The Next Step - Part 2
The second step is also very easy and goes hand-in-hand with the first step. Gather up all of the old family photos from everyone's attic. Talk to anyone who might be able to identify the people in the photographs and mark them accordingly. This will also spur on fascinating conversation about those people and the events that brought them together.
There are certain items of data that you should try to collect about every person. In general they are Who? When? and Where? Ask yourself WHO is the person? Who are their siblings? parents? grandparents? spouses? children? Then for each answer ask the same questions again. In other words if the answer to "Who is their spouse?" Is John Doe, then ask who is John Doe, who are his parents? Grandparents? Spouses? Children? Etc.
Then do the same for the When? When was he/she born? Educated? Ordained? In the military? Married? Employed? Retired? Deceased?
Of course, Where? Comes next and the questions remain the same. If you can put a name a date and a place to every relative and every situation you're continued search will be much easier.
Remember, there is more to tracing your family heritage than a list of names and dates. Obviously, those are very important. But so are the stories that go with the data. If someone had been keeping these stories and photos and records all along, think of the wealth of information we would have!
Okay, so now you've used every human source you have available to you. Now it's time to look at documents. Documents include a wide range of things from Family Bibles to birth certificates, passports, military discharge papers, newspaper obituaries, memorial prayer cards, school records, marriage licenses, and on and on.
A birth certificate, for example, will list not only the date of birth, but also the parent's names (including the all-important maiden name), place of birth and, number of siblings preceding this child. Depending on the era and location of the filing you will also find birth certificates with information like race and nationality. And that's just from ONE document. As always, start with what's available in your house and your relative's houses first.
Marriage records will also tell you if this is a first marriage and often, if not, will list the names of past spouses. In addition, divorce records will tell you the names, dates of birth, place of birth, date and place of marriage, occupations, names and birth dates of minor children, property, and military service (if benefits are or were to be divided).
Death records will include much of this same information and quite possibly a social security number.