Genealogy Tips: Focus on the Basics First

When Dr. Shelley Murphy stopped by to talk about Using Timelines to Enhance Your Research Skills, she had some pointed advice for not just being good at collecting papers. She wants us to be organized and understand the genealogy basics.

She is always full of practical suggestions that you can apply to your research. Focusing on the basics as a first step is essential as she explains in her video.

Note: Transcript Follows the Video

Genealogy Tip: Focus on the Basics

Begin with what you know. Yes, a lot of people will say, “Oh, you start with yourself and you work your way back.”

Well, you know what?

Start with what you know about one of the ancestors that you’re working on. You know, that will also help you. You will build from there because you’re gonna ask questions about what you don’t know or what’s missing. You gotta figure out who or what, as in reference to documents or supporting evidence that might know or bring forth that information.

I’m on this kick right now about staying inside the box. People will tell you, “jump outside the box”, “expand your research”, and this-and-that [thing].

NO!! I want you to stay in that box! Do more focus and deep analysis inside that box.  Get as much as you can from there.

Just try to change a little bit of your thinking. You know, about jumping outside the box. We go down the rabbit holes and they’re good. No problem whatsoever, but you wanna go down a rabbit hole that’s gonna deliver something in the end.

You know, you’re gonna have challenges. It doesn’t matter if it’s African American, European, whatever. We are going to have challenges, no matter what.

You know what, just accept the fact they’re there and change your thinking that if I have challenges, that means I’m gonna strengthen my research skills because I’m gonna have to work a little bit harder. Again, stick to the basics.

The basics about genealogical research, you gotta get organized.

Genealogy Tip: Get an Organization Method

How organized are you? You want some type of a system for filing, saving, and retrieving the information that you have. Get a good resource guidebook or books or something that you can always go back to.

You know, we all have this stuff all over the place. We got files, we got books, we got stacks and it is overwhelming. We’re gonna repeat research that we’ve done before and before and before. Because sometimes we’re creating our own brick walls.

So we don’t want you. And I’m speaking as for all of us as family, historians, genealogists, whatever hat you choose to wear, we don’t want you just to be successful in collecting paper. You want to have some type of a system that you are going to have for filing information. Once you receive it, save it, or retrieve it.

Make a decision on how you’re gonna maintain your files. It’s your choice. I just want you to be consistent.

Are you gonna maintain files totally online? In a filing cabinet? Binders? Folders? Or in stacks? You choose whatever, you know, you will go back to [and use].

This is why I push so much to stick with the basics because we end up, after we went down rabbit holes and did all this other stuff, we typically will come back to the basic strategies and methods, no matter what. So build from there because they’re tried and true methods.

About the Author

<h3><a href="" target="_self">Shelley Viola Murphy</a></h3>

Shelley Viola Murphy

Dr. Shelley V Murphy's background spans with nonprofit and local government work focused primarily on real estate, affordable housing and fair housing discrimination issues. An avid genealogist for over 30 years, Dr. Shelley Viola Murphy, aka "familytreegirl," was born and raised in Michigan, now living in central Virginia. She conducts genealogy workshops at local, state and national conferences. Murphy is known for her inspiring & interactive "SO WHAT" with genealogical research, along with interesting problem-solving methodology lectures, such as the use of Timelines.

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