By Sheila Benedict

In these anxious times everywhere, many people are feeling overwhelmed by being alone and not being able to leave home except for some basic reasons, such as grocery shopping. 

If you ever thought you might want to do your family history/genealogy, it is guaranteed to take more time than might be needed to fill the days, even weeks, and who knows, maybe months and years. If you are a regular reader, you know I asked for people who would like to share some generic family background but given what we as a city, a county, a country and a world right now are experiencing, it is time to change course. 

Consider using the time to go through all the old papers you might have hidden under the bed, in a box in the garage, up in an attic, or even in the Cloud on your computer. Ask a sibling, a parent, a grandparent, or other family members what papers they might have and ask them to let you make copies. They can drop them off, without contact of course, on the front porch. Just tell them to text you so they are retrieved immediately. 

By taking the time to go through everything, which may be minimal or a lot, you are actually using this horrible time in all our lives to some advantage and it may take your mind off other things as well. Being safely home does not mean you cannot be productive. 

Once you have gathered the papers, start sorting them out and make a list or a chart of items, document log or whatever works for you.  

As with all genealogy, start with yourself: birth certificate, social security, military, land and tax records, legal records (such as a will) and whatever else you might have. Once that is done, go to the next generation – your parents. Same process. 

There are several good genealogy programs for purchase at reasonable prices to use on your computer: Legacy, Roots Magic, Family Tree Maker and others. You can also create one in a word processing program. 

Most important is that every document, book and other source materials should be listed and cited immediately. You begin with pedigree charts that will take you back many generations, family group sheets that list not only you but siblings as well. 

There are some free forms online and you can use Google or another search engine to look for them. I suggest as there are dozens of hints and charts there. Those sources you locate are the basics for a good beginning. 

There are many books available to help but to repeat, as you work, make a source citation list – footnotes or even a bibliography. Over time, you will need to compare and contrast what you have and that will be discussed next time. 

Most of all be safe, follow the guidelines, stay home, and be well – your ancestors and descendants need you.

Sheila Benedict is a professional forensic and family genealogist. She is the author of Research in California, which she wrote in 2015 for the National Genealogical Societies Research in the States Series and writes articles in a variety of genealogical society newsletters and magazines.