The other day I was watching this webinar on Ancestry.com (they have great videos on genealogy) and I got some amazing tips but two really stood out and I wanted to share them here.
The first one was "don't get on the internet to quickly". My father also found this one helpful but mostly because it made him feel as if he had done his genealogy right. See it was years before he got on a computer to look but as he admitted most of that had to do with not understanding how to get on a computer.
I liked this one because it reminded me of what I had said a little here. That you need to speak to your relatives first to get all the information that you can. First because they are your best resource for living history and second because they probably know things you don't. But one of the best reasons is because right now if you are looking for information on anyone living past 1930 then they are almost all that you have.
The 1940 census won't be out until 2012 and you can always and should always go down to obtain court records for your immediate family but without dates, full names, and city's where they were born, lived or died then you still won't get very far and who do you think knows those things? However, don't take everything as hard facts. This leads into another tip that I had forgotten until now;"Don't take everything your family says as gospel". Not that your family would lie to you. More that they might be telling you what someone told them and that person might not have been sure. This is expecially true with African-American history. If someone was born during salvary your ancestors could have had everything wrong from the date of birth to the place. Records weren't kept even by the individual.
The best tip that I believe he shared was to "Record your interviews with your relatives". This was one that I hadn't thought of but as he said it I thought back to how great it would be to have a recording of my great grandmother telling her life and the lives of our family. That would top "Roots" and almost any other movie that thought to tell the history of our country or it's families. Think of those closest to you and those that you might not talk to all the time. How would you feel if something happened to them and the knowledge that they had was lost forever? But how would you feel if you not only had interviewed them but had a tape recording or video recording of them sharing all that they could about life and history, theirs and your family. I have lost many family members way to soon and I tell you if I had tapes of them somewhere speaking or a video that showed their personality as well as their life I would treasure them.
So that is my biggest tip that I can share and it wasn't even mine. Don't just interview your family; record them. You'll be glad you did. I know I will just as soon as I get a video camera :).
Ps. The webinar was called "Avoiding Traps of African-American Genealogy"(the photo is from there). It's with Tony Burroughs who is a well known genealogist and the author of "Black Roots: A Beginner's Guide To Tracing The African-American Family Tree". It is free as is all their webinars and you don't have to be a member to see them. They quite a few and I suggest you watch/listen to a few of them. The link is here for the webinars and here for Tony Burroughs website. He has some great videos that you can see as well as other helpful information.