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15 November 2005 @ 12:50 pm
I just saw an interesting question on one of my mailing lists. I thought I would share it with you and let you know what my response was. If you have any suggestions just add them into the comments.

Subject: Newbie

I just recently joined the group and have been spending time looking through the messages and files. Genealogy is fairly new to me. Just recently I received a treasure trove of information and am a little overwhelmed. My aunt researched our family for over 30 years. She died in 1990 and all her files have been haphazardly stored in an attic in boxes. It will take me months to get it all organized enough to even know what I have. Any advice about where to start would be appreciated.

My response:


I would recommend that you first get a genealogy software program. To start out use PAF 5, it's free, you will find a link to download it at http://www.familysearch.org. After you are used to this program then you can research and look for another program with more bells and whistles. (You will know what you do and don't like about genealogy software programs by then.) I use Legacy 6 and love it. If you need help learning the program go to your local Family History Center (FHC) they can help you learn how to use PAF or answer any questions you have. There is a search box on the link I gave before to help you find a Family History Center near you.

If you go under the Product Support tab on http://www.familysearch.org you will see a link on the right hand side to PAF 5. On the PAF 5 page you will have to scroll down to see the Frequently Asked Questions. Click on the one that says "What are the Personal Ancestral File Lessons, and where can I find them?" It will take you to the online instructions and an overview of the program. Very helpful, it's important to learn about documenting your sources.

Try to enter in the program your direct line first, starting with yourself. If you can't make heads or tails out of your aunts papers, who is linked to whom. Just start entering what information you find. You will start to remember patterns and names. PAF has a individual tab that will allow you to see a list of everyone in your database. You can see if you already have people in the database before you enter them again. You can simple edit and add information to them then. That will help you from re-entering the same people and having to merge them. The merge feature lets you combine the same two individuals into one record. Just remember to keep good backups of your database and make a backup before you do any merging. That way you can go back to an earlier backup if you mess anything up.

I think letting the genealogy software program help you organize your Aunts records will speed up the process for you. If you get really brave you can try seeing if any of her information was submitted on line and try to download a gedcom and import it into your database. That might sound scary and foreign but the people at the FHC will help you do it.

You are so blessed that your family saved your Aunt's work and didn't throw it away. Good Luck.

Renee Zamora
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