Genealogy, or family history research, is enjoyed around the world by millions of people of all ages, allowing current and future generations to learn and understand how the lives and paths of their ancestors led to today. Genealogy can be amazing, sad, frustrating, and – truly a cool adventure.
My nine phases of genealogy research…
Everyone interested in genealogy has a different path that led them to research their family history. Here’s mine.
Phase 1. Family stories. My aunt Eleanor, her cousin, Harold Phillis, and my grandmother were family historians. I spent hours and hours in cemeteries with my grandmother and Eleanor, and my grandmother told me countless stories about her family. My father rarely talked about his family, so my early genealogy exposure was all on my mother’s side of the family.
Phase 2. A family tree. Decades ago, I created a tree that went back several generations on my mother’s side, mostly based on Eleanor and Harold’s research. It was interesting, but once I got past the people that I’d heard stories about from my grandmother, it was honestly just names and dates to me. I added the tree, with my paternal side only going back to my grandparents, to Ancestry around 2012.
Phase 3. Inherited photos and family memorabilia. After my father’s death in 2015, I had a closet full of photos, old documents, and stacks and stacks of military papers, many from World War II. My father was a Lt. Colonel in the Air Force and kept everything. When we sold our house, our car, and nearly everything we owned in 2016 and moved to Europe, I kept all the items in storage. Over time, I will add many to the ephemera collection.
Phase 4. DNA testing. We first atDNA tested with Ancestry in 2017. While the ethnicity estimates have changed as the Ancestry database increases in size, my origins are primarily Scottish, Irish, and English. I have since atDNA tested with LivingDNA and 23andme, loaded my atDNA results to FTDNA, MyHeritage, and GEDmatch, and mtDNA tested at FTDNA. My spouse has also BigY DNA tested at FTDNA.
Phase 5. A new tree, a new experience. I couldn’t find the login to the tree I’d previously built on Ancestry, so I began again. The difference this time was the use of many additional sources, with a strong emphasis on newspaper articles, deeds, wills, etc., that helped tell the story of the people. I also began researching my father’s family. I reached out and met (virtually) my two living first cousins and several second cousins – I’d never met a cousin before that time.
Phase 6. BU Genealogical Research program. In 2019, I completed the Boston University Genealogical Principals class and then the Certificate in Genealogical Research program.
Phase 7. The “now what?” phase. Following the BU program, I began assisting others; creating research reports is something I thoroughly enjoy. However, I had difficulty relating the certificate program’s strictly structured research methods to researching “the Ancestry way” – the process I’d previously used for my own family history. After about a year of creating and deleting and creating and deleting web pages, I settled on a method for writing my own family histories that I liked. Ancestry and MyHeritage are now sources, and I do keep private trees on both, however, I don’t consider either of them my primary repository of information.
Phase 8. My method. It may not be for everyone, but this is what I settled on:
– Lineage chart using ahnentafel numbering. A generational chart with the person’s name, birth, marriage(s), death, burial, and atDNA match information, if applicable, mtDNA haplogroup and/or X pattern.
– Profile page. (Example, my paternal grandfather, Charles Fountain Faulkner). A fully-sourced narrative of the person’s life. My endnotes are a combination of sources, abstracts, and notes. Each profile has an [Open Endnotes in separate tab] link following the first endnote or the endnotes can be viewed in the same page using the superscript numbers/back to article linking system.
– Documentation and DNA page. (Example, my paternal grandfather, Charles Fountain Faulkner). All key documentation for the person with transcripts, abstracts, and notes. Also, a list of atDNA match paths (non-living identified, source of test listed for living in path). The Bettinger Shared cM Project 4.0, v.4 is used for each profile to validate DNA match centimorgans with the relationship (example: the cM for a 1st cousin 2 X removed should fall in the range of 33-471, with an average of 221).
– Surname pages. Located at the bottom of this page, a page linking to all profiles with the surname; all indices are currently private as research is in progress.
Phase 9. Genealogy Resources section. I created this section to house the resources I discover along the way. Most of the research I now conduct is not on Ancestry and my bookmarks were getting unwieldy. The section includes:
– Library and Resources. Links, books, and other resources with historical and genealogical information for family history and genealogy research. About the Library and Resources section
– Obituaries and Clippings. Obituaries and news clippings, primarily related to Faulkner and Hull family research.
Phase 10. What’s next? In 2022, I will be publishing many of my ancestors’ profiles and will begin publishing a great deal of my Faulkner-Phillis research.