[Part 2 of my "Getting Started" series. Part 1 is here.]
So, why are you searching for your family story, history, genealogy, and/or ancestry? What's your goal? What do you mean to find? This is an important question to ask yourself because it determines your path in your search, and it gives you something to shoot for, so to speak.
Genealogy [what I like to call the "G" word], simply defined, is the study of family ancestries and histories. Genealogy is the nuts and bolts [sometimes more nuts than bolts] of family history. Typically the end result is a fully-cited pedigree chart that one can show off at dinner parties and family gatherings. It's interesting, [at least to you] that you are the 5th cousin twice removed from the woman who invented the circular saw in 1812, Tabitha Babbit [Now, wouldn't it be ironic if she was an ancestor of John Bobbitt?], but after the intial "Ooohs" and "Aaahs" is anyone really interested? My experience has led me to the conclusion that most of the time very few [if any] care, but you.
Or this spurs one of your dinner companions to tell everyone about how their mom told them that their Great-Aunt Bernice already did their family's ancestry, and it turns out that they are, indeed, direct descendants of the 4th Earl of Ross whose descendancy includes a Signer of the Declaration of Independence, a woman who married another Signer of the Declaration of Independence, and a man who had the foresight to marry a woman who would make the first American flag. All of which kind of steals your thunder. [Unless, of course, you can prove that John Bobbitt somehow is related to Tabitha Babbit because, in my opinion, blood and gore trumps a 4th Earl every time.]
But what about a story? A family story that includes horse thievery in Texas in the 19th century with the result of one of your ancestors being beaten to death by the hands of a bloodthirsty lynch mob, and his brothers, having survived the same beating that their brother died from, going to prison? Ah, now you have their attention. [But I don't suggest explaining the details of the beating over dinner. Save it for dessert.] The framework and tools [the genealogy] is an integral part of your search, and yes, the chart that stands 6 feet high is impressive, but what is memorable is the story ~the family story.
Maybe you're not looking to have the pedigree chart whose height rivals the Empire State Building. [I wonder if it's sourced?] Maybe you could care less about the story. [What!?!] Maybe you have loftier goals such as looking for your family's medical history, which is becoming more and more popular. Or maybe you simply [or not so simply] want to know who you are, where you came from, and/or who your people are. In truth, there are as many reasons to look for your ancestry as the day is long.
So, what are you really looking for? Be clear about it. Write it on a piece of paper and put it near your computer, make it your screensaver, put it on your desktop, put it on your refrigerator and/or bathroom mirror. Put it where you'll see it often and be reminded of what exactly it is you are looking for. Now, let me and others know what your overall goal is for the search for your family story in the comments below. It doesn't need to be a detailed description of your goal. Even a one-word comment is fine. Just get it down. Commit to it.
Here, I'll go first.
My goal is the family story. I'm looking for my family story. [What? You're surprised?]
Now it's your turn.
Next: Part 3 is here.