February 1, 1998 in Features

Prepare Yourself With Homework

Donna Potter Phillips The Spoke
 

‘I wish I’d spent more time getting prepared,” moaned one researcher in our group at Salt Lake City’s Family History Library. Other complaints heard about not doing their homework before traveling to the mecca of all genealogists included: “I wish I’d learned the FamilySearch computer program better!” “I wish I had organized my research papers better.” “I wish I knew where to look next.”

These songs were sung by some of the 40 former students, friends and column readers during our January excursion to Salt Lake City. They had all been told to prepare, had been given tips on what to do - but in many cases, they didn’t do it. I especially tried to motivate them to learn the FamilySearch computer program, specifically its library catalog.

So, precious research time was spent shuffling papers, trying to make sense out of scribbled notes, trying to answer the “Where did I find that?” question.

During the week I answered questions, explained the catalog and helped them decide where to look next and at what records. The difference between who was prepared and who was not was like night and day.

Too many times I heard folks saying, “I looked at all the tapes and didn’t find anything! And there’s nothing in the books, either.”

All too many of these eager genealogists made the leap from “tape” to “record.” They thought in terms of “tapes,” when they should have been thinking in terms of “records.” I’d ask them, “Into what records have you looked to find mention of your ancestors? Vital records? Military records? Biographies?”

Therefore, today’s column is addressed to anyone considering a trip to Salt Lake, whether for the first time or the 40th time. The rules apply to any genealogical research trip: Do your homework before you go so you’re properly prepared for success when you’re there.”

Basic steps to accomplish this include:

Thoroughly learn the FamilySearch computer program, especially its catalog portion. This means a few hours of putting fingers to the keyboard in your local public library or branch Family History Library at a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Thoroughly evaluate what you already know about your family and have that information clearly arranged into family group and pedigree forms.

Thoroughly evaluate what you have already found by way of sources and documentation. List all of it on paper with your lineage charts.

Make a timeline for each ancestor, listing dates, ages, locations, events and sources. This is the best tool to organize your research.

Do not work on too many families at one time. You won’t be able to keep them straight.

I truly enjoy being in Salt Lake with a group of eager researchers. It’s gratifying to help them find ancestral information. Another trip is planned for next January, and I know those who prepare ahead of time will be more productive and successful. I hope you’ll join my group next year, be properly prepared and then be one of the “lucky” ones.

Louis McAlister, visiting from Ireland, will teach how to pronounce Irish place names during the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society meeting at 12:30 p.m. Feb. 7.

The beginner’s class is from 10:15 to 11:30 a.m. that day. All are welcome.

, DataTimes MEMO: Donna Potter Phillips welcomes letters from readers. Write to her at The Spokesman-Review, Features Department, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210. For a response, please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Donna Potter Phillips The Spokesman-Review

Donna Potter Phillips welcomes letters from readers. Write to her at The Spokesman-Review, Features Department, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210. For a response, please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Donna Potter Phillips The Spokesman-Review


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