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Collecting Information

Research planning is the first step in doing genealogy.  The second step is actual research.  The purpose of research is to gather facts such as names, dates, places and events.  These facts are used to prove the identity of a person within a particular family unit and to show their relationship.  Facts link generations together. 

Genealogical records are recorded geographically so always direct research within a particular geographical location, such as a First Nation community or farm within a parish and a county.  For the complete identification of a relative, it is necessary to know the exact place and the exact date a birth, marriage or death took place.  When seeking vital information on an ancestor begin by checking sources in the home and then by looking through parish records at the church where an ancestor attended.

When going through the different collections, make notes on anything pertaining to the surname being researched.  Later, select facts referring to specific family members with that surname.

Do not forget to take into account the alternate spellings of a surname .  Copy everything as it appears in the original records retaining unused data on a particular surname.  It may come in handy later in the event new evidence showing a family connection turns up.  Underlining of relevant data in notes will speed up later evaluation.

Most will discover that their ancestors were unable to write.  Even if they could write, they made spelling errors, even in their own names.  Many times a clergyman, a clerk or some other individual spelled the name of an ancestor phonetically.  Do not be dismayed by spelling errors or overlook an individual because their surname is spelled differently when compared to modern spelling.  Record the alternate spellings o surnames on family group sheets. 

When arranging and listing old photographs, pedigree charts, family group sheets or other data, if assistance is required, get in touch with experienced family historians, members of genealogical  societies or the staff at the PANB.  These individuals will be more than happy to help and advise. 

You may have some difficulty reading the old handwriting, but if you are patient and continue to do research work, competency will come as you gain experience.  A magnifying glass will aid in deciphering old handwriting.  In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century records you may come across an "s" made like an "f", that is, an elongated "s".  Words like Sussex or Miss may be written as Sufsex or Mifs.  Abbreviations were often used.  Some examples of these are:  Chs for the name Charles; Edwd for Edward; Hy for Henry; Jas for James; Jos for Joseph; Jno for John; Reba for Rebecca; Saml for Samuel and Thos for Thomas. 

The letters "L", "S", "J", "I", "T", "u", "n", "m", "w" and "v" can be confusing because they are made so much alike.  A lack of uniformity and consistency in spelling, capitalization, and punctuation can cause additional problems.  The deciphering of a long word broken up in a series of small segments can also prove challenging.  Discrepancies in spelling, dates, or gaps in old records can usually be cleared up by further research into other records. 

Record all nicknames using parenthesis.  This includes the names that were "adopted" by individuals who for one reason or another disliked their legal names and substituted something more to their liking.

Never use initials in place of a given name unless the full name is unknown. 

Print an ancestor's name fully and completely:  first, middle and then surname.  The surname can be capitalized if desired. 

Record the women's maiden name and note the existence of additional marriages. 

Enter dates as 7 Jan 1824:  the alternatives, 7/1/1824 or 1/7/1824, are confusing.  When entering an approximate date for an event, it can be prefaced by "abt" for about or by "ca." or "circa", or "bef" for before, or "aft" for after. 

Record all place names as community, county and then province as in Kingsclear, York County, New Brunswick. 

Insert the Latin word [sic] to indicate that a name is spelt exactly as it appeared in the original record.  This tells the reader that the genealogist did not make a spelling, transcription or typographical error. 

If entering a name or place of which one is unsure, it is customary to put the information within square brackets.  These brackets [] would indicate that further research is necessary to establish a more positive answer.

While doing genealogical research, you may encounter problems.  The cause of these problems must be identified and solutions discovered.  Routine clerical errors cause many problems and can be prevented by taking care in doing research, recording data and footnoting sources of information.  Not knowing where to go to find a specific genealogical  record is a common research problem.  You can consult with staff at public institutions or talk to members of a local genealogical society. 

Do not give up looking for a genealogical fact until you have exhausted every resource.  For example, not all parish records are on microfilm and it may take a little detective work to locate missing records by contacting churches of the same denomination near the place where an ancestor resided.  In the case where a county marriage register is missing, the genealogist must use parish records, newspapers, or some other information source to establish a marriage.  Do not be discouraged by roadblocks but study the situation carefully, discuss the matter with public service staff and ask for their suggestions.

Always remember that records were produced and organized for reasons other than family history research.  For example, census returns and vital records were the basis for taxing, legal, sociological and statistical purposes.  Keep in mind that official records are not always correct.  Although the clerks may have recorded data presented to them, they had no means of proving the accuracy of the information given to them.  Mistakes in government records do exist but overall, archival records are believed reliable because they were created by officials in the regular course of business, were kept in the possession of those offices, and contain information that one would logically expect to find there.

Many older censuses, church and other records are un-indexed so will take a certain amount of time to go through.  When older indexes are available, it is necessary to remember that they can be incomplete and inaccurate.  Always check to see if there are revised indexes to replace older ones.  Usually index entries are grouped together by letter but are arranged chronologically not alphabetically under a letter.  Old indexes often only note the male names and to locate a female name it is necessary to do a page-by-page search of each index column, which can be a tedious task.  You will also have to do a detailed search in the actual records if the name you are looking for is not in the index. 

The new genealogist must be patient because many hours of research work may produce no useful data and no visible progress.  Fortunately, there are other times when a great deal of data can be discovered in a relatively short period.  It balances out in the end!  As you gain more experience in working on your family history, you will be able to deal with most of the research problems you encounter.  You will learn where to turn for help should you need assistance.  Soon you will automatically know which record source to consult in order to solve a specific research problem or to support an argument.  As you become familiar with institutions such as archives, libraries, museums, andgenealogical and historical societies, you will learn where copies of the most useful genealogical records are likely to be found, if, and how these resources are available.