In Part 1 of this article, we discussed research basics to help those who feel inexperienced doing family history research teach those who are just beginning. We reviewed the foundations of solid personal research and advice on having set things to share, instead of falling back on the “fire hydrant” approach of teaching. This article will discuss how to use slightly more advanced research strategies.

Data Entry and Review
Reviewing data before setting it in printed or mental stone can solve potential pedigree problems. Teach that we can all use basic logic in our research, that everyone can do it. Before those you are teaching finish their research, have them carefully review each family group by first, Stopping; then second, Looking at the data (whether dates or places); and third, Thinking by asking ourselves questions such as:

  • Are there missing events for some individuals?
  • Are there possible gaps in families where other children could be placed?
  • Does one record say a couple married at the age of two?
  • Is someone two places at once?

After evaluating what has already been collected, they should make sure that all that information has been compiled in some database, including sources.

Explore Other Records
When beginners are out on their own they will need to explore other pertinent records. Reflecting on your own family history research, meager or great, encourage them to become familiar with the records they will need to explore. The choice of those records will depend on the time period needed, the location, and the availability of the records. Encourage them to make a simple list of sources for a particular area of interest and keep it with their research materials, along with what they contain, so they can use it to make judgment calls. For example:

  • England
  • 1841-1891, Census: Occupation, age, birthplace, family members
  • 1835-on, Civil Registration: Parents, age, occupation

Find a Knowledge Base
It seems an overlooked fact that an expert is just a beginner who knows more. They’ve worked hard to learn what they know and where to go when they don’t know the answer. Likewise, beginners need somewhere to look when they reach the “what’s next?” part of their research. Encourage them to find a reference guide to consult that is simple, quality, and inexpensive (or better yet, free). For all three, introduce them to the ”Learn” section of, where they can explore the Wiki, online research courses, and other “getting started” instructions.

These simple steps can help you become comfortable teaching people how to be self-sufficient researchers, even if you don’t feel like you know a lot yourself.

Comments (5)

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  1. overwhelming to say the least and I am diligent and intelligent and have two masters degrees to prove it.

    Arlene 15 May 2011
    2:05 pm
  2. Thank you Robert. ) SLowe

    Sarah Lowe 06 May 2011
    10:34 am
  3. I found this article very helpful and has given me reknewed confidence in teaching others the importance of family history research and how to go about it.

    Robert Gilmour 06 May 2011
    5:45 am
  4. Virginia, Thank you for your comment, but this blog will not allow you to have your comment made known. If you have a question about familysearch please click the Feedback button on the right side of your screen. Good luck, SLowe

    Sarah Lowe 03 May 2011
    11:33 am
  5. The new family search is very difficult and more time consuming that the old version. Please Please return to the other version. It was simple and very easy to find the person you are looking for. You have to tell the information instead of family search telling you.

    Virginia Moore 27 April 2011
    10:26 pm

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