Genealogy Databases--Treasure Troves and Caveats

As with many other fields, the application of computer technology has revolutionized the practice of genealogy. If you are lucky enough to have a good database for your region, you can accomplish more in just a few minutes than you could in months of intensive research—and you can sometimes do it without even leaving your house. As just one example, by searching in a database and recording the results, it is now possible to get a rough listing of all people with a given surname in a given town.

When Databases Are Not Enough

In my last post, I talked about some of the astounding implications and possibilities of computerized genealogy, as well as some of its inherent limitations. By now it should be clear that if you want to do some of your own genealogy research, the first step of your search should be databases. Some of the information that can be teased out of them can be quite tantalizing. Yet as we have seen, using them also requires a certain finesse, deductive skills, and plenty of self-education.

But What Does It SAY? How Three Historical Scripts Supercharged My Genealogy Research -- Part 1

By its very nature, genealogy research involves digging through historical records—many of which will be handwritten. The overwhelming majority of handwritten material in the past was written using cursive handwriting, and the ability to read them can be paramount for reconstructing the histories of our families. Although it may be falling out of favor today and some of today’s young people are no longer being taught to write or even read it, any historian or historical researcher needs to be able to do so.

But What Does It SAY? How Three Historical Scripts Supercharged My Genealogy Research--Part 2

In my previous blog article, I described my Herculean effort to teach myself how to read Kurrentschrift handwriting. These efforts paid off big time. I learned an enormous amount of information about my family—information I would not have been able to uncover in any other way. But like many Jewish families, my ancestors came from many places in Europe. Learning only one writing system just wasn’t enough.

Proof and Supposition: How to Deal with Incomplete Genealogy Evidence

In genealogy, as in life, we often want to have 100% proof of things. Dealing with a subject as important and personal as family, we want to be totally sure of ourselves and of the information we uncover. Sometimes we are lucky enough to be able to access the gold standard of genealogy—ironclad evidence in the form of written documents which unequivocally state the answers we seek.

Turn Names into Stories Using Maps

When putting together a family tree from metrical records, you will often get many of the usual details: names, dates, and sometimes occupations. In addition, original records can often provide addresses as well. When you look at the data and start to aggregate it, some interesting trends can start to emerge. Using this kind of analysis can give you fascinating insights into the history of your family. Using some novel techniques, you can begin to tease out a living, breathing stories out of static records.

Uncovering Your Family’s Stories through Newspaper Research

Traditional genealogy research can uncover some amazing things. Using metrical records, you can get pictures of your family for several generations back, perhaps as far as 1800 or even earlier. Birth, marriage, and death records are the backbone of genealogy research, and provide the fundamental structure for our family trees. They can yield names, dates, places, and often occupations. A truly astonishing amount of information can be gathered from these traditional sources.