For most people, genealogy is a hobby; a very fascinating, exciting and satisfactory pastime. A person becomes a detective trying to put all the puzzle pieces together to create a picture of their heritage. It does entail work, time, energy and money to produce results. The amount of work and especially costs can vary for individuals. Yet, spending huge amounts of money does not guarantee a full pedigree lineage dating back a thousand years.
Tracking ones’ ancestors back to the second great grandparents would place their birth lineage to a time between 1820 and 1840. Taking the lineage back another hundred years from then brings you to the 1730s. This is one’s fifth great grandparents and represents approximately 128 ancestors. Many researchers will not be able to document their ancestors that far back.
The most important aptitude any genealogist needs is ‘patience.’ Just locating the correct information on one’s parents and grandparents can be a challenging task.
To be accurate in genealogy, you need to use primary sources and document those information locations. Primary sources are documents close to the time of any event. For example, the marriage date of your grandparents is a primary source. A copy of the marriage license, a church registration or even a newspaper clipping with the date gives the proof of the marriage with a date, full names and location.
A secondary source was created long after the event occurred and is not as reliable because of a span of years. For example, on a death certificate can be a birth month, day and year information provided years after the birth by someone who may not have been at that individual’s birth. It might be an uncle’s writing in later years about when he attended his sister’s wedding. He could be off on his dates or even where it occurred. Secondary sources are still useful, but not as acceptable as primary sources.
Research and verifying information are the keys to genealogy. Never accept someone else’s written lineage as being 100% truthful. If they did not use primary sources and verify each bit of information with as many different sources, there could be mistakes. When you find available similar family lineages, use them as a guide, a springboard to point you in the right direction.
This is where a high level of patience is needed. Even primary sources can have errors. A marriage license clerk might have misunderstood the spelling of a name or other information verbally given by the bridge and groom. That license then could have the wrong information on it forever.
Maintain a list of where you obtained information. Nothing elaborate, just a record of where the information came from so anyone else can go to
those sources to investigate. Any researcher can come up with the best answer by using both primary and secondary sources.