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Why Should I Care?

When you begin thinking about genealogy, or hear other family members speak of the subject, you may think to yourself, “But why should I care?” Simple: It’s in your blood. All jokes aside, there are many advantages to researching your family history, and when you are done with your research, it is beneficial to your entire family to share the information for a number of reasons. Studying genealogy is an important pastime for you and your relatives.

Before you begin to grumble, realize that researching your family history does not have to become a major part of your life. If you find that you enjoy the work, great-make it a hobby you spend a lot of time and money doing. However, if you aren’t a history buff (or perhaps don’t get along with your family very well), you don’t have to devote hours every day to research. By learning a few simple facts, you can keep yourself and your children healthy and educated.

First off, studying your family tree is important for health purposes. There’s a reason your doctor wants to know your mother and father’s health history when you go in for a check-up. Many diseases are passed through your genes, so learning a little about the health of you parents and grandparents may help you and your children take preventative measures against such diseases. You can also make more educated decisions in your lifestyle choices if you know you have a predisposition for a certain disease. For example, if all four of your grandparents have diabetes, you may be able to prevent this in yourself by eating healthier from a young age and encouraging your children to do the same. If you find any trends in your family’s health history, you should share this information with relatives, so that they and their children can remain healthy as well.

Beyond your health, learning about your family tree also helps your stay educated about yourself. There are many resources online and in print that can tell you what your surname means, for example. You can also probably find information relating to your family crest, and other special family insignia. This may be a fun project for your children, and it will also help you and them both learn a little more about using a library for research or looking for information on the Internet. Other fun information your research could uncover includes burial places that would be perfect vacation spots, famous relatives, or information about family heirlooms that you may now own. In any case, it’s nice to at least know your family’s country of origin. You don’t have to devote your life to the pursuit of family history, but by filling in a few of the gaps, you will be able to pass these chunks of information on to your children to help them stay healthy and be proud about their background.

Software: What Every Genealogist should Know about Computers

Since many homes have a personal computer, and almost all libraries have computers you can use to access the Internet, one way for genealogists to organize and record their information is by using family history programs. Available online and at your local computer or media store, programs that help you with your research are often easier to use than you think. Don’t let your lack of computer skills discourage you from looking into buying one of these programs. All these resources work in different ways, so make sure you do your research before purchasing something, since they can cost as much as a few hundred dollars.

If you don’t know a lot about computers, your first step is probably to employ the help of someone who does. You can ask your local librarian for help using the Internet, or you can take a course at your local community college. Often, these are one-time only events that are offered for free and taught by students. If this is not an option for you, ask for help from someone in the 16- to 25-year-old range. The younger generations grew up needing to know how to use computers to get by in their daily lives, so someone of this age can help you get started with your research.

Begin by searching online for product descriptions and reviews. A good place to start is with companies who sell many different types of software, because these reviews tend to be more unbiased. Amazon.com, which became famous for selling books, sells many types of genealogical research software programs, and not only does the company post reviews, but you can read user reviews to the product as well.

Decide what factors are important to you. First and foremost, set a budget and try to stick to it. Realize that you will get what you pay for, so the more tools you want, the more you will pay. Online, you can access many free services, but the disadvantage to this is that you are not always able to record all of your information, and unless you can do that, the program is not very useful, since you’ll have to use it in conjunction with a written notebook or other computer files.

After you set a budget, look at your options within that price range. Tools commonly used on this type of software include family health charts, family trees, pedigrees, timelines, and basic information pages. What type of tools do you need? By comparing products, with the help of someone who knows a little bit about computers, you can choose one that is right for you and your skill level.