By Sheila Benedict

Most people are interested in their past, especially those who know nothing and want to find out everything: the who, what, where, when, and how of their ancestry.

To do a thorough, accurate research project into your “roots” is not a simple thing, nor is it for the faint of heart. Further, it is not just for retired folks with time on their hands; many young people are just as enthusiastic and want to do the research. People in the professional genealogy community in which I work range in age from 21 to 81 years old.

Some folks have the idea that if they have names, dates, and places, that is all they need – not true! The history of place and time is important to get an understanding of who your ancestors were and how much of “me” came from part of “them.”

In addition, accurate information from reliable sources is the only type of genealogy that should be done. “If grandma said it, it must be so” is a fallacy, and we know it.

There are some truths that one needs to know:

  • Everything is not online.
  • Some genealogy sites are free, others charge.
  • Databases contain errors, and often a lot of them.
  • There is a variety of ways to search, and many times the only way is “boots on the ground.”
  • Non-genealogy sites could have some valuable data about your family.
  • Names can be spelled differently yet are in the same family.
  • There are many more truths and some falsehoods as well.

If you are interested in knowing more about professional genealogy, please let the newspaper know by emailing and perhaps we can have some monthly tips right here in future issues.

Sheila Benedict is a professional forensic and family genealogist.