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Five Tips on Researching: Gathering Information for Stories,

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Sun Feb 24, 2008 8:58 pm
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Fishr says...

Five Tips on Researching: Gathering Information for Stories, Or for Other Importance Purposes


Almost certainly, the Veterans of YWS of 2004 to 2005 are aware I actually enjoy researching to a scary extent. For those of you that I’ve had the privilege speaking with in early 2006 to today, may have stumbled upon the simple fact that I’m a bit anal with specifics details, and will go to great lengths to search for an answer whether it’s researching for stories or for my own purpose, doing genealogy work. What are these great lengths? Well, let’s just narrow it down to simply saying I’ve once spent six months, maybe a little less, researching the origins of the family, Ladd, and read in depth, completely dedicating myself to understanding how my ancestor lived in his private life as well gaining understanding his military career in the American Revolution. Dedicated? Possibly. Deranged? Most likely.

So allow this deranged writer of Historic Fiction send you off in the correct path, if ever seeking information regarding anything related to Non-Fiction.

Tip One:

Those of you who are a little lost, confused or not sure where the beginning step should be in snagging answers, don’t worry, I’ve been there myself. Firstly, remember your schooling. Researching, before computers came into light, was done mainly with the Encyclopedia Britannica. Unfortunately, the Britannica is the thing of the past but its roots still exist.

Many libraries have become rather extensive, and typically have the very basic books dealing with almost every popular subject known to man. However, it’s been in my experience that school libraries aren’t always the ticket to knowledge. They’re generally bare, and only have books dealing with subjects taught in school, and quite a few; the copyright can be found outdated. Instead, if possible, visit your city’s local library. Chances are better in your favor in locating books to match your area of interest.

Further, and this is a pretty neat service libraries often offer. It’s called “Inter-Library Loan,” or similar on context. What it means is, if you’ve looked in the library’s card catalog, and the title of the book you want isn’t there, often libraries can contact each other in the surrounding area, and barrow that specific book as a loan. When you’ve finished and brought it back, your library will return that same book to the other library in which it barrowed it from. Make sense? Ask your local Librarian and see what services or special help they can offer you if you’re really stuck. It’s been in my experience, Librarians are generally very friendly, and are willing to help one hundred percent to your satisfactory.

Some libraries have what’s called a Special Collection. These “secret” areas are really cool! Depending in which state or province you live, and the history that surrounds it, a special collection can have access to original, old documents, maps or reels that contain old newspaper clippings or the actual newspaper. Special Collections are especially useful if someone is doing genealogy.

Tip Two:

When doing any type of researching, no matter the subject of interest, always cross-reference, and be sure to get into the habit of it. This is especially, and I can’t stress enough, is especially true when using the World Wide Web as your outlet for looking for answers. Let it be heard here and now, that I’ve been purposely led astray so many times, it’s ridiculous, and it’s because early on I didn’t cross-reference, and plus, I only read one article on the Web, and that site was inaccurate. Don’t be fooled.

Cross-referencing simply means resigning yourself in reading two to four or more sources relating to the subject you’re researching. You’ll know, or should, after reading your third source for researching that the information is generally accurate. (Of course, there will be different opinions from each author), but the core Non-Fiction facts will remain true. If you noticed different facts aren’t adding up or every author is saying something completely different in every source you read, then chances are those sources you’ve chosen are inaccurate, and it’s time to start over. See Tip One

Tip Three:

Simply put, for the love of accuracy (and your sanity), do NOT, and I repeat again, Do Not, use Wikipedia as your chosen and automatic first choice when researching. Wikipedia is actually very unstable in some situations. First and foremost, realize that its articles can be edited at anytime, which leaves the window open for pigeon poop ready to soil your forehead.

Arm yourself beforehand with Tip One and Tip Two before entering the dangerous battlefields of Wikipedia.

Tip Four:

Up until now, I’ve only offered tips that related to the scope of general research to get the person on the right path. However, researching can be more defined and purposeful. So, for those who are doing, or trying to do genealogy, I offer some advice here. Yes, this what you fellow fanatics of your family’s past have been itching to know.

All three tips offered in this tutorial still absolutely hold true, so don’t make the mistake and dismiss them, even though Tip Three will probably not benefit you at this time.

Remember when I had mentioned the Special Collection a library might have access too? These areas are a genealogist’s heaven! We (I consider myself an amateur) savor Special Collections. It’s a whole, exciting world opened up to you, as you begin tracing your family.

But… before we get into that subject more specifically, you must first know the names of your parents and grandparents to begin – first and last, although the surname will be far more in importance to you then the first names of your family. Remember the bloodline (the direct lineage) will only be detected through the men. This means your father, grandfather, great grandfather and so on, have/had the genetics of ancestry. The genes are never prominent in woman, only the men. So basically, if you want to follow the direct lineage, follow your grandfathers.

Ask your parents, uncles, grandparents and so forth, and begin recording either with your own handmade Family Tree or print one out yourself. At this time, I don’t recall sites that offer printout Family Trees, but if I were to start searching for forms, I’d try first. Perhaps a member can offer a link or post one here for future reference. My thanks if someone does so. It’s appreciated.

Once you’ve have a fairly, or a so-so grasp on your family’s tree, then comes the fun part – getting to know their personal life, military history, where they lived, died, and so forth. One of the most interesting things that’s been brought to my attention are books that completely dedicate themselves in a town’s history. So, for instance, if you’ve had a family member that lived in Coventry, Connecticut, there might a book entitled, “The History of Coventry,” or “A Pictorial Guide to the People Who Lived in Coventry From 1770 – 1945.” These types of resources are especially interesting because they connect events from the past to the present in order, and of course if your ancestor is found in the index, it makes the read all that much more worthwhile, and these texts are often found in special sections of a library to be protected from damage, such as behind a locked glass case, or… the Special Collections. ; ) Ask your Liberian for details.

I’ve used Ancestry and religiously. Ancestry requires a few to access their special documents but you can at least browse their collections of family trees that have been gather by people like you from around the world. RootsWeb is absolutely free, and the only genealogy site that is still actively running to provide this service.

Get in touch with the National Archives, either by Online, or calling personally. The Archives have a huge, and I mean a HUGE database with every imaginable document known to man. Here is the link:

Lastly, say if your ancestor was in the military, try an obtain copies of either their muster rolls, enlistment/discharge papers (these are useful and might be the only source for a mental photograph available. Generally, the discharge supplies this information), pension records, or if all else fails – make absolutely sure to obtain their birth or death papers or both if it’s possible. Marriage certificates are handy to for researching your family’s background. The Church in which they might have been active in, might even have the marriage or death certificates. Contact your local historical society and politely ask if it’s possible to receive photocopies of these documents. Most will not deny your request, but our government is slow in responding. Be patient. ;)

Those are my basis tips that I can suggest for genealogy purposes. Good luck! Let me know what you find! : )

Tip Five:

Be patient. Patience is the backbone of any researching activity. Simple advice, yes, but in a way, patience is as equally important, if not the most before any tip mentioned because without it, no person will ever succeed. I can guarantee the researcher will run unto potholes, brick walls, and hit so many road blocks, there will be nights when you just want to pull your hair out because the feeling of frustration might consume your logical judgment. It’s definitely fine to feel frustration and in return feel anger. It’s normal, and I can personally attest I’ve shared these emotions on more than one occasion. But never lose sight of your goal. This is where learning and embracing patience is so crucial. Without it, you might as well never start. Hug patience. Hug it tightly, and never let it go.

These are my five tips on researching. I hope they prove to be useful for future projects.
-Samuel Garrison (fishr)

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Sun Feb 24, 2008 10:08 pm
Nate says...

This is an excellent list. Thank you fishr!
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Mon Feb 25, 2008 4:10 am
Fishr says...

You are most welcome, General!


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Sat Jul 30, 2011 12:36 am
Stori says...

Okay, I've found a very few spelling errors in this piece.

Or for Other Importance Purposes- most likely you meant "Important"?

the thing of the past but its roots still exist. I don't know for sure, but isn't the saying "a thing of the past"?

and quite a few; Not sure what's meant here. "Quite a few" is an expression that usually means "a lot".

Resistance is futile.
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