Start with yourself and work your way back

If you have heard all of your life that your family lines have descended from the first U.S. President, George Washington, that is wonderful. And, there is probably some truth to it. But - be sure to start with yourself and work backwards or you may waste an awful lot of time.

Verify Your Information and Never Believe
that ANYTHING is "Set in Stone"

A true story: On a family history field trip years ago - I saw the resting place of a beloved Ragan ancestor who fought in the Civil War. A elderly distant cousin (now departed) led me to the spot. I knew this ancestor’s name well because he was a real patriarch in our family line, who had many children.

I was a beginning researcher and it was a magic genealogy moment for me. I marveled at the large impressive headstone. "Long ago, some loving family members put out a lot of money for this giant memorial" I thought. Just then my cousin says, "The dates on the stone are wrong." Here, in this case, literally "set in stone" - somebody goofed. It happens all of the time.

Your collection of information (on computer AND on paper in your file cabinets) is an ever changing and wonderful work in progress. But it needs to be verified, and by more than one type of record if at all possible.

People make mistakes. If you get information that came from the Internet, a fellow researcher, or find something in print from and old book - it may not be correct. Remember that.

Set more than one goal - and try and try again

Let's say that you want to find your long lost great-grandmother and it is your heart’s desire. Maybe this is what motivated you to get involved with genealogy in the first place. But you are at a dead end, frustrated and want to throw in the towel. You are not alone. This type of thing happens all the time.

The key is to work on your other family lines, have success, and learn more about how to research. Because the more you research, the better you get. And then your experiences will start to open more doors for you.

Sometimes things will fall in right your lap, while other victories take years. And truthfully, there are some instances where we will not find out all that we want to know during our lifetimes. This will happen to most of us to one degree or another. Just don’t give up. Keep trying.

As a final thought on this matter: Maybe one day when it’s all over, we will be able to see some of those lost ancestors on the other side and say, "Okay, so where exactly did you go after I saw you on the 1850 Census?"