Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Tuesdays Tips: From Shelley Murphy-The Family Tree Girl

Friend  Shelley Murphey, The Familytreegirl shares her tips and must do's she;'s learned from years of genealogy research experience.

Tips and Must-Dos from Familytreegirl:

1. There is a need to consider specific research goals and to develop a research plan. This will allow you to control your research time and manage your files better.

2. Begin your genealogical research with "what you know". It does not matter if you begin with you or another ancestor. Whoever it is you should log everything you know. This includes births, deaths, locations, parents, siblings, children, marriages, and oral history, dates, and locations, etc.

2. Take everything you "know" and begin populating a simple "timeline" (see attached). Note that you will have the census; state and federal for each year your ancestor is alive and the next one, if available after he dies recording the spouse. Include the births, marriages, and deaths, links to land, links to any military service. Every entry should have a date, location, and the ancestry in the line it connects too. Everything is in chronological order. The conflicts and gaps will be noted. Utilize the column for notes and questions to talk to the question of what you don't know and who or what (evidence) might know what you are missing or can resolve the conflict/gap.

3. The next to the last column on your timeline is asking you for your next steps that you need to do to resolve the conflict or the gap or what you don't know about this ancestor. This is the development of your research plan that you will follow to tell the story of your ancestor.

4. Use Murphy's Tips to enhance your research: Follow the money, water, land, community, and the faith of the people.

5. Think about the "Art of Asking Questions". This is your opportunity to analyze and realize what you have and what you don't have as far as solid information regarding your ancestor. This is the strategy of using Murphy's SO WHAT technique by viewing information and questioning it place in your research, what good is it, what leads or question do I receive from the information. Example: on a death certificate, SO WHAT you have the spouse's name what good is that for me and how does it help me with my research. Response: I now need to look for a marriage record, is there is a maiden name, who are parents, death record, will, etc. You are questioning what is there to add to your research plan.

6. Find a Genealogy Buddy, join a group, if there isn't one, create one. Swap files and have fun.

Thanks so much for the great tips, Shelley! 
Love Timelines!

For some, the words “So What?” seem like a curt reply to a simple question. For Shelley Murphy, however, they are the driving force behind her genealogy research and her high-energy presentations. Known affectionately as “familytreegirl”. 

 More than thirty years later, Shelley has become a genealogy force to be reckoned with. She is a co-founder and faculty for the Midwest African American Genealogy Institute (MAAGI), past president of the AAHGS Chapter of Central Virginia, former vice president of the Central Virginia Genealogical Association (CVGA), and a proud daughter of the Jack Jouett and Walter Hines Page Chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She is active in her home state of Virginia serving on the Boards of the Library of Virginia, Albemarle-Charlottesville, and Fluvanna Historical Societies. Dr. Murphy was recently hired by the President’s Commission on Slavery at the University of Virginia to conduct research to locate descendants of enslaved and free laborers who helped build Thomas Jefferson’s University.

 Conducts professional genealogical services and worked for local government and nonprofits. In her presentations, she imparts to audiences the importance of “asking questions” at each discovery. She is known for her fresh approach to getting started in genealogy research, for her keen methods and strategies for analyzing documents, and for her common-sense approach to building timelines and research plans. 

 Shelley holds memberships in the National Genealogical Society (NGS), Association of Professional Genealogists (APG-NCAC), and various historical societies and genealogy groups throughout the United States. She holds a Doctorate of Management in Organizational Leadership and works as an adjunct professor. She prides herself on being a problem solver and a team player. 

Have you used a Timeline to help you with your research?
Share how it has helped.
We'd love to hear from you!

Thanks so much for stopping by!
Helping you climb your family tree,


  1. "Follow the money, water, land, community, and the faith of the people" So true!

    1. Absolutely!!! Thanks for reading and taking the time to leave a comment!