Last month I mentioned I am beginning the process of writing a family history on my father's McWain family. I have been organizing my records in preparation for research where holes in my records appear. I have really gone back to the beginning with my records.
For years I have been collecting four generation charts and family group charts on all my family members. These are the basics of all genealogical research and the first charts I introduce to all beginning genealogists. Now I organize this information on the computer, making it much easier to update the records.
In obituaries I have noticed occupations that I did not before. This can lead me to union records, occupational organizations and even employer records. I also noticed that some records list community and fraternal organizations. I can check Masonic records for my father and grandfather, or the Orangemen (Scottish Protestants) for my great-grandfather. My great-grandfather's obituary also gives information on his Civil War service. I can now send for his military records.
Many obituaries mention religious affiliations. Following those leads I can check on records that might give me information on the lives of the family members — births, baptisms, marriages, deaths, service to church, and other records with good information. Obituaries also give immigration information and often mention where the person emigrated from and sometimes where they lived previous to coming to the United States.
As I looked through these old files I had to make a decision as to what to do with all the papers I encountered. I decided to only keep original documents. These usually came directly from family members or records I ordered from official record-keeping offices. If a record could be easily obtained, either from the Internet or from an official records office, I chose to just keep a copy in my computer software and not on paper.
I also had to decide what to do with all my photographs. Up until this time I kept them in several locations. I had albums from my mother and aunt. I had an album assembled for a recent family reunion. And, as most everyone does, I had loose photos in several places, some with identified subjects and others that featured people I did not recognize.
Next a decision had to be made what to do with the original documents I decided to keep. I am using a loose-leaf notebook with dividers by generation for the McWain family and in it I put the documents and photos organized by family member. This will be available for family members to look through before and after the book is completed. I also decided that after I choose pictures to include in the book I will also create a CD or DVD of additional photos as an addition to the book.
My scanner stays very busy as I have been scanning all the original records and more photos into my computer genealogy program. I also have kept a research log of all the research I still plan to do to add to the family history I am writing. The list is really growing.
One other decision I have made as I planned the outline for the book is that I will be adding appendixes to the McWain history with additions of collateral lines and miscellaneous local history information. In this format I will add information on the direct lines that have married into my McWain line. I also will add information I found out about the areas of the U.S., Canada and United Kingdom that my family lived in.
A family history is not a quick project. It takes much planning and additional research as the writing progresses. I have enjoyed the process and I think my family members will appreciate the extra time and care I have put into organizing the records into an easy-to-read format. I will be sharing more information with my readers as the project continues. I hope you enjoy the journey.
Carol McWain Goodenough is a professional genealogist with Goodenough Genealogical Services. Her column regularly appears in the Petoskey News-Review Saturday edition. Call (231) 582-7042 or send email to email@example.com for information about the monthly group meeting at 6 p.m. the second Thursday of the month at Charlevoix Public Library.