It does not matter who or where in the U. S. you are researching, you need to know the fundamentals about genealogy research, records & resources. Most importantly be able to ask questions, managing your files, documenting your resources and share your findings.
You need to be organized, if not you’ll become frustrated and quit, or duplicate research you’ve already done. You will become successful in collecting pieces of paper. Have a system in place the helps you record, document, store, and retrieve information. Some researchers use file folders, binders or boxes. Select one and be consistent. An easy way is to just alphabetize your file folders with the surnames of heads of the family.
Things to think about:
Who, What, When, Where, and Why-things I need to know
Has someone in your family already completed some research
Do you have the time? Have you considered the costs?
$$$$-Costs-yes there is costs to doing genealogy research
Tips on retrieving information
Remember: What goes Out Must come IN
Whether you're writing to a cousin or to a county clerk three states away, you will need to track all of your pending information requests. Keep copies of all the letters you send — they act as records of what you requested when. Tell the family of your successes or failures…it will become a recording and you might get some help or new information.
Tips on research trips
When you are researching, Only search one name/person/surname, if you see other names that you need to research further, make a note on a post-it, or add to the to do list- date it.
REMEMBER to cite all the information so you can return to the right document.
Stick to your to do list, have only one to do list-per person/file
Do not try to analyze your information -take it home to read, sort, analyze & make notes
Join and participate in a genealogical society, group…
Attend genealogy training and conferences (keep a record of your attendance)
Share your experiences
Ask for help & Set up sharing time
Don’t assume anything
Write down the different spellings of the surnames (Goens/Goins/Goings/Gowins/Gowens/
Gowings, I have over 10 spelling for this surname)
Ask questions, document, document…
Research the entire family
Don’t assume all African-Americans have Native American roots
Prove your research, learn about the area/community you are researching
Understand the laws that are in place during the time you are researching
Analyze the documents you obtain-understand and see what it can do for you-
Learn the "So What" concept
Chat with those who have done it
African Americans have been called numerous names, hold titles and been identified by abbreviations and notes, such as:
Free persons of color (FPC)
Free Negroes chargeable with tax
Free Blacks chargeable with tax
Person(s) of Color
Who do you start with? YOU!
Write down your information-Document!
Who is your oldest living family member? Call them Today!
Oral History, Photos, and Sharing of Information
What you need to know about a person
Full name and nicknames (why nicknames)
Where were they born, what county, city, state date, where they born in a hospital?
What was going on in the area during the years you are researching?
What were the parents, names, grandparents, etc, where they born, type of work they did, siblings…
Type of work, who are the neighbors, church affiliations, etc.
Know your records & resources
Vital Stats records: birth, death, marriage, divorce
Federal Census & State Census*
Public records-probate, wills, deeds, tax lists, personal property list, mortgages, bill of sales
Media Records-newspaper, Obits, Funeral notices
Headstones, cemetery records
What about the resources: Are they Primary vs. Secondary Resources?
Primary, is a person witnessed the event
Secondary, did not witness the event
That is important for you to know!
You need to understand who provided the information-were they a witness, or was it passed down. It might be accurate, but it also might not be. You need to determine what type of a resource you are looking at.
Some Challenges you might face while doing African American genealogy research
Records not recorded into public record
Denial-don’t want to know, it’s the past
Don’t want to share the information-I will take it to my grave
Received information that is not totally the truth or reliable
You keep looking for people of color during slave research
Not understanding the Genealogy Proof Standard (GPS)
Not aware of Friends, Associates and Neighbors (FAN) principle by Elizabeth Shown Mills.
Not using Cluster Research
Not having a plan in place
Not using Google as your friend to access other tips and leads
Not tuning in to the FREE resources like weekly blogtalkradio shows and podcasts, etc. (Research at the National Archives and Beyond (http://www.blogtalkradio.com/bernicebennett) and africanrootspodcast.com)
Check back in a couple of weeks for Part 2....