In fact, our Tuesday, Nov. 12 webinar, 10 Essential Research Tricks from “Genealogy Roadshow,” is full of such lessons from co-host D. Joshua Taylor.
Here are my own favorite takeaway family tree research tips from “Genealogy Roadshow”:
- Don’t believe everything your family told you about your ancestors. Whether it’s the year Great-grandpa arrived in the United States or a rumored link to George Washington, treat family stories as theories that require research to prove or disprove.
- You can’t get away from the “start with yourself and work backward” principle. No matter what family claim the “Genealogy Roadshow” experts were researching, the research started with the present and moved to the person’s parents, then grandparents, etc. You didn’t get details about every generation in the show’s quick segments (remember the entertainment factor), but those generations were listed in the trees that flashed by.
- You’re related to lots of people. Among them is probably someone famous and someone infamous (remember this next time one of those announcements comes out about which celebrities are related—it’s really not anything unusual). The way to document a connection between two people is to research both family trees as you normally would, and find a person common to both trees.
- Build on others’ work. “Genealogy Roadshow” sometimes used already-existing, reliable research about famous folks. Don’t be afraid to look for clues in published family histories and family trees you find online—just make sure you do research to verify all the names, dates and relationships in those resources, so you don’t end up repeating someone else’s mistakes and claiming the wrong ancestors.
- Same-named people are everywhere! And they’re the cause of many erroneously linked family trees. I’ve experienced the excitement of finding a record for someone with the right name, birth date and place of residence—followed by the disappointment when I realize it’s not my family member. Use other details about your family to determine whether a record is for the right person—here’s an example of how this can work.
- Ancestors who did bad things are especially interesting to trace, and left sources including court records, newspapers and prison registers. I blogged a little about this last week.
- Once you get beyond your garden-variety first or second cousin, figuring out exactly how you’re related to someone can seem complicated. The trick is to find the most recent common ancestor to the two cousins in question. If there’s a different number of generations between each cousin and the most recent common ancestor, the cousins are “removed.” The number of removes is equal to the number of generations that separates the two cousins. We explain cousin relationships here and have a free relationship chart PDF download here.
- Sometimes genealogical discoveries come quickly, and sometimes it takes a lot of research to find answers. The show’s hosts often used the word “we” when talking about records discovered. Behind the scenes, full-time, professional researchers were devoting hours upon hours to tracing guests’ family trees. You might not be able to devote that much time at once to your research, but keep plugging away a little bit at a time. And keep track of what you’ve done so next time you can pick up where you left off.
Josh Taylor’s 10 Essential Research Tricks From “Genealogy Roadshow” will help you do better family tree research whether you watched the show or not. And you’ll save $10 when you register now!