You don’t have to be perfect to start.
That’s right. You don’t need to have all the rules memorized. Yes, there are times when you must read perfect instructions and rules before any action is taken in order to follow the well-laid out proper steps in the quest of a solution to a problem.
In contrast, there are times where it might be better to just jump in blindly– with more than a little guts - with your heart clutched in your hands, and figure it out all on your own. That’s right. Sometimes you gotta think outside the box for the answer.
I know this sounds kind of odd coming from the author of a “How-To Genealogy Blog for Newbies,” but I’m just trying to be honest.
Don’t be afraid to just search. To put aside all the rule books. To relegate all those well-meaning internet articles and blog posts to the “Read Later” status. And just search. With all your heart and your mind.
For example, when you lost your car keys the first time, did you fall back on your Step-by-Step On How To Find Your Car Keys manual? No. You turned your house upside down and found $10 in change in your couch [Or sofa. Whatever you prefer.] Then found all those cool pens, some gum, and more change in the last purse you were using right before you frantically changed purses that morning. Then you tried to remember when you last had your keys and what you were doing at that moment. Then remembered you had gone to the grocery store and you had needed your car keys for that. Then remembered you had been carrying in the groceries. Then you remembered you’d bought Blue Bunny Bunny Tracks ice cream. [And could there be a worse name for an ice cream or any food product for that matter?] Then you remembered you hurried to carry that in first because it’s, like, a 100 degrees Farenheit outside and the last thing you wanted to do is leave Bunny Tracks all over your kitchen floor [Because no one else is gonna clean that up for you.]. Then you rushed to the freezer and quickly opened the door to find your car keys sitting on top of the Bunny Tracks ice cream. Problem solved.
And you didn’t need a manual for that, right? [Of course, if you had let the Bunny Tracks melt all over the floor, perhaps you could’ve found your keys faster. But, then, in that case, maybe you wouldn’t have had your keys in your hands because the phone rang as you walked in the door with the first load, and when you answered the phone you put your keys down there.]
However, that doesn’t mean that 5 years down the road while waiting in the germ-infested doctor’s office for your name to be called by that nurse [who looks like she’d like to be just about anywhere but here] that you didn’t sing all kinds of praises when you read that article entitled, 7 Top Ways To Find Things That You Continually Lose. Duh. Like, you’d have to be an idiot to not read that. Right? [Especially since you lose your car keys at least twice a day.]
And then you think, “If I had only known then what I know now about finding my car keys, I wouldn’t be constantly looking for my keys. In fact, if I had had this article to read and commit to memory, I SO wouldn’t have made so many mistakes along the way. So many mishaps. I could’ve done everything so perfectly. And, alas, been perfect.
I disagree with this. Sometimes. Especially when it comes to genealogy. When doing research, sometimes the method that you use in finding your answers to your solutions aren’t found in a how-to manual. Sometimes they’re found just because you figured it out on your own. [Yes. I’m likening lost car keys to lost ancestors.] When they are lost, you are determined to find them. You don’t give up. You rack your brain for where they might be. You trust yourself. You trust your abilities and your knowledge that you’ve acquired along life’s highway to find them. And you probably learn some new lessons along the way.
And I daresay they are, sometimes, the most memorable lessons. The ones you won’t forget. And, sometimes, they leave you a little more satisfied. A little more, oh, I dunno, richer, for figuring it all out on your own. [You know, more than $10 in change, some gum, and some cool pens richer?]
Sure. Reading the how-to’s, rules, and other people’s lessons will help you and are necessary in long-term success in your research journey.
But don’t let them make you think can’t begin to look just because you haven't memorized all the how-to's. You don’t have to be perfect to start.
[This post is part 4 of my Getting Started series. Part 1 is here
. And Part 2 is here
. And Part 3 is here
Yup. It all starts with you. Little, bitty you. No one else, but you.
You do know "you," don't you? If not, grab a mirror and look. "You" meet, well, "you".
There. Now that the introductions are over, let's get down to business, shall we?
Genealogy starts with you. Then you work backwards. Why? Because you know yourself the best. You have witnessed most everything that's happened to you. [Even if you didn't want to do so.] For example, you were there when you were younger and you skinned your knee for the upteenth time while riding your bike down that gravel road. You were there on your first date and you were half-scared out of your mind and half-excited, so much you wanted to throw-up. You were there when you took your driver's test, and you were scared half out of your mind and half-excited, so much that you wanted to throw-up. [Again.] And if you have married, for better or worse, you were there at your wedding, half-scared out of your mind and half-excited, so much you wanted to throw-up.
Get the picture? You. Were. There. [And apparently scared & sick for most of it.] You know yourself the best. In fact, you're an expert on yourself.
Now. What official documents do you have that prove "you"? Birth certificate, marriage certificate, social security card, photos, etc. Locate these types of documents. This is your first genealogy directive.
What do you mean you don't have your birth certificate? Well, O.K., then. Here's your second genealogy directive. Get it. Now. Like, yesterday. Call whomever you need to call in your family who might have it. [If you are still able to do so, call your parents]. Just do whatever you need to do to get a copy of your birth certificate. [No, don't rob a bank. Silly, a bank won't have your birth certificate. Oh, and robbing is bad. In fact, it's against the law. So don't do that.] Depending on the state you were born in, you should be able to find your birth certificate at the city, county, or state level. To obtain your birth certificate by mail, FamilySearch.org
has a listing of addresses and other pertinent data located here
. You can also Google The Department of Health in the state you were born and follow their online instructions for ordering. Or if you are in a hurry, you can order it online at MyVitalRec.com
or at VitalChek.com
If you need to order your birth certificate, then do it. It really doesn't cost very much. And you really need it. Not just for genealogy.
If you have it now or when you receive it, take a look at it. In fact take a real good look at all of your official documents. Yes, you can take a look at the photos too, but do get back to the documents. [What were you thinking when you decided to wear your hair like that? And on your wedding day, too. Well, I guess what they say is true. Love is blind. *wink*]
Getting back to the documents. Take a real good look at them.
Look at every single detail on them.
So tell me. I'm dying to know. Is there anything incorrect on your official documents? Are you who you thought you were? If not, what's different? What did you not know about "you"? Tell me [and everyone else] in the comments below. NOTE: Don't tell us exact details though. We want to keep "you" as "you". We don't want someone to steal "you". Then "you" wouldn't be "you" anymore. Then where would "you" be? Lost. That's what. And in a real big mess too. Just let me and others know in general about the proof of "you".
Here. I'll go first.
Some time after coming through customs on our way back from our honeymoon in Cancun, I lost my birth certificate. [I know I made it through customs because I'm here. I'm clever like that.] Anywho, before I lost it, I had noticed there was a misspelling of my mother's maiden name. An extra "k" had found its way into her name. So, I sent off for a new one. I was excited to be able to correct the spelling of her name. I received it in the mail and tore open the envelope to find that maybe the state government ought to do a better job at screening their employees. At least give them a spelling test. Or an editing test. Or something. 'Cause they misspelled it. Again. It was a different mistake. But still wrong. They typed a "D" for a "B". Who knew consonants were so much trouble? [Rolling eyes heavenward.] So, how 'bout yours?
Next: Part 5 is here