Genealogy Boot Camp: Getting Started

OK Team – it’s time to get down to basics and make sure we haven’t missed clues and information that would help us to accurately document our family tree.

Welcome to Genealogy Boot Camp: Core training

Day 1. Home Sources
OK recruits – you will need the basic equipment.

First – get that old laundry basket and let’s put it to good use.
Put this laundry basket where you will see it every day – but where it will be safe. Perhaps a room you don’t use everyday – like the dining room – that should be a good place – or perhaps on the bed in the spare bedroom.

Now, here is your first assignment:
Begin gathering the family history information that you have in your own home.

“But – I don’t have any information about my family!”

OK recruit: put your laundry basket in a visible, safe place and let’s see what we can find in your house.

Step One: Go from room to room in your home looking for items that have clues about your family. As you see something of value – take it and put it in the laundry basket. You should expect to spend one week on this task – do NOT try to do it all at once.

- Photo albums
- Family mementos
- School yearbooks
- Family Bible
- The envelope with family clippings
- Grammie’s recipe book
- The old wooden spoon
- Dad’s World War I medal
- The box with the old family letters and photos
- Baby books
- Old family cups, plates
- History of Gilmanton, NH – Why do we have that?

“I have an old cedar chest with some old clothes & a comforter made by my great-grandmother – I don’t want to move them.

If some of your family treasures are too large or fragile to move – write down a quick description on a 3×5 card and put that in the laundry basket.

Tips

Why should this take one week?

You’re busy. Don’t burn yourself out. During this week as you go around the house in your normal daily routine – be thinking about clues. What do I have in my home that would tell me more about the family? Pick it up and put it in the laundry basket. By the end of the week you’ll have plenty of clues.

Back in the early 1960s I drove over to White Plains, NY to visit my cousins: Genevieve and Burt Shaw (Genevieve M. (Smith) Shaw 1871-1967) – Burton C. Shaw 1866-).

When I arrived Burt was off getting a haircut – Cousin Gen said that he would be right back. We spoke about the family and got caught up on current events.

But, still – no Burt.

As I asked about the family history – Cousin Gen was so apologetic that she didn’t know more about the family history. But as we waited I asked her about the things in the living room. There were framed pictures and photos on most of the shelves and tables. Who were they? She was a steady stream of detail about the family.

And what about the old piano; the old rocking chair; the painting in the corner. Everything had a story and a family connection.

I had written down pages of notes – all the while she repeated that she could no longer remember the details of the family history.

Cousin Burt never did come home that day – but she was a goldmine of information.

So - Step One – Gather Your Home Sources. Once you have them – in hand start to write down the facts and clues and document your family history.

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Written by Thomas Jay Kemp

Thomas Jay Kemp

Thomas Jay Kemp is the Director of Genealogy Products at GenealogyBank. Tom Kemp is an internationally known librarian and archivist – he is the author of over 35 genealogy books and hundreds of articles about genealogy and family history.

He previously served as the Chair of the National Council of Library & Information Associations (Washington, DC) and as Library Director of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

An active genealogist, he has been working on his own family history for 47 years. With the rapidly growing online archives at GenealogyBank – it is a great day for genealogy!

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