We research all kinds of questions at the Schenectady County Historical Society, however genealogy queries probably make up more than 50% of our research. Not only do we receive requests for information over the phone and through email, but we also have many researchers come to the library to use our resources themselves.
As a result of so much genealogical research, we have developed some strategies for effective and efficient family research.
Tip 1: Decide what questions you want answered about your ancestors. It is often easy to say that you would like to know everything about everyone, but it is easier to start off small, and build. Often people begin by wanting full names, dates of birth, marriage and death and sometimes the place of birth, marriage and death.
Tip 2: Start your family tree with yourself. Often people are looking for a link to colonial America, and they try to trace a family tree, from say George Washington, down to themselves. Often these people are not actually relatives. Instead, it is easier to start with yourself, work backwards, and fill in as much information as you know. Once you have something to build on, you can work backward more easily.
Tip 3: From personal experience, at least in Schenectady, religious affiliation often has no bearing on where two people get married, or have their children baptized. This is especially true for the early citizens of Schenectady. So just because someone was Catholic, don’t give up if you can’t find them listed!
Tip 4: Ask your relatives for help. Even if your living relatives are from the same generation as yourself, you never know what stories they might have heard or what they remember. It is often a good idea to keep track of confirmed facts and information passed on in stories. If you know someone was born on a certain date, but you only think the place was Schenectady, indicate this on your family tree by using different colored inks or a special symbol.
Tip 5: Share what you know. If you compile a family tree or collect information, don’t forget to share it with your family and your local historical society. Even if the information you collect does not go far back in time, it may still help researchers in the future to track down their relatives.
Hopefully these tips will help you in your search for information about your ancestors. Please contact us at the Society for more tips, or with more specific questions. And please remember to share your findings.