In conducting a research on your genealogy, you are bound to come across some tips from experts and other tricks on how to find and obtain the information you need. While these genealogy tips and tricks may be helpful, there are still a few basic genealogy guidelines that you must observe to improve your chances for an effective and meaningful search.
On Recording Information
Often overlooked by beginners in genealogy research is the documentation aspect. An accurate log of the information that you have collected will facilitate any cross-referencing later on when you need to verify any subsequent information that may be obtained from other sources. To this end, be sure to record all gathered information together with the corresponding resources you used.
On Evidence Gathering
Genealogy research is much like any other type of research; you will have to create your own hypotheses about your family history. This means that you need to develop a theory about your ancestry as you try to connect the bits and pieces of information that you gather. However, stay away from entertaining any romantic notion about your blood line as doing so can only be a distraction to your efforts to researching your genealogy. Test every assumption you have by validating each hypothesis against credible evidence. Reject any hypothesis that is unsubstantiated by evidence and move on to the next premise.
On Using Original Documents
Whenever possible, it is best to use original documents in your genealogy research. There is always that risk of possible alterations in cases of using reproduced documents which, of course, would lead to factual errors. Publications, compilations, communications and other references (electronic or paper) should serve only as guides to direct you to the original source documents.
On Sticking to the Truth
Restrict all communication regarding your genealogy to factual information only. When sharing information, never mislead other researchers, intentionally or not. Always cite your references when providing information as a fact. If you pass on unsubstantiated information as factual to other investigators and should your “fact” be disproved later on, you are bound to lose credibility among genealogists. Any assistance from the community would be less likely to come by when you need help in your own search.
Note any uncertainty you have over a piece of information. In addition, qualify any mention of that information as something “probable” or “possible” and then cite your source as well as the reason you believe that the information may be true. Don't forget, too, to acknowledge any information coming your way courtesy of other researchers.
On Working with Others
Collaborations figure prominently in genealogy research. There are societies and communities of genealogists where knowledge is shared for the benefit of everyone. On your part, you could publish your findings and make it available to others in the field. You could even submit your research to libraries and other databases. Through it all, be prepared and open to constructive criticism.
Similarly, you can help yourself to the information gathered by other researchers. Access their repositories, send queries or request for information. Everybody in the field is willing to help.
On the Need to Keep an Open Mind
The whole process of genealogy research involves the formulation and evaluation of a number of hypotheses and you need to keep an open mind about the whole thing. Be flexible and set aside any preconceived ideas about your lineage. It is possible that you might chance upon new evidence that would seem to invalidate your previous findings or lead you to another direction. Learn to appreciate the conclusions drawn by other genealogists and welcome their comments about your own progress. Who knows, you just might gain valuable insight on how to proceed with your work.
You will find that genealogy research can be rewarding, fun and interesting. It only requires from you truthfulness, flexibility, and an open mind. Do not be selfish with your information; share with others and receive their inputs without being hypercritical. Neither should you take offense on their remarks. You can liken your research to solving a jigsaw puzzle -- given more ideas and help, the faster you can fill the blanks to create a beautiful family picture.
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