Beginner's List of Genealogical Supplies
by Kay Cromwell
Here’s a list of the top 16 genealogy supplies you’ll need to get
started on your family tree.

1.        Pencils - Why pencils, you may ask.   Well the reason, you’ll
need pencils is that you will need to be able to erase names from
your tree if they turn out to be incorrect.  Mistakes are inevitable in
genealogy but not permanent.  As you gather more information on a
person, it may turn out that you’ve stumbled upon a person with the
exact same name but who belongs in another tree altogether!  
Always pencil in the names on your family tree until you are 100%
certain.  This usually means having 3 different sources that put that
name in that spot on your tree.  Of course you can always use pens
for many of your notes.  It’s a good idea to keep a lot of general
office supplies on hand too.  Sticky notes are particularly handy.

2.        Recording device – a recording device is really important for
when you start to do interviews.  Older cassette recorders will do
fine, but newer digital devices are handy because they are much
smaller and easier to tote around.  Always be sure your interviewee
is willing to be recorded!  It’s just good manners and creates good
will by asking.

3.        Extra batteries – Always carry extra batteries to all your
interviews.  There is nothing worse than lining up your interview,
driving to your destination, setting up your equipment, testing it and
discovering it won’t work because your batteries are dead.  You’ve
wasted your time and that of your relatives.  

4.        Paper clips – I mention paper clips particularly because there
will be very old photos that you will not want to staple and ruin.
Paper clips allow you to clip together a number of important pieces
(photos, birth certificates, and old letters) without piercing them so
they are great to have on hand, especially if you are just borrowing
them.  The person lending them to you will appreciate your respect
of their treasured heirlooms.

5.        Patience – Though not an essential item, you’ll find that
patience will help because there will be times that it takes longer to
set up interviews, hunt down old relatives, locate graveyards and the
many other things you’ll do will take longer than you had hoped.  A
little bit of patience will serve you well until that logjam breaks and
things start to run smoothly again.

6.        Talkative Relatives - It’s a great help to have talkative
relatives.  Don’t worry too much if you don’t have any though.  
There are other ways to find out all the information you need.  It’s
just easier and more fun if you approach all your relatives for
information – yes – even the scary ones!  You never know what you
may learn.

7.        Paper/Notepads – Make sure that you have lots of extra
paper for your printer and notepads for interviews.  Notepads for
interviews are important, even if you are recording the interview and
will be crucial if the person does not want to be recorded.  Don’t’
just assume everyone is ok with it and take only the recorder – that
would be a tragic mistake.

8.        Family Tree - This is what you are working toward
completing, but what style will you use? There are a number of
different formats that may interest you. You can get many free ones
online as well as pay to have a very stylized, artistic one done.  There
are a lot of options for how you will ultimately showcase your family
tree.  Most trees are limited though to about four generations.

9.        Internet Connection - This is another nice to have item that
will make your genealogy search easier.  But, like many things – it is
not essential for genealogy.  Remember – genealogy was done long
before the Internet.  It was just slower and involved more trips.  I
have a relative that did it the old fashioned way, trooping through old
graveyards, and court records for marriage certificates.  If you don’t
have an Internet connection, though – libraries do and you can
always do your research from there.  You may even be reading this
from a library Internet connection.  

10.        Software – There are all kinds of software available on the
market.  Things to look for include ability to add multi-media
presentations, flexibility and universality. Look also for the ability to
export your data in GEDCOM format.

11.        Organization - This should be considered an essential item
because you will need it.  As time passes, you will have an ever
increasingly large amount of information that needs to be stored in a
logical way in case you need to refer back to it.  If you don’t
currently have this skill, now is the time to learn it.  It’s not too hard,
just don’t let your papers pile up until the task is so large you don’t
want to do it.  Organize as you go.  Find a system that works for you
so that you will know where to look for information when you need it
(i.e., when you need to cross-reference one person’s information
with another of the same or similar name.)

12.        Scanner -   A scanner is really nice to have because records
can be digitalized and kept safer for much longer on your home
computer.  However, there are also now portable scanners which
would be a great item to take to all your interviews.  Sometimes you’
ll stumble across a relative that has a ton of stuff you would like to
copy so a scanner is nice to have.   It can be especially helpful if your
relative does not want their irreplaceable documents leaving their

13.        Binders – Binders are a great way to keep all your material
organized.  Don’t three hole punch items though.  Get pockets for
any items that you may want to store in a binder.

14.        Computer – A computer is a nice to have item, but not
entirely essential.  Remember, genealogy was done long before the
invention of the computer.

15.        Logs, logs, and more logs – As part of your search, you’ll
find a need for a number of different logs that are commonly used by
genealogists.  There’s the interview log to help you keep track of
who you’ve talked to and who’s up next, the census log, and family
record logs to name a few.

16.         Dogged determination – Although I’ve listed this last, it’s
not the least important item.  There will come a time when you’ve
pushed a long way back, but suddenly reach a grinding halt.  In
genealogy it’s known as hitting a brick wall.  There are some people
who search 20 years for a single “lost” relative.  Now that’s
determination.  It may never pay off, but the thrill is in the hunt
anyway because there is such immense satisfaction if it does.  If it
never does, the journey is just as fun because you’ll meet so many
interesting people, relatives and non-relatives alike.  Genealogy is
truly a lifetime hobby for everyone.

Author Bio:
Kay has been researching her family tree for over a decade now.  To
learn more about family tree formats please visit:  

She offers a free mini-course on genealogy at:  My Genealogy

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