The Basics: A Guide
How to Start Family Research
In this chapter I want to discuss how to start family research. The first step is to start with oneself. What do you know about yourself? Jot down all important details, including the fundamental names and dates having a bearing on your life. Once you have finished with yourself start on your parents. In my personal experience mothers seem to know everything and always have the paperwork to back it up (usually stuffed away in a drawer or a box). My mother and my mother-in-law used to keep all the birth notices, death notices, marriage anniversary notices and newspaper clippings dealing with family members. It was through a 50th wedding anniversary notice that I was able to find where my mother-in-law's maternal grandparents lived and died. From there I was able to trace those particular families back another one hundred years. Even family legends and lore need to be checked out, there may be some truth hidden in them. Make copies of all newspaper clippings, certificates (birth, marriage, death) and other documents that you find. Keep them in a safe place.
If grandparents are still alive, or a great-aunt or great-uncle, do not forget to talk to them as well. It is best, if possible, to take a tape-recorder along and tape all your questions and answers. Prepare a list of questions before you go to the interview. Make sure that you ask for the exact spelling of the names of persons and places. Also ask if the family ever used a different spelling of the family name or whether the family changed names. If it was changed when did the change take place and who did it. This is of particular importance when one considers the number of different nations that invaded (peacefully or otherwise) the Netherlands over the centuries. For example a French Protestant (or Huguenot) name may have changed from its original French to Dutch (Le Roi to Koning) and then when the immigrant came to Canada it may have been anglicized (Koning to King). English people who settled in the Netherlands also had their names changed - for example, Johnston became Janssen.
What do I do with the information I have acquired? If you have a computer, keep a separate file for each individual/family. A software package with a data base program would be a wonderful place to store your information. The nice thing about a data base is that you can find what you are looking for by using the query process. When I started I did not have a computer so I kept everything on filing cards. Another suggestion is that you keep a separate sheet of paper for each individual and/or family and put it in a file folder. The file folders can be kept in a filing cabinet or a box. In the next installment I will write a little more about how to get started and also about how to make your tree.