Friday, September 13, 2013

Family Friday: Collecting Your Family History - Introduction

The 4th Commandment is to Honor Your Father and Mother.  It's actually the only commandment that comes with a promise: that your life might be long.  However, most people stop short of exploring the full impact of what it means to really honor your father and mother.  In this, I think the Mormon Church does it far better than we do by requiring all their members to do family history research.  Their reasons are different than ours, but I think it's something that Catholics should do.  It would help them understand why their families are as they are today, and to see the hand of God working to heal discord even through the hands of sinful people.  Plus, it's just plain fun.  You will never beat your own family for stories that will amaze and shock you.

So, without further commentary, I am going to walk you through the basics of collecting your family history.  To begin with, you'll want to obtain a family group sheet and a pedigree chart.  Now, it's time to start filling these out. Begin with the Family Group Sheet (see the link above) and follow along.  For the purposes of this exercise, we are going to focus on filling out the family group sheet of the Smith family. 

The Smith family is made up of James and his wife Angela along with their son, Kenneth.  So at the top of the family group sheet, we record that this is the family group sheet of the SMITH family.  When we're doing genealogy, we always write last names in capital letters.  

Since James is the husband, we'll write his full name as it was recorded on his birth certificate on the line where it says "Full name of the husband."  Underneath his name, we'll write the full name of his father, and underneath that we'll write the full MAIDEN name (the name before marriage) of his mother.  In the right hand column, we'll fill out James's birth date and place as well as his place and date of marriage to Angela. 

Now it's time to gather information on Angela.  We'll write down her full name as it was given to her at birth, and underneath that the full name of her father and then her mother's full maiden name.  To the right, we'll record Angela's birth date and location.

Neither James nor Angela was ever married before, so we don't need to worry about additional spouses.  We'll skip right down to filling out information about their son, Kenneth. Kenneth hasn't been married and he isn't dead, so we'll fill out his full name at birth (including his last name), and then his date and place of birth.  Now, we're done with the Family Group sheet.

In our example family, Angela is the one filling all of this information out.  She knows the answers to all of these questions.  However, if there were gaps in her knowledge, such as not knowing the maiden name of her husband's mother, she would note this gap in her research notebook for further information.  It is the gaps that launch our family history search.

Once the family group sheet is complete, it is time to fill out the first part of the pedigree chart. At the top of the chart, Angela would fill in a 1 for the chart number. Where it says, "1 on this chart = ____ on chart # ____" she would fill in a one in both blanks as well.

For person number one on this chart, she would fill in the name of her son, Kenneth.  For person number 2, she would fill in the name of her husband.  She would be person number 3.  James's father would be person number 4, and James's mother would be person number 5. Angela's father would be person number 6, and Angela's mother would be person number 7.  She should continue to fill out as many names, dates, and places as she knows as far back as she can go.  Every time she comes to a place where she doesn't know the answer, she should note that gap in her research notebook.  

This is how our family history search begins.  Next week, we'll check in on Angela and see how far she got with her pedigree chart and work with her as she begins to research to find more answers.

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