|Example of a family tree.|
If you're working on a memoir or a family history book, it's usually good to start with at least a basic framework of your family tree. As you decide which stories to tell, it's important to research deeper into the past. Here are some steps that will help you stay organized and focused on the information you need.
1. Get organized. Decide what information you're looking for. Do you just want important dates (birth, marriage, death, etc,) or do you want to find out more information. Land deeds, immigration dates, lawsuits and other non-census information can all tell great stories if you find all the related information.
2. Start at with the present. In the case of genealogy, that's you. Write down all your important dates, parents, spouse and children if applicable. From there you will work back through each family group and create a data sheet for each family. (free data sheets are available at http://www.genealogysearch.org/free/forms.html)
4. Ask questions. Start with your immediate family and ask them for information about their lives and about family members that may no longer be around.
5. Check for online genealogy sources. If someone else has already completed parts of your family tree, you may be able to find them online. The Church of Latter-Day Saints has most of their information online and Ancestry.com is a fee-based service that allows you to connect to others family trees. Some public libraries offer a free membership to ancestry.com with library membership.
6. Check the Census. The U.S. Census has a lot of family household information available. If you can't make it to The National Archives in Washington, D.C., see if there is a local branch in your area. Much of the census is online now.
7. Use the library. Many libraries have created large genealogy research sections that are available for patrons. A lot of these collections include the census records as well. Make sure to ask if they have fees associated with them first.
8. Invest in software. If you plan on investigating your entire family tree and all the related stories, it is probably worth it to invest in genealogy software. This will help organize everything without paper piling up everywhere.
9. Identify photos that pertain to individuals and make clear labels in your files so that you may connect the people with your writing later.
10. Share your information with family members. This does two things. It helps others see where they are in the family tree. More than that, they can help serve as fact-checking assistants. We can never do without those people in our lives.
Nancy E. Randolph operates Just Write Books, publishing Maine books by Maine authors telling Maine stories. Randolph quickly developed a reputation as a publisher of quality Maine books. An active community member along with two others she founded and serves as a member of the board of Save Our Swinging Bridge.Org to ensure the maintenance of the historic Roebling designed and built bridge connecting Topsham and Brunswick. She co-chairs with Cathy Lamb the Androscoggin Brunswick-Topsham Riverwalk project—building a 2K walking/biking intown loop. To contact her directly: firstname.lastname@example.org.