As you go through your genealogy research, mind these do's and don't's for a more effective search with better results:
Do: Remember to Contact Living Relatives
Many of those undertaking genealogy research forget to talk to their relatives who are still alive. In their excitement, they proceed immediately to the research proper, poring thorough old documents and deferring any consultation with the living relatives. More often than not, the intended discussion does not happen.
Indeed, genealogy research is an immensely fascinating undertaking and it can be certainly exciting to learn and discover more about your family history. However, do remember that living relatives could make many significant inputs to your quest. Their personal recollection of events and other anecdotes about the family could help steer you into the right direction. Accordingly, contacting your living relatives and talking to them needs to be one of the top priorities of your genealogy research.
Sometimes, personal visits with living relatives are not possible in which case, you could perhaps send them a memory book. Request your living relatives to fill the journal with stories from which you can discover little-known things about the family. Besides, these memory books can serve as wonderful souvenirs.
Don’t: Believe Everything You Read
Not everything printed is factual. With the ease in publishing information, you should take precaution when reading papers published by researchers who found the information while going about in their own pursuit. Do not accept any information as accurate and factual. Rather, use it only as an aid in the completion of your own work.
Be wary; most printed histories would likely contain a small error or two, if not more. Even official documents such as census, wills, cemetery records and courthouse transcriptions could also have erroneous entries like incomplete information or inaccurate accounts. It would be safe to assume the same thing when it comes to information contained in cyber pages.
Do: Go for the Details
The growing interest in genealogy inspired many online establishments to provide free “family surname history” search in their websites. Please note that these are blanket family histories and do not render an accurate account of your true ancestry. Neither are they complete nor do they include the specific details that you really need. The truth is, what you get would be a few generic paragraphs describing a surname's origin. However, you cannot be entirely sure that the report is about your particular family since in most cases, a surname will have several different origins.
These same online merchants would also present you with presumably your family's coat of arms. However, there is no assurance that this particular coat of arms belongs indeed to your family. Historically speaking, a coat of arms was granted to an individual rather than a surname. Other than information about the past, services of these companies also include providing you with a list of people sharing your surname. You can come up with this information yourself through telephone directories in the Internet?
Don’t: Get Caught Up in Fantasy
You may wish that you descended from some famous person in history. Actually, this is the common reason many initiate a research into their respective genealogy; they expect to establish a blood relation with a well-known person bearing the same surname. Be realistic, be honest and keep an open-mind when doing your genealogy research. Respect the evidence as it is and do not fall into the trap of swaying things toward the direction you hope to go. Do not start your research with this well-known person, hoping his or her roots would lead back to you. Instead, begin with the present, yourself, and then work backwards until you find your real ancestors.
Do: Record Your Sources
Document each resource that you use. Doing so facilitates any cross-referencing of your findings while establishing credibility for your genealogy research. Proper documentation includes notation of information along with the source document, its location and the date you accessed it.
Don’t: Limit the Spelling of Your Surname
Use several variants in spelling your surname. You might miss out on vital information if you limit your entry search to the actual spelling of your family name. Official records contain altered spellings too, and surnames are known to be commonly misspelled, either by accident or on purpose. Some surnames were modified to adapt to a particular culture; others were changed simply so they can be remembered much more easily. Create a list of possible spelling variations of your surname and refer to each one as you work.
This list of do's and don't's is meant to help keep you on track in your genealogy research. By observing them, you will have a higher chance of success in tracing your roots and will appreciate the whole process.