Ann Lawthers, a Genealogist at the New England Historic Genealogical Society, on “Getting Started in Genealogy.”

O’Connell Law Lunch & Learn Series, April 20, 2017

Hosted by North Hill in Needham

Genealogy is like a puzzle; each piece of information brings us one step closer to tracing our family history. Ann Lawthers’ presentation brought our client and professional networks together to learn practical tips, rules of good genealogy, and resources to get us started. For some, genealogy can be addicting, and for others it can be daunting.

Fun facts about the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS):

  • Founded in 1845, NEHGS is United State’s oldest and largest nonprofit genealogy library and archive. With more than 15 million artifacts, books, manuscripts, microfilms, journals, photographs, and records.
  • Education: They provide exclusive, in-depth learning opportunities through more than 100 annual lectures, seminars, intensive research programs, tours, online courses and webinars, and special events designed to benefit family history researchers of all levels.
  • Leading Research Center: Named by USA Today as a top 10 world destination for family history, the public, members and visitors are invited to visit our eight-story library and archive where they offer the largest collection of original family history research materials in the country. Their collection, which continues to grow through acquisition and preservation activities, dates from the fourteenth century to the present and spans North America, Europe, and beyond. It includes more than 28 million diaries, letters, photographs, and other manuscripts, and more than 200,000 books and microforms.

Ann assists NEHGS library visitors with their family history research both on-site and online. She is a graduate of Wellesley College and the Harvard School of Public Health, and has completed the Boston University Certificate in Genealogical Research program.

What we learned:

Rule #1) You should start with the known and work your way to the unknown. This means working from yourself (the known) and working backwards in time, to your ancestors.

Rule #2) Write it all down. How many times have we all asked ourselves, “oh yeah where did I see that?”


Step #1) Identify what you know.

We were given great tools to work from:

  • Pedigree Chart- Roadmap of your ancestors and includes basic information about person such as full name, date and place of birth, death, and marriage.
  • Family Group Sheet- Which provides a snapshot of each nuclear family and records pertinent information about each family member.
  • Research Plan- Your roadmap for research—your hypotheses, research objectives and where you will search.

Step #2) Decide what you want to learn (research goal)

Step #3) Identify and locate your sources

Step #4) Research

Step # 5) Analyze

Repeat steps as needed

For more information about the NEHGS for upcoming classes and tours log onto


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