My congratulations to you on taking on this fun hobby! The first thing you go about this is ask your senior relatives about their families, their experiences, their life stories. With their permission, bring along tape recorder or camrecorder. You would be glad that you did this after they have passed on. Don't put it off until later.
You could print out those free forms at http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Acres/7002/ . Click on "Free Genealogy Charts" and there are two of the forms there that you will be using the most - Ancestral Chart and Family Group Chart. You also have to decide on how to organize your records. Because I have no children, I like to keep the records on my father's side in one binder and the records on my mother's side in another binder. It is easier that way when I make the copies if a cousin asked for the records. From my personal experience, do give a copy of your records to your relative(s) that aren't living with you. I lost my records in a house fire and had to start over. I was lucky that the records wasn't so big as I was starting out my hobby. Do make a habit of typing the surname in all caps so it is easier to scan for surnames. It is also very important to type the date as Feb. 1, 2000 (or 1 Febuary 2000) rather than 2/1/00. If an European sees 2/1/00, he is going to think it is the second of January 2000 as they put down the day first before the month. You just might be making a copy of some of your records for somebody in Europe in the future. It might be better to spell out the month in between the two numbers so one won't be confused with the two numbers if they are next to each other. Do what you feel the most comfortable with. Do put down the name of place fully - City, County, State, Country. Include the name of church they got married in, if you do know it. Do put nickname in parathesises. I like to keep my records in those plastic pockets that can be kept in a binder. Just make sure that they are archival quality. You could find them in office supply stores. 100% cotton paper (and acid-free) does last much longer than regular paper.
Ancestral Chart - You could start with yourself or your child (I started with my mother or father so to keep the records separate). You could keep a third (or an only) binder - the one that includes both of your parents so you could make extra copies for your children/grandchildren/nieces/nephews. The first person (on the far left side of the chart) is assigned to number 1. The next names are the parents. The father goes on the top (#2) and the mother (use her maiden name) goes on the bottom (#3). The next column are your grandparents - #4 thru #7. The great-grandparents are next - #8 thru #15. That chart is #1 - that is in the small box in upper-right corner. The person #8 will continue on to chart #2 while person #9 goes on to chart #3, so on. The parents of person #8 are #16 and #17. The parents of person #9 are #18 and #19, so on. It is easy if you remember that the person's father's number is always double of his child's number and the mother is just the next number after the father's.
Family Group Charts - These are perfect to list your ancestors' siblings and your ancestors' earlier or later marriages plus children. List the ancestor and spouse and their children. If that ancestor remarried, fill out a separate form.
Try to get at least 3 certificates - birth, marriage, and death on each person as they are your evidence. Make sure that the dates doesn't disagree. Check the date on the tombstone against the death certifcate, for an example. Also, learn about the history of the country your ancestor lived in. It might hold the clues about your ancestor. For example, the country declared a war on another country, you could look up the solders list for your ancestors.
If you do find that somebody published on a certain branch of your family, that is wonderful, however, do double-check the work as mistakes could've occurred. Sometimes the author found that information from an older book without verifying the information.
If you come across an advertisement that offered you a bound book with a list of people that has the same surname as yours. Don't bother with that. My cousin bought one and found to be almost worthless. It just lists people that one can find on the phonebook online. You can do the same yourself without paying anything, just to find out how many people out there share your surname.
You could do the gravestone rubbing. Just clean up the gravestone as best as you can with soft-bristle brush to remove anything that is sticking to it. Tape a big piece of white paper over the gravestone, making sure that the paper won't shift. Take a big black piece of crayon and rub the long flat side against the outer edges of the gravestone and work your way toward the middle. Now you have a copy of the gravestone imprint that is much easier to read. You could show to others the beautiful pattern/picture the gravestone might have.
Family History Centers are wonderful place to start your hunting. It is in your local Latter Day
Saints (or better known as Mormon) Church. You don't have to be a church member to use the Family
History Center. They don't push their religion on you there. This link:
http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Library/FHC/frameset_fhc.asp helps you to find the
nearest one. You start with the microfiche to get the ID number of a roll of microfilm you will
need to rent. The microfiches are listed geographically and by year. If you rent the same roll three
times consecutively, then that roll gets to stay at that family history center in your name. Anytime you
see the word "gisteren" which means "yesterday", change the date to the
day before. (Don't forget that some months have 30 days and others 31 days. Febuary can be 28 days or 29 days
on the leap years.) Always cite your sources. If you made a copy from the microfilm, write the number of the roll on
the back of the copy. You could buy a Dutch dictionary to help yourself out with the translation. You also could use
the free online translation. The translation to English won't be perfect but it is enough to get the gist.
Geboorte is Birth
Doop is Baptism
Huwelijk is Marriage
Overlijden is death
You could sign up for Belgium Roots List/Digest at http://belgium.rootsweb.com/_br/rw/belgium_roots_l.html to get free newsletter. You can take your pick of List or Digest. In the List part, you get an email everytime somebody sends an email to the List/Digest, In the Digest part, you get one email of a day's worth of emails that people send to the List/Digest. The link explains more on this. This Belgium-Roots-L was founded by Georges Picavet, is loaded with lots of information.
Don't put your trust in the census records 100%. I have found my grandparents' 1920 census filled with mistakes. I figured it is because my grandmother was only speaking German and the poor census taker didn't know German. Also, I didn't know where to start to search for that census record because Detroit is a big city. I used the Soundex but couldn't find it which I found out later that the surname is misspelled with the first letter as "G" instead of "F". I looked up my father's birth certificate to get the address (He was born at home in 1919). I was able to pinpoint the record by looking at the street name and then the house number. You could use the city directory to find the address.
Between 1795 - 1806, many births in Belgium were not recorded due to not notifying the invading Napoleon forces. The reason is that Napoleon might conscript their sons.
- Gary Stano
If you have a tip that you would like to share with us, please send it to me and tell me if you want your name after the tip.