So how do you do it?

28 May

I have used several tools & software over the past years for my genealogical research. Indeed, there are many out there that fit the job however this is not a post about the best family tree software or website, rather an exploration of my research methods.

See, I have noticed something in genealogy, more and more big websites are making genealogical data available…almost every day!  You have the huge indexing projects by Family Search, the big databases (and websites) bought by Ancestry, newspapers archives at Genealogy Bank and so on… and that’s just for Canada and the US. In the UK you have Find My Past, Genes Reunited and Scotland’s People (just to name a few). You have of course all the local societies, like the Federation Quebecoise des Societes de Genealogie, the forums and pages of RootsWeb, the genealogy search engines like Mocavo and so many more that I cannot name in this post.

Most big genealogical databases and websites require a subscription to view and add records to the individuals of your tree, some of them will let you try their features for a couple of days, some will allow you to search indexes but won’t show you digital images. I, personally, don’t have the budget to subscribe to all these databases for my research, so I choose to use only a few at a time. For instance, I have been adding records steadily to my tree on Ancestry.com but I have not transcribed their contents yet or cross-referenced other family members that are mentioned in the records. I use Familysearch.org to double-check some references but at this stage, I am gathering information. A month of subscription to Ancestry.com cost me about 40$, I will not use their website for a whole year so there is no reason for me to subscribe to more than what I need. In contrast, I have bought a package of five hundred credits on the British Newspaper Archive to pursue some leads on my husband’s Scottish and English ancestors, unfortunately I have only one week to use them.

As much as I respect and adhere by genealogical standards, I find that when you do research strictly online, you need to bulk tasks (like adding relevant records or find news articles) without fully analyzing the data just so you can make the most of your memberships. When your membership expires, you have plenty of time to check the records you have accumulated in detail, this works especially best for me with Ancestry as I do not like their features for the family tree neither do I like their source citation method. But they have the records I need. To display the results of my research I prefer participating to online projects like Wikitree which enables to freely make my family tree available, source my records and display digital images. I am not saying that thorough research methods are not needed just that in an online world, sometimes you have make the best of it. So go ahead, have a month at Ancestry, Find my Past or any other of the big ones, only remember that you (probably) don’t need more than a month or two to accumulate enough information to get your family history research going.

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