Now if you are a "newbie" you probably read books and blogs, attend webinars, listen to podcasts, etc, and find that all the stuff out there confuses the heck out of you. You hear words like evidence, and proof standards, and source citations, and you say to yourself "I just want to find out about some of my ancestors - I don't want to make a federal case out of it!"
Well guess what - genealogy is pretty simple. If I were to boil it down to 4 things to remember, they would be:
- LOOK EVERYWHERE - This means that those documents and records that you are seeking to determine important dates and relationships? They aren't all online. Some of the ones online are free and some not, but many are in courthouses, libraries and other institutions.
- TALK TO OLD PEOPLE - Family history researchers have two regrets - one of them is that they did not talk to their oldest relatives before they passed. Stories, photo identifications and other important information are lost once these relatives are gone. Frankly you should talk to all your relatives.
- WRITE STUFF DOWN - Keep track of who and what you are searching; document where you found things. The official terms are research plans and source citations. Despite what they are called - just write it down. Experienced researchers will tell you that not writing stuff down when they started is also a regret.
- USE YOUR OWN BRAIN - The analysis of all that stuff you have accumulated - evidence? Whatever you call it - just use your brain to analyze it to come up with conclusions - and don't talk yourself into making a premature conclusion. And please do not use somebody else's tree without your own analysis just because they published it somewhere.
That's it - it is no mystery and no secret. I repeat - I didn't say it was easy. The "not easy" part is why we develop experience and also why sometimes professionals are needed.
And guess what else - not only is genealogy simple - it is the most fun avocation I have ever had - because I have kept it simple.