For many people, family history seems to be about finding
records. While the records are important, there is something
even more important: the story. Family history is really about
the story. The records prove who was related to whom (at least
as best as we can prove) and give context to the story but it's
the story that's most important and is so often lost amid all the
paper records. With that being said, there are four main places
Start with what you already know.
The first best place to start is with what you already know. Write down all the basic
information that you can remember about family members such as birth, marriage and death
dates and places. This will tell you what you don't know, which will likely be quite a bit, and
if any of the information you 'know' conflicts with other information that you 'know.'
The best way to record this information is on standard charts used for the purpose. The two
charts most widely used are the family group sheet and the pedigree or ancestral chart. The
links to these two charts are below. These are PDF documents which you can fill out and
The family group sheet allows for the charting of information on an entire family unit. The
parent’s information is listed at the top with the children’s information following. This makes
it easy to see the entire family at a glance.
The pedigree chart allows for the charting of an ancestral line from the chosen person,
usually oneself, back through preceding generations.
Once you have all the names, dates and places written down you will want to verify their
accuracy. This is where records come in. You will want to obtain the direct records, if
possible. Marriage records usually date to the beginning of the county in Ohio. Until slightly
before 1900, they contain only the names of the two people being married. After about 1900
the parent’s names were also included along with other information.
Compliance with early birth records law was spotty and inconsistent. While birth records
exist prior to about 1900, many births were not recorded. Other sources can be used to verify
this information such as wills, gravestones, obituaries and newspaper articles.
You need to do the best you can in determining that your information is accurate. Sometimes
this will entail reconciling conflicting information you find in the records. You will need to
determine which piece of information you believe is most likely to be correct and write a short
explanation as to why, including all the information you found along with the sources. Not
only will this help other researchers, it will keep you from going over the same ground again
at some future date. Along with this you should keep research notes not only of where you
find information but where you didn't find it. This will also keep you from retracing the same
steps over and over.
A good strategy to employ when beginning a search on a particular line is to start with the
prime individual and work back as far as you can. If you're starting with yourself, you may
remember dates and places as far back as your grandparents or great-grandparents. When
you get to that point you will want to work back forward, filling in entire families and lines as
you go. You will want to concentrate on entire families because family is what this is all
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