by Gayle Stuart


That’s the question that launched my search for family history in the seventh grade.

You have eight great-grandparents.  You have two parents, who each had two parents.  They each had two parents and that gives you eight great-grandparents. 

Each generation going back doubles the number of ancestors.  Remember the female line should be followed.  Half of your ancestors are female.

Awhile back I was asked to help present a beginning program on starting genealogy. This meeting was held at the library in Elk Horn, Iowa.  We had a nice group, but only one couple wanted to know how to get started.

In genealogy, we start with what we know and work backwards.  Pick a couple of ancestors to follow and try not to do a whole family at one time.  Remember they won’t be going away.

Just because someone wrote a family history, don’t assume it is all correct.  There could be inaccurate and insufficient information.

For example:  Leo’s father had a first cousin who wrote a very detailed history of the Stuart family from things told to him by his father.  In the descent of generations there was Robert 1, Robert 2, and Robert 3.  Robert 2 was Leo’s great-grandfather; when we found his wedding records of 1834 from the church, his father was Donald and not Robert.  So facts need to be verified.  Medical records, church records, baptisms, confirmations, marriages may show birthplace or legal age at the time of marriage.

The Federal Census was taken every 10 years starting in 1790.  Some of these were not complete; if the family was not home, a neighbor may have given the information.  The 1880 census asked if the person was disabled: blind, deaf and dumb, idiotic, insane or maimed, crippled, bedridden or otherwise disabled.  The 1910 census asked if they were a survivor of the Union or Confederate Army or Navy.