph.  Your uncle’s widow may have saved the family tree she made up to help her keep her husband’s family straight in her mind. 

  3. Make Note of Specific Sources.  It is important to note in detail who or what repository held your family’s information, as it is likely that you will want to return to your source at a later time to clarify a detail or pursue a new avenue of research.

  4. Take Care Of Your Research.  To avoid confusion later, researchers should avoid unclear handwriting or unique abbreviations.  Also, investing in acid-free storage for the growing collection may prevent damage to older documents and will preserve your research for future generations to enjoy.

  5. Double-Check Your Findings. As you record statements from family members and make photocopies of published documents, do not believe everything you hear and read; misunderstandings regarding family stories develop over time and typographical errors and mistakes are often made in print.

  6. See Past Names And Dates.  If you only “collect names” for your family tree, you will miss out on what their personalities and lives were like.  For example, you may also be able to discover which program of study your great-great-grandfather belonged to or whether he was voted Best Dancer of his class by looking at his high school yearbook.

  7. Look At The Bigger Picture.  Reading historical books or newspapers about the times and the places in which your family lived will give you ideas about additional sources or locations to research.  It may also be helpful to create a timeline of important family occasions that also incorporates world events.

  8. Take Advantage Of Community Resources.  Many communities offer valuable genealogical resources for free to their members.  The Plainfield Public Library currently offers free access to major online genealogy websites such as Ancestry Library Edition (only accessible in the library) – and many other helpful websites, such as American Ancestors.

  9. Contact Your Local Library Staff.  Our genealogy collection extends well beyond access to online databases and the librarians are always available to point you in a particular direction, assist in finding an ancestor’s obituary, or recommend a genealogy guidebook that will help.

  10. Share Your Research.  Community and family members are often eager to hear what you have discovered in your genealogical research.  They may be encouraged to join you or engage in their own family research, or take part in activities with children.  There are tremendous opportunities to explore beyond the computer screen -- get started now!
Family Tree
It is also important to remember that you too will one day be a part of history. Take the time to properly organize and house paper records or identify your new photographs so future generations are not faced with questions you are now finding in your own family research.

 

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