Saturday, October 28, 2006

You Have to Start Somewhere

Well, as the title says "you have to start somewhere." I thought I would give a brief introduction on starting to research one's family history. I know that there is so much out there already on this subject, but I figure it is best to discuss it as a teaching tool for those who may not know, and it seems like a good place to start.

Really the first thing to do when first starting to look into one's family history is to start with yourself and work backwards in time. It is certainly a more difficult of a task if you start with someone else. By doing this, it means you should try to locate any birth, marriage, and records and other documents that there may be about your family and yourself. Also, ask questions about your family with your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. This should open up the floodgates to more information to help get you started. Be sure to write down or tape all information you gather and where you got it from (i.e. your sources). If you happen to borrow any documents or photos from family members, please make sure you give them back (make a copy of it for yourself).

Make good use of your local archives, registry office, or public library, as they will be able to help in locating more information for you. Since this is a blog about Scottish genealogy/family history, a trip to your local registrar's office or the GRO in Edinburgh is a great place to start to find vital certificates (birth, marriage, death). There are also several sources on the internet that are good too. Birth, marriage, and death records are a goldmine of information to help get you back further in time in who your ancestors are. There are other record types as well, but I will not go into them at this time. I just want to give a very basic starting point for new budding family historians. I will discuss the other available sources more fully later as we go along.

The vital records will give you a basic skeleton of your family tree. By delving into the other available resources such as the censuses, wills, sasines, etc. these will help in finding more information about a person or family, as well as helping to move a family line back a generation or more. It all depends on the sources available for a family - there are many instances where the documents needed are no longer available due to damage or being lost through time. There are also instances where a family or individual just didn't leave much of a papertrail to begin with.

There is so much more that can be discussed regarding sources, research techniques, analytical skills, etc., but really what it all boils down to in the very, very beginning stages of researching one's family history is just starting with yourself, asking questions of living relatives, and finding/gathering family documents that your family already have - this is what gets your foot in the door. Everything else will fall into place as you go along and get more experience in researching.

Until next time -

Carolyn of MGS

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Genealogy vs. Family History

I think one of the first things to discuss before going any further is the difference between the terms "genealogy" and "family history." The two terms are often used as one in the same, but they are a little different. I did a quick "Google" search and have found a couple of good definitions and explainations to share.

The first one is found on the website about.com genealogy in their "genealogy tip of the day" section:

"While is common for people to use the terms 'genealogy' and 'family history' interchangeably, they actually have a subtle but different meaning. Genealogy, the study of ancestry and descent, refers more to the actual search for ancestors, while family history, the narrative of the events in your ancestors' lives, denotes the telling of your family's story. Family history is genealogy come alive.
To experience the difference between genealogy and family history, place yourself in the world of an ancestor. For the best experience, select one for which you only have a few dull, dry facts such as birth date, hometown, marriage, children and burial location. Then try to learn the circumstances of his/her life - what he did to put food on the table, how he spent his leisure time, his position in the town or community, the cost of living in effect at the time, the types of food he ate, the clothes he wore, diseases which were prevalent for the time period, the traditions he followed...
To dig up the answers to these questions, you can turn to a variety of historical resources: timelines, social histories, community histories, newspaper accounts, biographies, etc. The records which gave you the names and dates for your ancestors are also a source for potential clues. Census records may be able to tell you about your ancestor's neighborhood, occupations, educational background, and financial situation. Wills may provide insight into your ancestor's feelings, friends, and possessions. Immigration and naturalization records may offer a look at your ancestor's motivations for moving to a new country.
In your quest to learn more about where you came from, don't limit yourself to the 'genealogy' search. Flesh out the lives of your ancestors, tell the stories of your living family members, and bring your family history to life."

Another great site I found was from one of the Open University website pages:
http://www.open2.net/historyandthearts/history/genealogyfties.html
This site gives a really good illustration of how the two terms, "genealogy" and "family history" are used in a practical way by using examples and explainations.

I hope that this brief exploration of the differences between "genealogy" and "family history" will be helpful and maybe give a better understanding that there is a difference after all.

I am always open to questions and comments, so please feel free to use the comments section.

Until next time -
Carolyn of MGS

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Welcome to the Scottish Genealogy Blog

Hello Everyone:

This is the first posting of the new Scottish Genealogy Blog. I am hoping that this will be a great tool and resource for those who are interested in researching their Scottish ancestors. I am a professional genealogist who specializes in Scottish genealogy. I wanted to create this blog as a tool to help others who are interested in researching their family history, as well as a place where folks can get information and possibly ask questions regarding Scottish genealogy. I also have an great interest in computer-related genealogy too. The computer has really helped many people get more involved in researching their family history with all the sources available online now. Genealogy blogging is quite new at the moment, but I feel that it will become a great resource for the future.

I am looking forward to adding more information as the days go by. I will try to post as often as I can or as time permits. If anyone has any questions or comments please feel free to let me know.

Until next time -
Carolyn of McNicholl Genealogical Services