Genealogy for Beginners

Lesson 1

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Introduction
Welcome to the first class of our free online course of Genealogy for Beginners. This is a self-paced, four-lesson class packed full of new concepts, techniques and ideas which will hopefully get you started on your way to a fulfilling lifetime of tracing your family tree. Before we will start, let’s see some preliminary information about the course.

Duration
This class is self-paced so you can go as slowly or quickly as you desire. Ultimately is designed to take approximately six weeks, with one lesson per week.

Course Overview
This Introduction to Genealogy class is designed to take you step-by-step through the process of genealogical research. You will be introduced to the resources and techniques needed to track down the information about your family's history and to build a family tree. This class is intended for beginners and for people who have been doing genealogy for a while, but need some help putting it all together and keeping it organized.

Objective
In this course, you will learn how to:
• • • • • • • •

start your search for your ancestors organize your search (we'll have an entire class on this at a later date) track what you find in a variety of formats properly record names, dates and places locate sources for family information locate sources for published information find birth, marriage and death information for your ancestors use proper source citations for the records discussed in this lesson

Class Schedule
This class is self-paced so you can start and finish whenever it fits your schedule. There are four lessons, each of which include reading, a summary, a quiz and discussion points as well as optional homework assignments. For each lesson there will either be a quiz, a homework assignment or both. These are not by any means required, but it is well known that practice is the best teacher. Completing these assignments gives you the opportunity to ask questions and share experiences with your teacher and fellow 2

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classmates either on our FB Page or on our email. They will not be difficult or demanding assignments given that this class is only six weeks long and genealogy can be a life-long hobby.

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Chapter I: Why Genealogy?

In lesson 1 of the Genealogy for Beginners you will learn about the basic objectives of genealogical research, methods of charting your family tree, terms for the variety of relationships you will encounter in your tree and the proper methods for recording names, dates and places. By the end of this lesson you will understand:
• • • • •

a variety of motivations for studying your family history the building blocks of a family tree how to identify the relationships in your family tree how to record your family tree in a variety of formats the proper methods for recording names, dates and places

This class is geared to genealogy researchers in all countries, not just one particular area. Questions to specific areas can be asked and answered on our FB Page.

Why Genealogy?
Genealogy is one of the world’s most popular hobbies. Hundreds of millions of people around the globe are actively engaged in some form of family research. It seems as if everyone, in some part of their lives, wonders where they came from. Maybe it's the red hair that your mom says has been passed down from your Irish great-grandfather. Or perhaps a curiosity as to why Grandma never spoke about her family. Some people have become intrigued after visiting a battlefield and wondering if one of their ancestors fought or even died there. For others its the box of old photos or clothing which has been left to them by a relative. What starts as a simple curiosity, however, quickly grows into a obsession. Forget shopping or gambling - climbing your family tree is much more addictive, so never say I didn't warn you!

Reasons to Research Your Family's History
People get involved in researching their family's history for any number of reasons, all of which are right for them. Here are a few of the most popular:
o o

To satisfy your curiosity about yourself and your roots. To provide your children with a sense of who their ancestors were, where they came from and how they lived their lives. To preserve family cultural and ethnic traditions for future generations.

o

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o

To compile a medical family history to give family members an advantage in the battle against inherited diseases or defects.

o o

To qualify for a lineage or heritage society. To assemble and publish a family history book, whether for family members or for profit. To discover facts that others have overlooked and solve the puzzle of a lifetime.

o

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Chapter II: Genealogical Basics

The word genealogy is derived from the Greek, and means the study of family history and descent. Genealogies, or the recorded histories of the descent of a person or family from their ancestors, are also often referred to as family trees or sometimes as lineages or pedigrees. The basic objectives of genealogical research are to identify ancestors and their family relationships. At a basic level you will identify and record the following for each individual in your family tree: date and place of birth names of parents date and place of marriage names of children date and place of death From here you will, through your genealogical research, learn more about the lives and times of your ancestors and be able to flesh out those facts into a family history.

Who are my ancestors?
A maternal ancestor is an ancestor on your mother's side of the family. A paternal ancestor is from your father's side. Perhaps by now you are wondering which of your many relatives are your "ancestors." An ancestor is a person from whom you are descended parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents and so on. The term is most commonly used to describe someone earlier than your grandparents in your family tree.

If you think of a family tree as being in the shape of an upside-down pyramid (triangle), you would be the the point at the bottom. Not counting second marriages, an individual will usually have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, sixteen great-great-grandparents and so on. From you (at the bottom of the triangle) working upward, these form the ancestral pyramid. By the time you have gone back ten generations you have an impressive 1,024 ancestors - more than enough to keep you busy researching for a lifetime! If you take this pyramid and turn it right-side-up then you are now at the point at the top. Stretching down from you are your descendants - your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and so on. If you trace your family tree down from a single ancestor, then it is called a descendant tree. If you trace your family tree back through the generations from a single individual, then it is know as an ancestor tree. The relationship between you and your ancestors and descendants are known as lineal relationships. Collateral relationships are relationships between individuals who descend from common ancestors but are not related to each other in a direct (or lineal) line. These relationships include your 6

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brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins. While it is not necessary to trace these collateral lines when researching your family tree, they can often lead you to clues about your ancestors when you have reached a brick wall.

Kissin' Cousins
If someone walked up to you and said "Hi, I'm your third cousin, once removed," would you know what they meant? Most of us don't think about our relationships in such exact terms ("cousin" seems good enough), so most of us aren't familiar with what these words mean. When working on your family history, however, it's more important to understand the various types of cousin relationships. First cousins are the people in your family who have two of the same grandparents as you. o Second cousins have the same great-grandparents as you, but not the same grandparents. o Third cousins have in common two great-great-grandparents and their ancestors.
o

When cousins descend from common ancestors by a different number of generations they are called “removed.” Once removed means there is a difference of one generation. Your mother's first cousin would be your first cousin, once removed. She is one generation younger than your grandparents and you are two generations younger than your grandparents. o Twice removed means that there is a two-generation difference. Your grandmother's first cousin would be your first cousin, twice removed because you are separated by two generations.
o

Half and Step Relationships
Half relationships exist between individuals who have a common ancestor but descend from different spouses of that ancestor. For example, half-brothers may have the same father but different mothers or the same mother but different fathers. The children of these half-brothers would be halfcousins, because they share only one of the grandparents. Half-relationships are still considered consanguineous (blood) relationships along the line which the two individuals share. Step relationships (including "in-law" relationships) are relationships which occur through marriage. Your relationships with your step-relatives are not consanguineous as they are only related to you through marriage, not blood. They are not considered a part of your direct or lineal lines, but they can still be an important part of your family tree.

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Relationships Made Easy
There are several types of charts to help you determine family relationships. You should also be aware, especially when you are working with older records, that the meaning of the word "cousin," along with the meanings of other relationship terms, have changed over time.

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Chapter III: Charting Your Course
Genealogy is basically one big puzzle. If you don't put the pieces together in just the right way, then you'll never get to see the final picture. To make sure your puzzle pieces end up in the proper positions you should use genealogy charts and family group sheets to record your research data. While many genealogy software programs will help you to properly record data and print it out in a variety of formats, for the purposes of this lesson we will be discussing the old-fashioned paper and pencil method. It is important as a genealogy newbie that you understand the principals behind the charts and numbering systems before you turn that responsibility over to your computer :) The two basic forms for recording genealogical information are ascendant charts and descendant charts. An ascendant chart starts with you and moves back through the generations of your ancestors. A descendant chart starts with you or another individual in your family tree and lists all of the descendants coming down through the generations. On these forms you record the names of your ancestors or descendants and the dates and places of the three major genealogical events (birth, marriage and death). They basically serve as a master outline of your genealogy information and make it easy to see at a glance where you have gaps in your knowledge of people or events.

Ascendant Charts
The chart which most people begin with is the pedigree chart, a type of ascendant chart. The most common type of pedigree chart displays five generations of family data on a single page (also known as a five generation chart), but you can purchase paper charts which will accommodate as many as 15 generations. We prefer working with a four-generation chart as it fits neatly on a standard size page and leaves enough room for data. The first individual named on the left of the chart is the one whose ancestry the tree documents. You should start by placing yourself as person number one on your first pedigree chart. The chart then branches in two to show your parents, then in fourths to show your grandparents and so on. This chart only shows your ancestors - there is no room on a pedigree chart for siblings, multiple marriages, etc. An ahnentafel is another type of pedigree chart in the form of a table or list. The pedigree chart is the more graphic representation of a person's ancestors, while the ahnentafel presents the information in a neat, compact manner. Ahnentafels are not used quite as often today as they were in the past. Ancestors are numbered on pedigree charts and ahnentafels using a system known as the ahnentafel numbering system. You (or the person whose ancestry is being traced) are number 1. A father is twice his child’s number (1 x 2 = 2) and a mother is twice the child’s number plus one (1 x 2 = 2 + 1 = 3). The numbers for men are always even and the numbers for women are always odd, with the exception of number 1 which can obviously be either. One thing which is neat is that the first number for each generation is equal to the number of people in that generation.

Descendant Charts
You won't find descendant charts to be extremely useful to you as you are starting out, although you 9

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should prepare one to include your children and grandchildren if that applies. In general, however, descendant charts begin with a progenitor, a term usually used by genealogists to refer to the earliest proven ancestor in a line. This means that you must do some research first before you can create this type of chart. Descendant charts are most often used to chart all of the descendants (or at least as many as can be found) of a specific ancestor (often an immigrant ancestor or the first one living in a specific area or country).

Family Group Sheets
By now I bet you are wondering what you do with all those aunts, uncles and cousins you have floating around. This is where the family group sheet comes in. A family group sheet is the basic worksheet used for genealogical research. While a pedigree chart identifies your ancestry and serves primarily as a culmination of your work, the family group sheet is how you get there. There are many different formats available, but each Family Group Sheet is based on a single family unit - husband, wife and children. A family group sheet has space for the basic genealogical events for each family member, including dates and places of birth, marriage, death and burial. For each child on the list, a name of a spouse can be given, along with a date and place of the marriage. There is usually a place for notes where you should record where you got your information (source) as well as make note of any discrepancies in your findings. Family Group Sheets are essential because they 1) serve as a simple means of recording data 2) make it easy to see at a glance what information is known and what is missing and 3) serve as a means of easily exchanging information with other researchers.

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Chapter IV: Recording Names
When recording your genealogical data on charts there are some important conventions which should be followed with regard to names, dates and places. By following these standard rules, you can help to ensure that your genealogy data is as complete as possible and that it will not be misinterpreted by others. NOTE: Genealogy software programs will each have their own individual rules for entering names. Be sure to read the directions completely so that you get it right the first time! 1. Record names in their natural order - first, middle, last (surname). Use full names if known. If the middle name is not known, you may use an initial. Example: Shawn Michael THOMAS 2. Print SURNAMES in upper case letters. This provides easy scanning on pedigree charts and family group sheets and also helps to distinguish the surname from first and middle names. This convention is widely used, but is not necessary. Example: Garrett John TODD 3. Enter women with their maiden name (surname at birth) rather than their husband's surname. When you do not know a female's maiden name, insert only her first (given) name on the chart followed by empty parentheses (). Some genealogists also record the husband's surname. Both ways are correct as long as you are consistent and follow all naming rules. In this example, your ancestor Mary Elizabeth's maiden name is unknown and she is married to John DEMPSEY. Example: Mary Elizabeth () or Mary Elizabeth () DEMPSEY 4. If a women has had more than one husband, then you would enter her given name, followed by her maiden name in parentheses followed by the names of any previous husbands (in order of marriage). If the middle name is known then you may enter that as well. This example is for a woman named Mary CARTER at birth who was married to a man named Jackson CARTER prior to marrying your ancestor, William LANGLEY. Example: Mary (Carter) SMITH or Mary (Carter) SMITH LANGLEY 5. If there is a nickname that was commonly used for an ancestor, include it in quotes after the given name. Do not use it in place of a given name and do not enclose it in parentheses (parentheses between a given name and surname is used to enclose maiden names and will cause confusion if it is also used for nicknames). If the nickname is a common one (i.e. Kim for Kimberly) it is not necessary to record it. Example: Rachel "Shelley" Lynn BROOK 6. If a person is known by more than one name (i.e. due to adoption, name change, etc.) then include the alternate name or names in parentheses after the surname, preceded by a.k.a. Example: William Tom LAKE (a.k.a. William Tom FRENCH) 7. Be sure to include alternate spellings when your ancestor's surname has changed over time (possibly due to it being spelled phonetically or due to the surname being changed upon immigration into a new country). Record the earlier usage of the surname first, followed by later usages. Example: Michael HAIR/HIERS 11

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8. Don't be afraid to use the notes field. For example, if you have a female ancestor whose birth name was the same as her husband's surname, then you will want to make a note of that so that it is not assumed in the future that you had just entered it incorrectly.

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Chapter V: Recording Dates
It is especially important to follow genealogical standards when recording dates as the usual way that you enter a date may be different from the standard date format in another country or a different time period. NOTE: Genealogy software programs may have somewhat different standards for recording dates. Many will allow you to record them in the format of your choice and will still allow you to print out charts and forms with the standard genealogical format. 1. When recording dates, use the accepted European standard of DAY, MONTH (spelled out) and four digit YEAR. This is different, for example, than most Americans are used to entering dates. Do not enter dates using a number format. If you enter a date as 02/01/01, people will not know if you meant February 1 or January 2 or if you meant 1801, 1901 or 2001. Example: 30 June, 1993 2. It is usually standard practice to spell months out, but there are also standard abbreviations which may be used. May, June and July are usually not abbreviated. Examples: Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May June July Aug. Sept. Oct. Nov. Dec. 3. Sometimes you may only have an approximate date and you want to indicate that it is not exact. You may specify an approximate date as either "about" (abbreviated abt) or "circa" (abbreviated ca. or c.). Examples: c. 1850, abt December 1850 4. If you know an event occurred before or after a specific date (i.e. you know your ancestor was still living at the time he wrote his will), you might preface the date as bef. or aft. in your records. Example: aft. 19 January, 1771 5. If you are unable to determine an exact date that an event occurred, then try using the records to narrow it down to a specific span of time (i.e. it's a logical assumption that your ancestor would have died between the date a will was signed and the date it was admitted to probate). Record the time span using the abbreviation bet. (between) followed by the dates (in standard date format) with a hyphen between them. Example: bet. 13 Apr. 1789 - 3 May 1880 6. If you find a date in a record which may have multiple interpretations, what should you do? The best method is to enter it exactly as it was written. You can add your interpretation of the date, such as expressing it in the traditional format, by enclosing it in square brackets [ ] following the original date. Example: 02/01/01 [2 January, 1901] 7. An understanding of the change from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian calendar is very important to genealogists. This change took place in 1582 by order of Pope Gregory XIII, but it wasn't adopted by England and British North America until 1752. China didn't conform to the Gregorian calendar until 1949! I'm not going to get into too many details here (that could be another entire class), but here is an example of how it can affect genealogy records and why it is important to understand the history of the change to the Gregorian calendar. Example: The "Old Style" calendar was in effect in the British Empire 13

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before 1752, when the present (Gregorian) calendar was adopted. The new historical calendar recognized January 1 as the first day of the year, while the ecclesiastical calendar recognized March 25 as the first day. Thus, dates between those two days prior to the calendar change in 1752 were often written with both year numbers (i.e. 5 January 1712/13). This is referred to as double dating. Also, if a record says "The 6th day of the third month it could be referring to March or May, depending upon the calendar in use at the time. The best rule of thumb is to record dates in your records exactly as written. Then you can go to the historical records to determine the best possible date, depending on the country your ancestor lived in. Include this in brackets after the original date. The French Republican Calendar is another source of possible confusion but because of the complexity of dealing with dates that followed this calendar, we are not going into it here. For more specific information on the Julian, Gregorian, French Republican and other calendars, please see Google.

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Chapter VI: Recording Places
The general rule of thumb when entering place names into genealogical records is to record place names from smallest to largest location (i.e. town/locality, county/parish/district, state/province, country). You may choose to leave off the country if it is the one in which you reside and the one where the majority of your research lies, but you may want to at least make a note of this in your files. The breakdown of these locations will vary by country. Here are a few examples:

Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, United States (City, County, State, Country) Calluragh, Inchicronan, Clare, Munster, Ireland (Townland, Parish, County, Province, Country)

If you have additional place name details, feel free to include them. Just be sure to make note of what it is. For example, you could add the name of the barony (Upper Bunratty) to the above location details for Calluragh, Ireland. Many paper pedigree charts and even some computer programs do not include enough room to record full place names. Abbreviations may certainly be used as long as they are the ones in standard use. For example:
• • •

Co. (County) Par. (Parish) Twp. (Township)

Check out this very useful List of Genealogical Abbreviations from Rootsweb for more commonly seen abbreviations. Country and place names usually have accepted variations as well. The Roots Surname List of Country Abbreviations gives three-letter abbreviations for countries and for the counties and other subdivisions of many countries (i.e. U.S. states).

If you only know the town or city in which an event occurred, then you should consult a gazetteer to find the county, parish, province, etc. There are also many online sources from which you can obtain information on the county or province in which a town or city is now located. See Geographic Place Names for a list of online sources.

Population changes, wars and other historic events have caused location boundaries to change over time. It may be something as simple as a town which no longer exists or has changed names or something a little more complex such as a town which was originally part of one country and is now part of another. It is very important to know the history of the area in which you are researching so that you will be able to make educated guesses as to where to find the records for a given time period. When recording a place name for an event, you should always record the locality as it was situated at the time of the event. Then, if space permits, you may also include the information for the locality as it exists today. 15

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Example: Beaufort Co. (now Pitt Co.), NC

If you aren't sure of a location, but you have records which suggest the most likely alternative (i.e. if you know where an ancestor is buried, you may make the assumption that he probably died in that locality), then you can record the place as a "probable." Example: prob. St. Michael, Bristol, Glouchestershire, England

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Chapter VII: Put It All Together
Congratulations and welcome to the end of Lesson One! In this lesson you have learned:
• • • • •

a variety of motivations for studying your family history the building blocks of a family tree how to identify the relationships in your family tree how to record your family tree in a variety of formats the proper methods for recording names, dates and places

Homework Assignment:
Print out the Ancestral Chart and and fill them in as best you can using the standards and rules you used in this lesson. Don't worry about tracking down unknown names and dates for now. We will cover getting information from your family members in Lesson Two. If you would like to share your homework with us, then either fill out and save the form right online or scan it in with a scanner and save it as a jpeg or gif file. Then post the file on our FB Page. Homework is not required, but it is encouraged. You can't learn if you don't practice!

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