20 March 2008

So Just How Do I Get Started?

Q. I keep feeling prompted to start my husband's genealogy and so today I sat down to look stuff up and to acquaint myself with New Family Search. My husband has names 5 generations back, but did not do their work. so obviously I would have tons of questions - any tips on how best to get started?

A. Let me be blunt. Don't start with New Family Search (nFS)! I suggest that you start by downloading PAF (Personal Ancestral File 5.2) from the old Family Search web site. This is a data management program available at no cost. Check nFS to find out if any part of your pedigree in found in that program. Remember, you can view only the living direct line relatives, or descendents, of your own pedigree in nFS.

After you download PAF (or you can borrow a hard copy from your local Family History Center), start entering your information. Start with your own family--you, your husband, and children. Then extend back one generation. Enter your parents, siblings, then your husband's parents and siblings. Then go back one more generation--you get the picture. [Of course, if you are starting from scratch, start collecting information. Collect birth certificates, death certificates, obituaries, marriage certificates, military records, old Bibles with handwritten records, family books, journals, and of course, information from living relatives.]

If you want to concentrate your efforts on your husband's family, just continue back one generation at a time until you finish entering all of your data in the PAF database. This will take time, so don't get discouraged. Just set aside a little time each day, or at least a little time once a week--Sunday afternoon works for many people.

This database will allow you to see your information in an organized fashion. You can look at an individual family, or at a pedigree chart. You can also print family group records and pedigree charts as well as reports that will help you identify possible problems in your records.

When you are ready, make a backup file of your record--click "File" and select "backup" and save this to a jump drive. Take your jump drive to your local Family History Center and the Consultants will gladly help you evaluate your data and determine what your next step should be.

If you live in an area with access to New Family Search (nFS), you will need to check that program to find your ancestors. Combine duplicate individuals that you find listed in nFS, correct information, then make a GEDCOM file (this format will allow you to move information between genealogy programs) of individuals who are in your PAF files but NOT found in nFS. GEDCOM these individuals into nFS and proceed to check again for duplicate individuals--it is your responsibility to combine duplicate individuals. Be aware that you can spend MANY hours fixing problems before you can move forward if your family has a large pedigree in nFS.

The GEDCOM process can only be used to move information from PAF or another genealogical database into nFS, not the other way around. To add information found in nFS to your PAF files, you will need to enter it manually, one name at a time. We hope that this will change in the future.

Contact your local Family History Center if you need assistance after you combine duplicate individuals and add additional family members. They will assist you with the rest of the process.

Good Luck in your efforts. I will attempt to answer any additional questions, or help you with problems. Ask N. for my cell number or e-mail address if you want to talk about specific challenges.