Before you start

A very important dimension of genealogy involves history and context. You may already know that and if so, perhaps this posting is not for you. However for those of you who do NOT remember your geography and history, here are some recommendations. These recommendations are based on the assumptions that:

  • our ancestors lived in a time and place where governments existed,
  • boundaries and regions were known,
  • customs and mores prevailed, and
  • languages were spoken, written, and read.

(Note: Please be attuned to the fact that any one of the above can and will impact your ability to understand and interpret the data you “dig up.”)

Having set this simple stage let’s move on to the recommendations.

Before you start research in an area where you are unfamiliar or uncertain with any of the dimensions of the first list, read. By that I mean, brush up on the history of the time and region in which you research. Become familiar with what was going on where your family members lived. Develop an understanding of what normal for them, these ‘things’ may distinctly different from what is considered normal today.

It is fairly easy today to become acquainted with the basics of the past and upgrade your understanding. Tools you should consider in this area include:

  • Wikipedia
  • Google
  • Wikimedia
  • Language translation sites
  • Church and Religious History sites
  • Your library
  • The Internet Archive

Any or all of these can and will provide you with quick access to information. Use it. Understand a bit about the past, it will help you to better interpret what you read in the records you find.