PREPARATIONS – Basic needs for researching your family history

PREPARATIONS – Basic needs for researching your family history

So you’ve made up your mind that you want to begin researching your family history, right?  There’s no time like the present to get started but to make the overall experience both interesting and productive there are a few things you might want to consider.

Typing Skills – Typing skills speed up information entry

First of all, there will be a lot of typing of names, dates, locations and other notes and family stories.  You can use the “hunt and peck” method but that is really going to limit how much research you get done.

I lucked out.  Sixty years ago I took a semester of Typing in high school on a college prep program.  I learned the basics but never needed to apply the knowledge for college or, basically, anything else for that matter, so I figured it was just a waste of time.  Little did I know how valuable the ability to type would be in doing my family tree search.

Now I’m not suggesting that you put off starting your family history research until you can get the typing skills that will prove beneficial in the long run.  What I am suggesting is that you gradually learn the typing skill as you are starting out with the research.  There are numerous relatively inexpensive books and online tutorials that you can use to learn the basics.

Some of the books are “Applying Your Typing Skills for Dummies” which is available on ebay for $4.95 plus shipping. “Typing For Beginners” is available in paperback at the Barnes & Noble website for $1.99.  Also “Computer Keyboarding” is also available in paperback at the Barnes & Noble website for $5.77 and I am sure there are additional books and sources.

Another resource that you might want to check out are free tutorials on YouTube at Free Typing Tutorial – The Basics and Typing Tutorial.

Personal Computer (PC) – 

You will find a personal computer (PC) indispensable for any serious research work.  The days of keeping info and notes on 3×5 file cards is long gone, fortunately.  I don’t know anyone that either doesn’t own a PC or at least have access to one.

If you are one of the unfortunate few that have neither you might consider checking with your local recycling or reuse center for a used PC or your local computer repair business for a used computer that someone traded-in on a new one.

However, that being said if you end up with a used PC or one that you don’t know of its past history and how it was used or abused you might want your local PC repair guy to check it out to make as sure as you can that it still has some life in it.  And that being said, it is probably more important that you backup your family history file even more often in case your used PC crashes.

I recently had a new hard drive installed in my PC with so much additional memory that I will never have to worry about running out of memory.  Even so, I still backup my family file to a flash drive about once a month.  I actually use two flash drives and keep them stored in different locations in my home in case of fire, etc. and occasionally do a backup on flash drives that I have my children keep in their homes.  If I have been putting a lot of info into the file I will back it up more often.  Twenty-five years plus of work and time is not something I want to take a chance on losing.

File cabinet –  

Although you will be filing probably 95% or more of your family history on your PC there will be a certain amount of paper that you should file for future reference.

Copies of birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, deeds, pictures, etc. will need a place to be filed.  I suggest that, if you don’t already have access to at least a single drawer file cabinet, that you start keeping an eye open for one.

If money is a concern check out the local recycle/reuse center or thrift stores or even ebay or Craig’s List.  It doesn’t have to be anything pretty, just functional.  Being a single drawer cabinet to begin with you might be able to set it on a table in the room with your PC or put it on a shelf in a closet.

In fact a few available shelves in a closet would be a good place to store books and other reference material.  After 25 or so years I am able to get all of my paper files in a two drawer cabinet and I have pretty much used up the available space on the shelves in the closet in the room where I do my research work.

Software – 

Other than a PC probably the most important item you will need is the software that you will be using for recording your family tree information.  Names, dates, locations, notes, sources of information, etc.

As I have said elsewhere I have been using Family Tree Maker (FTM) for Windows ever since I started many years ago.  Although I upgraded within the same brand many years ago the version I currently have has many, many features that I do not use and will probably never use.  I would Google “genealogy software reviews” and check out the reviews that are available.

Note: Even though I use an illustration of FTM software I do not recommend any particular brand..


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