Approach Your Genealogy with a Completely Open Mind…

Approach your genealogy with a completely open mind–and see for yourself what really happened by a detailed scrutiny of the records. The records can raise all kinds of questions that require answers from earlier times and sources. W.G. Hoskins, Local History in England. London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1959.

This little volume written almost 50 years ago by the don of local history, W. G. Hoskins, is still the last word on how to approach the study and writing of local history. He raises questions and suggests strategies for the study of local records you won’t find in any other book. Not examined with preconceived notions of what your ancestors did or who they were. Hoskins advocates reading the records themselves for the answers.

The Bedfordshire County Record Office, County Hall, Bedford MK42 9AP England UK just one of many archives committed to provide you access to these records. They have prepared a series of miscellaneous records inventories. The descriptions were entered into the inventories as the records collections were received into the archive. Dates and names and places are all mixed together.

These inventories are available on microfiche through the Family History Library (#6089233). And I am reading them entry by entry. A tedious task for most researchers to be sure. An interesting experience for me, as I learn the contents of many record categories I have only read about in research guidebooks.

And now these miscellaneous records inventories are being indexed online: With only 23% currently online, I put in my surname and got 637 hits for one spelling of the surname alone. What an awesome index this will be–every name can be retrieved from the documents with enough information to determine if the records belong to your ancestry and precise details to construct rudimentary pedigrees for people not previously identified as ancestors.

This is perhaps the most exciting aspect of genealogical research–ancestors identified to date for the British Isles are just the beginning. End-of-the-line ancestors can be researched and placed within their correct family units and linked back in time as far as the records go. And overlapping jurisdictions allow surviving records to fill gaps caused by the vicissitudes of time.

What do we need to do to be ready when the indexes are?

Education and experience–learn first, what the records are and what they contain. Next, gain experience in reading them. My perfectly biased and even self-serving advice: plan now to attend the British Isles Family History Society Seminar 25 August 2007 in Culver City. I am giving 4 sessions on British Isles genealogy research. The syllabus which I wrote for this event is alone worth the cost of admission. And I will present in each session additional information and handouts, not included in the syllabus (because of the page limitations imposed) to help you prepare for records you never dreamed would be available to search. And I am not the only speaker!

Did you know that all the new stuff is publicized first at seminars and discussed in genealogy periodicals? Long before the records are fully searchable in archives or online, you can discover what records to search and what they contain by participating actively through associations, and societies, and periodicals, and seminars dedicated to genealogy and local history. I attend as many as I can and I suggest that you do the same if you plan to search for your ancestors yourself.

If you plan to hire it done for you, I recommend my services. My very best work gets done for knowledgeable clients. And I still suggest that you become sufficiently educated in genealogy research that you can judge good work when you buy it and you can avoid bad and incomplete work when it is marketed to you. There are a lot of false pedigrees out there and many incorrect lineages in print. Your genealogy evidence guru, Arlene Eakle

P.S. I am completing the syllabus materials for the Greater Montana Genealogy Seminar to be held in Billings Montana the first Friday and Saturday of October 2007:  Tracing Ancestors who Lived in American Cities, Migrations into the Central United States, Tracing Native American Ancestors, and Researching the Scots-Irish. If you don’t yet have ancestors you are tracing in the British Isles, concentrate on finding your American ancestry with greater success and less work.

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