Archaeologists have their picks and axes. Biologists sometimes need their nets and their microscopes. Like the other practitioners of their respective trades, family history searchers also have their own unique equipments in the exercise of their occupation.
For hobbyists and professionals alike, these are some of the more important resources and tools in searching for family histories, either one’s own or that of others.
Some of these are computer programs, some are real office equipments, and some are written compilations (digital and analog alike) of indispensable materials, all crudely bundled up as tools and resources.
Family History Library Collection
This is the world’s largest collection of family history materials and contains records from almost all parts of the world. All true-blue family historians need this.
This is not just a compilation of sources, but it also lists and indexes family histories more thoroughly than any other. It tells who owns the data, where they were microfilmed, and lists additional sources. It is available on the Internet and one can buy it on CD-ROM for home use.
GEDCOM Database Computer Program
The GEDCOM database program is used primarily in organizing and sharing information on the people in your search for family histories. And it is not just this program that had been responsible for the explosion of the number of family history searchers today.
There are also small and relatively low-cost commercial database programs available for every family historian, like the PAF and Family Tree Maker.
Today’s important indexes include the Periodical Source Index, Riders American Genealogical Biographical Index, Filby’s Passenger and Immigration Lists Index and hundreds of smaller but important indexes.
These indexes may come in different forms (electronic, printed, arranged by surname or every-name, card, etc.) but they are all essential to the work.
Government may have interfered with our lives far too much for comfort. Census, tax forms, social security, licenses, immigration records, land titles, etc. – these are just some of the more familiar ones.
But the records that the government had amassed had become a treasure trove for family historians. Another good news is that all these records are found in all ranks of the government – from townships to the counties, to state archives and all the way to the federal level.
These are the transcripts, abstracts, indexes and compiled family histories. Also included are directories, gazetteers, and all the other published sources that make the family historian’s research easier.
These materials help us access the records just as well when, on occasions, the original or microfilm records are not available. These sources sometimes help preserve these records from getting lost into oblivion.
For more than a hundred years since these organizations have cropped up, genealogical societies have done the excellent job of preserving records (by way of publications, newsletters, and microfilming), sharing information and easy access to them (through exchanges, conferences, lectures, etc.) and continuous interaction with researchers.
Most of them have their own research facilities and websites all in the name of sharing news and important information. (For smoother access, check out first FGS or the Federation of Genealogical Societies before you start your research.)
The growth of quantity (and quality) of data on the Internet makes it an essential tool in the work of the family historian. In the GEDCOM files alone where hundreds of millions of names are at one’s disposal with just a few mouse clicks, the fast email access to anyone in the world makes the Net an important addition to the family historian’s resources.
The invention of the photocopy machine had greatly helped corporate business run smoother. For the family historian, it makes research faster, more thorough and accurate. Rather than writing cryptic notes, an entire article can be copied for later reading.
Cabinets and other filing storerooms are just as important as any of the above-mentioned tools. These are used to organize all the accumulated papers in the pursuit of your work.
All in all, these tools and resources are the basic essentials in your family history search. However you use them depends on your needs and your innate abilities to mix and match such diverse materials.