Out on a Limb: Resolutionary Ideas

By David A. Fryxell Premium

With its clean slate and fresh calendar, the new year naturally inspires resolutions to do things better. This is the year when you’ll start exercising, quit smoking, eat more vegetables. Never mind you made the same resolutions last year — 2002 will be different!

This issue suggests some New Year’s resolutions that may be easier to keep, not to mention more valuable to your family history. For example, this should be the year when you vow to find the ancestral line you’re researching in each and every US census. No skipping a decennial list, no assuming they’re probably there. It’s good research practice, and can uncover surprises about your ancestors. Kathleen W. Hinckley, author of the new book Your Guide to the Federal Census (Betterway Books), shows you how to get started in an exclusive sneak peek at her book.

This will also be a noteworthy year for census research because the 1930 federal census will be unveiled, after the expirarion of a 72-year privacy period. So it’s the perfect time to resolve to pinpoint your ancestors in this essential genealogical tool.

You might also want to promise yourself that 2002 will be the year you finally make it to that mecca of genealogy research, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Or, if you’ve been before, resolve to go back this year. Before you go, read all about what’s new at the library in our article on page 54. Authors James W. Warren and Paula Stuart Warren also co-authored a new book you’ll want to tote along — Your Guide to the Family History Library (Betterway Books).

Planning any other library trip in 2002? Resolve to make the most of your library sojourns by doing some long-distance homework before you go. Rhonda McClure, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Online Genealogy (Alpha Books), walks you through it in an excerpt from her latest book, The Genealogist’s Computer Companion (Betterway Books).

If you have old photos of your immigrant ancestors, resolve that 2002 will be the year you identify them and use them to push back your pedigrees. Even if you’ve exhausted the obvious sources for researching your immigrant kin, clues hidden within family photos can help you make the link back to the old country. Contributing editor Maureen A. Taylor shows you the secrets, beginning on page 48.

If any of those immigrant ancestors came from Eastern Europe, this issue will really get your year off to a good start. Associate editor Allison Stacy tells how to start tracing your family from “The Other Europe” on page 38.

Finally, resolve that this year you’ll try to understand your ancestors in the context of the times in which they lived. And it works the other way around, too — social history can give you clues to the most stubborn pedigree puzzles. Katherine Scott Sturdevant, author of Bringing Your Family History to Life through Social History (Betterway Books), gets you going in her article on page 60.

Still filled with resolve? We have a couple of other ideas. Vow to share a story from the lighter side of your family history in our Everything’s Relative section (page 72). Just e-mail or mail to Everything’s Relative, 1507 Dana Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45207. Besides seeing your family story in print and giving the rest of us a chuckle, you’ll get a $25 thank-you from us.

Finally, make a resolution to sign up for our free weekly e-mail newsletter. This resolution is a snap to keep — simply go to <>. And it’s one that will pay you dividends — recommended Web sites, handy tips, the latest genealogy news — all year long.

Give it a try. We promise we won’t tell you to eat more vegetables, and you’ll never have to step on the scale.

From the February 2002 issue of Family Tree Magazine