From time to time, I’ve been working on family histories. Several years ago, when I was asked to do Family History consulting on a volunteer basis, at the same time the “New Family Search” software and website was becoming available in my part of the country, I became once again frustrated with the multiplicity of data (variations in dates, places, names, etc) contributed by different researchers. One of the best pieces of advice I heard was “Know your family”. I looked at a pedigree chart, saw a bunch of names, and thought, “I don’t know these people. They are only names to me”. So, I started doing something about it. I started using ancestry.com, which at the time offered good access to images of the US Census, and compiling skeletal family histories, based largely on birth dates and birth places of children. In some cases, I found too little information, because not enough people had contributed: in others, where was considerable confusion. I decided that It would work better for me to work forward from known ancestors so that I could get to know the family, and then then use that information as clues to help sort which family I am gathering information is correct, and solve some genealogical puzzles that way. There are multiple tools and websites, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.
A good deal of my work-in-progress is on ancestry.com, but I also use Family Search – Family Tree, and I’ve also been using MyHeritage.com. I’m trying to get the basic skeletal outline of a family first, and get an idea of which facts are well known, and which are in some dispute, and then go through and nail down details and sources. So far, I have on the main file some 19 families and part families running to 5 pages, and then a second document with about 9 families with the family of a particular one of my ancestors and his descendants. I will eventually want to split some of these out, but I’m pleased with the progress I’ve been making.