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From the Green Valley News, Friday June 10, 2005, page B7

Genealogy Today, by Betty Malesky

Preparing a research plan for your genealogical search.

Most genealogists love the research aspect of genealogy. The first time you find an ancestorís name in a public record is exciting and each success spurs you on to the next.

Research is time consuming, however and can be expensive if it involves a trip to the area where your family lived many years ago. You research is most likely to succeed when you begin with a well thought out plan, know what youíre looking for and where to find it.

Determine which of your family surnames you want to pursue first. It may be the surname you were born with, the family about which youíve been able to accumulate the most information or a family with a tradition or story you particularly want to investigate.

In the beginning, itís probably best to concentrate on one surname or family line. As you become more experienced, youíll find it helps to have an alternative plan in case your first choice presents a temporarily insurmountable problem.

Study your Family Group Sheets and your Pedigree Chart. Prepare a Research Log listing the information you want to find. If youíre missing a birth, marriage or death date, youíll need to visit or write to the Vital Records Office where the person lived at the time. Take some time to learn about the area where your ancestor lived, its laws and its history before you initiate a search.

Two indispensable books that will help you find the appropriate public office with custody of the records you need are The Handybook for Genealogists (10th edition) by Everton Publishers or Ancestryís Red Book (3rd edition) by Alice Eicholz. The Handybook presents a brief history, location of major record collections, how to obtain records, county maps and formation dates, and contact information for libraries, repositories and societies in each state and territory. The Red Book contains similar information as well as in-depth coverage of the best libraries and archives in the U.S.

While the books are similar they also complement each other. If you can only purchase one, try to preview them first to decide your preference. The Handybook at 880 pages retails for $59.95 and the Red Book at 771 pages for $49.95. Either can be ordered through local bookstores or purchased online through You may be able to find a used copy cheaper on but be sure itís the latest edition so you have the most up to date information.

Another excellent book that should be in every genealogistís library is The Researcherís Guide to American Genealogy by Val D. Greenwood. Now in its 3rd edition, the book retails for $29.95. Greenwood covers every aspect of research including types of records and their uses. If you read and digest the information covered here youíll have a good understanding of the genealogical research process.

As you complete each research task, donít forget to update your Research Log, evaluate what youíve found and determine the next step. Your research plan will continually change as you accomplish some of your goals, redefine others and add new ones.

Next month, "Locating Your Family in Print"

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