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Research into one’s family history or genealogy is first of all fun and adventuresome. But it is also hard work. Let me discuss how the hard work can be made much easier than one might imagine.

Do you remember how Tom Sawyer got his fence painted much faster than his Aunt Polly thought he could? He got all of his friends to help. You should try to use the “Sawyer Effect” in your research.  That is, involve as many people as you can to help.

Before starting, make sure you have a computer and genealogy software and know how to use both reasonably well. (What’s the point of collecting data if you have no place to store it for later use)?

First. go into your attic and have your siblings go into their attics and pull out all family history items which can be found. Search these items to see if anyone else has performed some research or noted the names of cousins, uncles, aunts of whom you are unaware.

Second, start a spreadsheet or paper list of those identified listing name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, surnames they care about, and so forth.

Third, send a Family Group Sheet (FGS) with instructions to all of your known cousins, aunts and uncles. My next posting will include a sample letter  or e-mail one can use to transmit the FGS. Ask each addressee to identify other related cousins and relatives. I would guess when I started I knew the names and addresses of less than half a dozen; I ended up with over 300 Bourlands. (The other lines or related surnames I have never counted).

Fourth, learn to use World Connect at http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/. When you identify people on this site researching your surnames, copy their addresses (which are on the top of the page in gray) onto the spreadsheet you created in Step 2 above. Contact them and ask if they would be interested in exchanging data.

Fifth, learn and use Rootsweb at http://rootsweb.ancestry.com/. First of all sign up to receive current queries for your surnames. Next, review all queries on your surnames. Be sure to explore the “archives” for each of your surnames. Again, copy the names and addresses and contact those researching your surnames.

Sixth, near the bottom of any correspondence whether e-mail, letter or otherwise, place your version of the following: “I am researching the following surnames, please let me know if you can help: Bourland, Bobbitt, Cardwell, Flagg, Frost, Rice, White ….. “. Keep adding to this list as you learn grandmother names, but make sure the list is always in alphabetical order.

Seventh, when you make contact with a cousin  – or someone who has a relationship however remote with a cousin – ask them to send you a Register Report with all of their Notes. Also, ask them for the names and addresses of any others they may know who are researching your surnames.

Eighth, determine either by a personal visit to, or from a County web site, if a list of all people searching your surnames is available. Some counties may not have such a list, but many will. Once again, put them on your list and contact them.

Ninth, find using search engines if your family has a web site devoted exclusively to it.

Tenth, search for your surnames in Google, Bing, Clusty and other engines.

While I say to my classes they should shoot for 2-300 names of Colleagues, I should say 900-1,000 and would if I thought they would not scare easily. You will be surprised how quickly this list will grow.

You will also be surprised at how quickly your research progresses.

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