Get Started in Genealogy with the 3 W’s

October is National Family History Month. Do you have the genealogy and family history resources that genealogists and enthusiasts in your community need? And do they know how to get started?

Help your family historians and researchers make deeper historic connections while exploring their roots. Gale Genealogy Connect – the ideal complement to fact/people-based genealogy sources – fills in the rich context and real stories surrounding chronology that pre-dates accessible public records.

Get started in genealogy with the 3 W’s:

  • Who (a name)
    • A full name, including a maiden name for a woman, is important.
    • If you know all three items for an ancestor in your pedigree you can obtain much more information. For example, if you know that your father was born in Alabama in 1932, you can send for a copy of his birth certificate. (You would have to know the place he was born to know where to write.)
  • When (a date)
    • An approximate date for a genealogical event (a date of birth, death, marriage, residence, etc.) is needed to locate a person somewhere within a certain time period.
    • Or, if you know that your grandmother died in California in 1984, you can get a death certificate, then a funeral record, a tombstone inscription, a cemetery sexton’s record, a church record, social security record, and on and on—all because you know the place of death.
  • Where (a place)
    • This is the most important one—it is the place where a person was born, married, lived, or died.
    • The place is the key element in doing genealogy, because that is where the records are stored today. Finding genealogical references to a person begins when you discover the jurisdiction where a written record was first recorded—a record of birth, marriage, or burial, for example; or when you find evidence of residence, such as land records, tax lists, voter registrations, and so on. [1]

Managing a Genealogy Project

There are some important differences to identify when discussing genealogical projects. Here are some examples:

  • Pedigree:
    • Most genealogists start with a pedigree, an identification of all direct ancestors for a person, that is, the parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc.
    • It does not include uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, or cousins of a person.
    • An important distinction about the pedigree is that it moves backward in time; that is, the first person is usually someone alive today, and the ancestors of that person are identified moving from left to right, back in time, generation by generation.
  • Lineage
    • One line, or lineage, can be traced from the pedigree to highlight one particular line of ascent or descent, then reviewed as a separate project. 
    • An advantage in identifying a lineage is that a relationship to a certain person back in time could be compiled without the need to showing the entire pedigree.
    • A lineage of one surname can also be traced from the pedigree so that a male line can be identified.
  • Descendancy
    • A descendancy, sometimes called a “genealogy,” is a completely different project from a pedigree.
    • Those genealogists who have identified their pedigree lineage to a certain ancestor back in time may be intrigued with the many descendants besides themselves, and begin to prepare a comprehensive descent list, generation by generation, starting with that one person back in time.
    • However, the numbers of people who may be part of the descendancy can be staggering, and one must realize the scope of such a project compared with a simple pedigree. [2]

This content is from Gale Genealogy Connect: Getting Started — With a unique collection of research guides called “Genealogy at a Glance,” this group of 32 books lays a rock-solid foundation on which to build your family history.

Gale Genealogy Connect  features a wide range of comprehensive, authoritative references from, available for the first time online in fully searchable formatUsers can confidently connect the dots with contextual information, where the full, historically rich story lives. Trial all collections today! 

1. “How to Start.” Getting Started in Genealogy Online. William Dollarhide. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing, 2007. 9. Gale Genealogy Connect. Web. 1 Oct. 2014.

2. “Types of Genealogical Projects.” Managing a Genealogical Project: A Complete Manual for the Management and Organization of Genealogical Materials. William Dollarhide. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing, 2001. 1-5. Gale Genealogy Connect. Web. 1 Oct. 2014.


Leave a Comment