My Czechoslovak Genealogical Society international (CGSI) member welcome packet came in the mail this week! It was like Christmas for a nerdy, family history obsessed person such as I. I carefully opened the Manila folder and read every word of the materials which included welcome letter, brochure, member packet, and current issue of their quarterly publication. (The contents are in the image above) Then, I got on the website and signed into the member only section and found the holy grail of resources, with links to sites, books, and tips on how to do research. I was seriously like a kid in a candy store.
On top of that, my grandma brought boxes of her mother’s photos to Easter! My grandmother, her sisters, and I spent the afternoon absorbing ourselves in hundreds of photos. In my previous Genealogy research, I found a ton of info on my grandma’s father’s family, but almost none on her mother’s family. While rifling through some of the older loose photos, I found a couple photos of my grandma’s maternal great-grandparents with names on the back! This is a huge deal because I didn’t have either the photos or the names before. I was stuck with that side of the family and now I have a new lead. Yay!
If you have not done family history research before, the previous paragraph may have been a little overwhelming, sorry about that. But, I have caught the genealogy bug and once you get started, I promise you will too! It is extremely gratifying to add another name or detail to my family tree and often mind-blowing to see photos of family members I know and those that died before I was born. It helps me feel connected to that family and I gain a better understanding of who I am and where I came from. It is something special to be a part of something bigger than yourself and know your place within it.
Because of this kismet with the genealogy society and the family photos, I have decided that I have no other choice but to resume my research once again. I’m going to start from scratch and look through all my files, photos, and documents to verify that the information I had was correct. In order to do this I need to be thorough and organized with the information and I thought you might be interested in how I’m going to do it and maybe join me on this adventure too!
1. Get Organized.
I started today by printing “family group record” sheets from ancestry.com (see photo above). These sheets have a standard format that I can fill in with each families information, starting with the husband and wife and listing the children below. This will allow me to do each set of parents and establish clear generations. It will also make me find out the information about all that couple’s children, not just the one that I descend from, making it easier to find more connections later if I hit a road block.
2. Start with Yourself and Move Outward.
The first thing I did with the sheets was fill out one for my husband and I. This is the starting point. Next, I will fill out one for my parents, then each set of my grandparents, and so on as far as I can remember.
3. Start Researching Recent Generations by Identifying Photos
Once I can no longer positively identify on my own the generations, I will start looking through pictures and writing down names.
4. Ask Family Members.
I will ask family for help with the photos to use their memory of generations I didn’t know and then check the documents I have gathered from family members who have done their own research (these documents must have sources or proof of who the generation is or I cannot use it). I note all this information on my sheets. You may have to ask around to find out who has done family history research or who may have photos, such as cousins, great aunts, or distant relatives you may not yet know.
5. Use the Internet.
Once I get done verifying all the information I can find from family members I will start googling surnames, documenting all citable sources. Then, I will check all the major genealogy sites such as ancestry.com, genealogy.org, or archives.gov to expand my search. Next, I will get more focused with internet sources. This is where my CGSI membership will come in handy! I have a wealth of knowledge by using their databases and resources that I have never tried before, meaning I will be more successful because I have more options.
6. Ask for Help.
Many libraries, town record keepers, and genealogy societies will have staff that can help do the research with you or for you for a fee. You will need to have quality records they can work from if you go this route, so make sure to be very detailed.
And that’s just the beginning! My goal is to use all the information I find, plus pictures and documents, to write an e-book of my family history for all the generations that will follow me and other family members who will be able to use it in their search. Hey, maybe I will find that you and I are related.
Keep a look out for my progress and I would love to hear about yours. If you have any questions you can message me here or on Facebook!