3 must-read articles to boost your genealogy skills and knowledge

How people find their ancestors and family history has changed a lot since I first started researching back in the early 1990s. Some processes are the same but how we access information, and what is available is always changing. So keeping our genealogy skills and knowledge up to speed is as important as every family history tidbit we discover.

Sure, I could’ve put that time into my family history research, but it’s valuable to learn from others. After all, you never know what will be a game-changer for you when it comes to genealogy. 

Since then, I’ve scheduled time to read five articles every week. I bookmark anything that catches my eye, though you could use an app like Pocket.

This new habit didn’t just help me learn stuff but also to feel connected to people while in lockdown. It was magical. So, this week, in the spirit of celebrating online connections (like ours), I wanted to share with you some of the articles I’ve found valuable recently.

Personal using electronic devices to improve her genealogy skills and knowledge

1. 5 Things You Can Learn from a Genealogy Database

Author: Legacy Family Tree News

Searching in any of the major genealogy databases is easy. And they’re continually working to make it even easier. You type a name in a search field, hit find and off you go.

I call these “hit and miss” searches because it’s a general catch-all. You aren’t explicitly searching one place but all of the places to see what pops up. Don’t get me wrong; I love these as much as the next family history enthusiast. They can (and often do) provide results. But once you’ve exhausted the obvious and still need answers, understanding where you are searching is critical. 

That’s what this article delves into—how to find the database description to understand

  • what it includes and what it doesn’t
  • the source citation for the records
  • strategies for searching the collection
  • tips to better understand these records

The site may also provide a list of related databases.

Note: The article uses MyHeritage for its examples, but these tips apply to any significant genealogy website. The how-to might change slightly, but the information will still be available.

Should you read it?

Yes, if you are interested in fine-tuning your results and reducing time spent on fruitless searches. Or you are a bit of a genealogy geek and interested in knowing more about individual databases.

Prudence’s tip:

Add any useful databases to your Frequently Used Resources tracker with notes on records available inside. It may save you a lot of time later when you are on the hunt for more ancestors.

person using ebook reader to improve her genealogy skills and knowledge

2. 10 places to search for free family history books online

Author: Heart of the family 

Let’s call it now – researching online is the best thing since sliced bread! After all, what else are you going to do in the middle of a pandemic? 

While we all love online databases, the simple truth is that they don’t contain all of the information available on your ancestors. Sooner or later, it would help if you went offline (or off-site) and checked other resources—like a book.

Physically going to a library or the archives isn’t so easy for everyone right now, so it’s time to get resourceful. Queue an article about where to find free online libraries. 

This article walks you through 

  • what a digital library is
  • the benefits of using one (or many)
  • where to find some
  • what you can expect in the various collections
  • how to use them
  • tips for searching and storing any downloaded resources.

Should you read it?

Yes, if you are keen to discover as much as possible about your ancestor’s life. 

Prudence’s tip: 

My approach is that it doesn’t hurt to look. At worst, you waste a couple of hours. At best, you discover something you didn’t know before. Even if you don’t find anything specifically about your ancestor, then you can still learn a lot about how people lived during different eras.

3. 6 common genealogy mistakes and how to avoid them

Author: Heritage Discovered 

With the frequency that I rabbit on about “the old days” of researching offline, you’ve probably guessed I’m not a beginner. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t need reminders every so often about things I know I should do and either get too busy (or lazy) to do.

I think this article is gold. It’s a roadmap for new researchers and a kick in the pants for people who are stuck in a rut. It delves into

  • creating a database of names
  • the power of being organised
  • talking to your relatives and the value of doing so
  • why it’s worthwhile to get into the habit of verifying everything, even if you trust the source
  • being flexible when searching on names and dates etc
  • not limiting yourself to online-only research

Should you read it?

Yes, if you are beginning your family history journey. Or if you are looking for new ideas to get more information to create a fascinating family history.

Prudence’s tips:

It’s important to remember that any historical record information relies on both the person providing it and the person recording it. Both are human, so mistakes are a possibility. Also, keep in mind that if your ancestor couldn’t read or write, how someone spelled their name wouldn’t have been a priority.

How are you improving your genealogy skills and knowledge?

Have you had an ‘a-ha!’ moment or resonated with an article that you read recently? Maybe even one of the ones I’ve shared above? Share in the comments below and let me know what you learned or want to try because of reading it.

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