To begin, you’ll need some keen organizational skills. It’s important to use a system that makes sense to you so use my tips as a guideline. I suggest you make sure you have several binders, dividers (pocket dividers are especially useful), and file folders. You might want to label the file folders with the key names that you are investigating. Get some hanging file folders and put a label on them for a particular family and then put the file folders that belong to that family within that hanging folder. Alternatively, you could use binders for families with the dividers labeled for each family member and a binder dedicated to one family unit. As you go, you may find a need to expand your storage space, but in the beginning you won’t need too much.
A second trait that you will need is communication skills. You will need this skill when you interview relatives to learn more about your family history. If you are not a big “people person” don’t worry. There are standard interview questions that you can use to make sure that you cover all the needed areas to trace your family tree. Using this approach will help you keep your interviews on task and alleviate any fear that you may have had about talking to relatives that you don’t really know all that well.
A third trait of any successful genealogist is curiosity. This trait will drive you to search in more places than you thought possible. You’ll be reading old newspapers to learn about the history of a town you aren’t currently familiar with so that you can see how things affected your distant relatives. You’ll find yourself searching old gazettes and atlases so that you understand how place names changed over time. And in the end, you’ll have learned about much more than your personal family history. You’ll see how your family’s past has been influenced by history itself.
A fourth essential trait is persistence. There will be times when you may find yourself searching for long periods of time for just one relative. It may seem like a brick wall, but oftentimes, a bit of persistence really pays off and when it does you’ll be immensely satisfied with yourself. Be sure to pat yourself on the back!
Finally, and certainly not the least of these five traits – is accuracy. You must be meticulous in your drive for accuracy. Check and re-check all data. If you’ve written something based upon your research, you must verify that you have it all correct – so go back and re-read the original and compare it to your material. If you transcribe any records for publication on the Internet so that others can benefit, you must be 100% accurate so check for errors. They happen to the best of us, but with careful oversight, we can eliminate them and provide very accurate records for future generations to enjoy.
By developing these five traits, you can lesson your frustration and really enjoy your new found hobby!