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Free workbooks to help researchers

The Church's Family History Library has released two new research products to help researchers succeed in their quest to learn about their ancestors.

New line of family history publications gives beginning researchers a proven strategy to use.
New line of family history publications gives beginning researchers a proven strategy to use.

A new introductory workbook, "How Do I Start My Family History?" and a new line of research guides, "Finding Records of Your Ancestors," feature easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions, colorful graphics and tear-out worksheets.

"How Do I Start My Family History?" is a free workbook designed to help those just beginning to gather and organize their family's genealogy. It replaces the library's popular booklet "Where Do I Start?" Users will find simple instructions, examples and 8-by-11-inch removable pedigree and family group worksheets to help them capture what they already know about their families.

"Finding Records of Your Ancestors, Part A: Denmark, 1834 to 1900," is the first in a new series of publications that represents a new direction for the library. The guides simplify the research process to increase the probability of success. They are designed for those who have already gathered some information from their home and family, organized what they have on pedigree and family group forms like those found in "How Do I Start My Family History?" and are ready to search public records.

People generally perceive family history research as time consuming, complex and difficult, according to a press release from the Church's Public Affairs office. Veteran researchers usually credit someone for personally helping them a time or two in the beginning. The goal of the new guide, Finding Records of Your Ancestors, is to take the guesswork out of genealogical research.

Publications coordinator NaDine Timothy explained: "In the past we have taken an encyclopedia-type approach by listing every single record that is available. Now we are trying to simplify the process and give users a specific, proven strategy to use." She added: "One thing that has frustrated many family history enthusiasts is the need to master quickly a whole new set of skills and concepts to be successful. They feel overwhelmed by what they don't know, and that can stifle their desire to learn more about their ancestors. The new guides will give them key information to compensate for that research skill deficit and enable them to have success."

"Finding Records of Your Ancestors" guides are geared toward people who have little genealogical experience and may not have time to do extensive research. In an inviting workbook style, "Part A: Denmark," colorfully outlines the steps and tools needed to find one's Danish ancestors. Users will learn where to start, how to find and use Danish records, and what unique elements to look for in the records. The 8-by-11-inch booklets are more visual and user friendly than other family history how-to publications.

"We wanted to take beginners by the hand and walk them through the research process," said Kay Merkley, instructional designer for the 'Finding Records of Your Ancestors' series. "It's not an easy process at first, but these guides provide a strategy not available before on how to go from one record to another. The guides provide expert advice every step of the way."

The guide for Denmark is divided into two parts. Part A: Denmark covers the period from 1834 to 1900. Part B: Denmark, available in 2002, will cover additional time periods and research strategies. Another planned publication will help researchers read Danish records.

The guide explains different types of records in Denmark and instructs the user on when and how to use specific records. A real-life case study allows readers to see for themselves how the research process works. Expert search tips, including tips on how to use the Family History Library catalog, are included. Also included are maps, historical time lines, and background on Danish naming customs. Beyond outlining a strategy for getting started, the guide offers instructions on more advanced research, including addresses and Web sites for more information.

When tested last year with family history novices interested in Danish research, all test participants commented that the new guide made the genealogy research process much easier to understand and apply. Class participant Marilyn Moore said: "I'm excited about this information. It gives me a solid method to follow as I begin to learn about Danish records."

Additional guides in the "Finding Records of Your Ancestors" series will be published in 2002. Research guides are being prepared for the British Isles, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland (for German language records). Additional guides will follow, including research assistance for African-Americans, American Indians and Pacific Islanders.

Both publications announced Oct. 16 are available at Church distribution centers worldwide and can be ordered by calling toll free 1 (800) 537-5971 or on the Internet at www.familysearch.org. "How Do I Start My Family History?" is free (item number 32916). "Finding Records of Your Ancestors, Part A: Denmark" is $3.25 (item number 36577). Please use the correct item numbers when placing your order.

A PDF file of the booklets can be downloaded from the Internet site as well.

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