Most families have documents and photographs that they want to safeguard for future generations. However, these will deteriorate with time and be lost forever if steps are not taken to preserve them. This is also important for family history research. Digitization makes all this possible. Scanning and converting photos and other materials make them available electronically, allowing hard copies to be made without damaging the originals.
Building family history out of online data and documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, and census returns is a tedious and time-consuming task. The records should be well organized and systematically arranged to make the research process smooth and easy. Good documentation saves time and lays the groundwork for easier correlation and evaluation of sources.
Good documentation for family history research should include:
– Research logs
– Family group records
– Copies of sources
– Files in systematic format
Tracking System for Searched Web Portals
Research logs are a comprehensive list containing details of sources searched and those that you plan to search. The log should also mention what has and has not been found. The purpose of each search, the summary of significant findings, sources without any relevant data, comments about your search strategies, suggestions, questions, analysis, and discrepancies should also be included in the research log.
Family Group Records
A good documentation system should include a family group record comprising at least the names of the husband, wife, and children of a family. These records also show birth, marriage, death information, as well as additional spouses (if any) of the parents, and childrens spouses. They also list family events. Knowing all this will contribute greatly to the research.
Photocopies of Sources
Scanning handwritten notes and keeping photocopies of each source will help your research in many ways: allow error-free transfer of data from the source to the family record, allow comparison of various sources, examine the reliability of the evidence, re-examine evidence, and so on.
Files in systematic format
Researchers need to organize their files well and keep the records up-to-date. There should be separate files for each family and all files need to be arranged in alphabetical order.
Tracing Family History
To identify the ancestral trail, one has to search through various research portals and dusty archives. Genealogy information is available as documents, photographs, slides, microfilm, blueprints, obituaries, books, maps, genealogical images, and other memorabilia. Scanning and indexing these materials would allow online access.
Some methods followed for documenting family history are as follows:
Family Line: A family tree can be created by keeping all records in one ancestral line/family line. The family line of one ancestor (grandparent) can be arranged or subdivided into generations according to the birth dates of individuals.
Surname: In this method, all papers with a particular surname are tagged together. This group is again subdivided according to their place of residence, birth dates, alphabetic order, record types, and many more.
Event: Here, all data relating to specific events (birth, census, etc) are put in a single group. This is again categorized according to location, date, surname or family line.
It was recently reported that FamilySearch International, is digitizing and enabling access to billions of historical records by collaborating with commercial family history companies and the online community. FamilySearch is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Using microfilm and more recently digital scanning of documents, the church has managed to capture 5 billion genealogical records over the past 80 years or so. These efforts would mean a lot for family history research.