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View Full Version : Newbie needs advice on getting started (and Ancestry.com)...


CallMeAl
08 November 2007, 04:08 PM
Hello all, I am new to genealogy research. It all seems quite overwhelming. I have Reunion and have put in some of the info I know. I need to become more familiar with the Reunion program.

Any advice on keeping it simple in the beginning would be helpful. Do you have any favorite books or websites for beginners?

Also, I thought joining Ancestry.com might be an option, but have read some nightmare stories about scams, unauthorized credit card billing and being subject to endless e-mails and spam. Plus, I read this at the BBB site:

http://www.saltlakecity.bbb.org/commonreport.html?bid=2003190

Is it really as bad as all that?

Bill Nash
08 November 2007, 06:50 PM
Hello all, I am new to genealogy research. It all seems quite overwhelming. I have Reunion and have put in some of the info I know. I need to become more familiar with the Reunion program.

Any advice on keeping it simple in the beginning would be helpful. Do you have any favorite books or websites for beginners?

Also, I thought joining Ancestry.com might be an option, but have read some nightmare stories about scams, unauthorized credit card billing and being subject to endless e-mails and spam. Plus, I read this at the BBB site:

http://www.saltlakecity.bbb.org/commonreport.html?bid=2003190

Is it really as bad as all that?

I read the BBB report. Actually, considering, as they say, the volume of business done by Ancestry it didn't seem like many complaints for a three year period. I have dealt with the public on occasion and there are always a few people who will never be satisfied no matter what you do or offer. Some are just grumpy and others are out to get something for free.

That said, I once quit Ancestry because of their policy of automatic renewal. Really ticked me off. But they did warn me what they were going to do, it was just so far in advance I had forgotten. I now have the US deluxe level of membership and consider it very worthwhile. When I think about the cost of one out-of-town research trip to find some of the stuff I can get off of Ancestry, the cost is pretty minimal. You will need a high bandwidth internet connection to get the best use out of Ancestry. When you find a document you need, download it and save it with a name that will insure you can find it later. Develop a file naming and filing standard that works for you and stick with it.

There is another popular online genealogy service, called HeritageQuest Online. You can often get access to that through your local library for free. In Texas at least, you can sign up at your library and then use it at home. Their census indexing is not as robust as Ancestry but they have a remarkable collection of searchable family and local history books online and indexed.

Hope that helps

Bill Nash

Jan Powell
08 November 2007, 06:55 PM
I've been a genealogist/family historian for about 35 years. When you are new to genealogy it can be rather overwhelming. To get you on the road, start with yourself, then work backwards through parents, grandparents and any of their siblings. As you go, make sure you include the sources of your information as that way you can refer back and be certain that information is as correct as possible. Remember that there will always be conflicting information as moral standards, for example, have changed over time and what was considered immoral "back then" may not be now. The trick is to keep an open mind and not judge people.

Try not to bite off too much at one time in your research. It may be easier simply to enter information about direct ancestors (parents, grandparents, G-Grandparents, etc) and leave their siblings and families for a later time when you are more comfortable. That's where your sources will come in handy - you can revisit to use the additional information. Don't believe everything you read, and obtain primary sources whenever you can (birth, death certificates) but remember that these are only as reliable as the people who gave the information.

When you get stuck with using Reunion, write to the forum again, and loads of people will help you out. Have fun!

I have a subscription to Ancestry.co.uk
When I signed up I was sent and email with the following information:
"To cancel subscription:
If you wish to terminate your subscription you must notify us at least two days before the renewal date by calling 0800 404 9723 (free phone) from the UK, or +1 801 705 7620 (a toll call) from outside of the UK. Member service is available from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. GMT, Monday through Saturday. Or send an e-mail to cancel@ancestry.co.uk, provide the following information:

Given name and surname
Username
Subscription type (UK/Ireland collection, etc.)
E-mail address used when subscribing
Phone number including country code
Country"

I haven't tried to cancel as I find the service to be excellent, but this may help allay your fears.

Agnes E. Cloninger
08 November 2007, 08:37 PM
Hello all, I am new to genealogy research. It all seems quite overwhelming. I have Reunion and have put in some of the info I know. I need to become more familiar with the Reunion program.

Any advice on keeping it simple in the beginning would be helpful. Do you have any favorite books or websites for beginners?

Also, I thought joining Ancestry.com might be an option, but have read some nightmare stories about scams, unauthorized credit card billing and being subject to endless e-mails and spam. Plus, I read this at the BBB site:

http://www.saltlakecity.bbb.org/commonreport.html?bid=2003190

Is it really as bad as all that?Welcome - and sit back, take a deep breath and remember this is supposed to be enjoyable, it it is not you can easily find another hobby this is enjoyable.
First bring up your family files and click on "help" up there at the top of your screen, then click on "Tutorials" and follow the yellow brick road.

The info published about Ancestry. com may well have some points that are informative, but please do not push the panic button - remember you are using a MAC computer and you do not have to worry about virus attacks.
There may be some out there but I have never caught one and I have used a MAC for many years. It is one reason why I use a MAC.

Please do not rush into joining Ancestry.com however, you have a lot of information to enter into your files before any such group will be really useful, save your money for now. Check out and join the Rootsweb digest that covers the part of the country where your ancestors lived, it is free.
If you happen to have living relatives, old records, anything or anybody who knows about the family, ask them questions put what they tell you into the program, quote them in the notes field and save your letters from them or record phone conversations. Check everywhere you can think of that might have a foot print of the lives of these people.

Have a good time, and when you interview folks start with the oldest family members first, also remember that how one person remembers things is not necessarily going to be how another remembers them. Note both of them until you can prove it with public records or whatever primary source is available.

Agnes C

Bob White
08 November 2007, 09:05 PM
Another suggestion that no one has offered. Check your area for genealogy classes.

This could be at the local adult education school, at your local Mac group, a genealogical society or a nearby LDS center. Whether one is a 20+ year veteran like me or a newbie like you describe yourself, it is helpful. I've been taking a weekly class this semester at the nearby adult ed school. The senior price was $30 for the semester; I have gotten at least $30 worth of information from each week's class. For you, it's a good way to get an overview about research and recording. For me, it's a good way to break my habits and try new things.

theKiwi
08 November 2007, 10:22 PM
And here's my tip of the day regarding Ancestry...

I recently purchased a copy of Family Treemaker Collectors Edition on Ebay for $29 shipped to me.

It included a year of Ancestry, which I have activated by installing FTM into Virtual PC. So I have Ancestry.com for $2.50 a month.

Cheers

Roger

Dennis J. Cunniff
08 November 2007, 11:42 PM
Hello all, I am new to genealogy research.
Any advice on keeping it simple in the beginning would be helpful.

Long before you get involved with ancestry.com, you need to talk with your older living relatives and ask them the obvious questions (Who's your daddy? Who's your daddy's daddy? Who's your momma? etc.) and the less obvious ones (tell me about your life.) See http://www.cyndislist.com/oral.htm

AE Palmer
09 November 2007, 12:17 AM
Hello all, I am new to genealogy research. It all seems quite overwhelming. I have Reunion and have put in some of the info I know. I need to become more familiar with the Reunion program.

Any advice on keeping it simple in the beginning would be helpful. Do you have any favorite books or websites for beginners?

Also, I thought joining Ancestry.com might be an option, but have read some nightmare stories about scams, unauthorized credit card billing and being subject to endless e-mails and spam. Plus, I read this at the BBB site:

http://www.saltlakecity.bbb.org/commonreport.html?bid=2003190

Is it really as bad as all that?

Welcome to Reunion. As you have already discovered, Reunion is a powerful method of keeping records.

Before going much further, I suggest that you spend time studying the manual -- it is a gold mine of information and solutions! Secondly, check out both Cyndi's List and Rootsweb sites - both are free and have excellent information. Rootsweb has many thousands of email lists that are especially useful once you begin to search seriously. Also, get a copy of Elizabeth Shown Mill's book, "Evidence!" It will give you a leg up on how to properly document your data.

And since you already have some basic information documented, you can begin to dig deeper - make time to interview your oldest family members as soon as possible.

For those interested, I am willing to share my "rules to live by." It is a compilation of common sense (and maybe no so common) rules that help me stay focused on research and not re-inventing the wheel.
Contact me at: <aepalmer AT a-znet DOT com>

As for Ancestry.com, it is a very mixed bag. Some people swear by it, others swear at it. The big advantage is that they do have enormous amount of data for the taking. At the same time, their service is expensive and they have a richly deserved reputation of being [politely put] annoying. And yes, nearly all of the scuttlebutt about Ancestry.com is true. Besides there are MANY other places to get the same information for free!

CallMeAl
09 November 2007, 01:34 PM
Wow, thanks for all the thoughtful advice!

Sadly, I have very few living relatives, let alone elderly ones. That's why I figure it is up to me to do some research. Like many, I wish I had been interested in genealogy when folks were alive.

WilliamTaber
09 November 2007, 09:28 PM
Wow, thanks for all the thoughtful advice!

Sadly, I have very few living relatives, let alone elderly ones. That's why I figure it is up to me to do some research. Like many, I wish I had been interested in genealogy when folks were alive.

With that being the case, I suggest you start with local sources where possible. You might consider the oldest ancestors you may have personally known and/or been familiar with. Locate their graves if in a local cemetery and establish working dates from there. If you can, ask the caretakers of the cemeteries if you can get copies of their burial records. These often reveal the names of other relatives. Try to get a copy of their marriage licenses. These will often help to take you back another generation with the names of the parents of the bride and groom, and usually birth locations of the bride and groom, even sometimes of the parents of the bride and groom.

If you can establish death dates, try to locate published obituaries from microfilms at a library.

From there, you can go to your local library and will probably be able to access Ancestry.com for FREE from there. Start by searching those you already know something about and work on confirming what you think you know from the available records. Document what you find, adding it to your Reunion database as you find it.

While you're at the library, look for local (local of whatever area you are researhing) for 'biography books', a.k.a. 'mug books' which may include biographies of some of your relatives. Even if not your direct ancestors, they may reveal clues that help you in researching your ancestors who were related to them.

Don't neglect looking into what you can find out about possible siblings of your ancestors. I am still surprised at some of the out of the blue connections I find when researching them (two sisters from one family marrying two brothers of another is a simple example, but you'll probably find cousins of one family marrying cousins of another as well, which can open up details of social living situations at various times).

I agree that just starting out can seem somewhat daunting, but I think once you start using some of these tips and others that members have suggested, you will be surprised at how quickly you will develop new questions on your own, which you can then work on finding the answers to.

And don't forget to use the free message boards at http://boards.rootsweb.com/

CallMeAl
22 November 2007, 04:21 PM
Thanks again for the advice. I was amazed to find a Genealogy Society in my area (aka the Sticks). They have a subscription to Ancestry.com and I can test it out there.

Also, (and this is a fantastic Thanksgiving gift for me) I found a treasure trove of family history documents in an old chest. I am so psyched about it. I especially wanted to find more about my dad's military service and I am thrilled to have found his discharge papers, etc.

I am a happy camper today!!! :)

dannsh
28 November 2007, 05:58 PM
Question on Rootsweb.com. When you find many entries for a relative (for example Jacob Showalter), how do you know which the the most accurate.
Birth information can be the same, but spouse names can be different and the are many differences between one to many children. Other information may or may not be the same. Confusion.

Bob Goode
28 November 2007, 06:17 PM
Question on Rootsweb.com. When you find many entries for a relative (for example Jacob Showalter), how do you know which the the most accurate.
Birth information can be the same, but spouse names can be different and the are many differences between one to many children. Other information may or may not be the same. Confusion.

Documentation is the key. Posted names on the web, without documentation are just possibilities but the key is source documentation. Contact the individuals who posted the information and ask for their source information.
Many individuals collect names and post them to the web but have no idea if the information is accurate. Some of these individuals then brag that they have "umpteen" thousand people in their family tree. In effect, what they have is "a" family tree with a lot of names which may or may not be related to them.

You have the correct attitude. Look for documentation and you will find your answer on accuracy.

dannsh
29 November 2007, 07:13 PM
Documentation is the key. Posted names on the web, without documentation are just possibilities but the key is source documentation. Contact the individuals who posted the information and ask for their source information.
Many individuals collect names and post them to the web but have no idea if the information is accurate. Some of these individuals then brag that they have "umpteen" thousand people in their family tree. In effect, what they have is "a" family tree with a lot of names which may or may not be related to them.

You have the correct attitude. Look for documentation and you will find your answer on accuracy.


Thanks for the information.