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Beginning Genealogy

This is the head page for the Beginning Genealogy section of my web site. There is a navigation bar to other sections and an e-mail link to me at the bottom of the page.

When I was learning to ride a bicycle, a bigger boy helped me out. He held the bicycle upright and ran alongside of me for a dozen yards until I got the hang of it. He wasn't a professional bicycle racer, just someone who had a bit more experience than I did and was happy to give me a hand. Some of my pages are like that for people who are new to genealogy on the Internet. You may be either be someone who has been doing genealogy for years and decided to get a computer, or someone who has a computer and has decided to take up genealogy. I'm not a professional and I'm far from an expert, but if you are brand new to the sport, you may be able to get a running start from a page I've written. They are roughly in order, with the very basic subjects at the top, the more esoteric ones at the bottom.

You will see these pages, in this order, on the navigation bar on every page in the Beginning Genealogy section:

How to Start

Genealogy Links
to the largest free genealogy sites in the Internet.

Posting a Good Query
A guide for beginners, with a bad example.

Your Grandfather fought in WHAT war?
This one is about better posts also, but about a specific problem. Your grandfather could have fought in the Civil War or the Korean war. Read how.

Obituaries and Etiquette
Three ways to get an obituary, and some ettiquete pointers if you ask some to do a lookup for you.

Geezer Computer Skills
These are for anyone, not just genealogists. They tell you how to enlarge the text size in your browser, how to scroll a page at a time, give you some tricks for URL's and explain megabytes.

Beginning Internet Use
Two links for people new to the Internet, not just to Internet Genealogy

Genealogy resources off the web

Finding people born after 1900

What are Standards?
What they are and why you should have some.

What is a Mailing List?

What the Mormons don't tell you
Search strategies for the LDS 1880 census transcription.

Googling your Ancestors
A couple of tricks for search engines.

That's the end of the Beginning Genealogy section. These sections or pages may interest you also:

Main Genealogy Section
It is the one "above" this one in the tree structure. Links to my personal genealogy, to all three sections (Beginning, Intermediate and Essays), and to some stuff that didn't fit into any particular category.

Intermediate Genealogy Section
Some more advanced topics; what is a GEDCOM, systematic research, how to publish on the web.

Essays on Genealogy Section
The introductory page to six short musings on genealogical topics. Two of them are specifically for beginners. You might like the others.

What's the difference between a first cousin twice removed and a second cousin once removed? This page has a tree chart and text.

Biography Outline
Eventually, when you've found an ancestor, you'll wonder what they were like; what made them laugh, what made them cry, what made them give up the farm in Vermont and move to Kansas? It is too late to ask most of them. You can ask your living relatives, and you can write an autobiography. With luck it will get passed down, and your great-grandchildren will have an idea of what you (or your parents, or your grandparents) were like. This page is a series of general questions. If you answer all of them in complete sentences - or better yet, a couple of paragraphs - you'll have a start on an autobiography. Some people have a hard time thinking of anything to write, and some of us ramble along for hours at the slightest provocation. The outline is for the first kind of people.

Why do Genealogy?
This is more of a philosophical piece than a nuts-and-bolts list. It's only two paragraphs long, though.

Why give Genealogical Advice?
While we're asking "Why?", why would someone devote his time and energy to composing and maintaining a web site devoted to beginning genealogy? Good question.

My wife keeps horses. A couple of years ago we took out a classified ad: "Compost makings from contented horses, 25 cents a yard. You haul." Two pensioners came out in a beat-up pickup truck with four empty washing machine boxes in the back. Both of their wives were avid gardeners. They wanted some for themselves and some for the widow who lived up the street. They drove out into the pasture, to the deep piles under the shade tree, and we started shoveling. Half an hour later their box was full. I said "Thanks, guys - that looks like about three yards" and gave them 75 cents. (I estimated high on purpose.)

I sometimes tell people that asking an old genealogist for advice is like asking someone with horses for compost makings; we have a lot and it is free. I'm not an expert, nor am I a professional, but if anything here helps you out, I'm glad I could do it.

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This page updated: June 21, 2014