Many people are interested in genealogy and family history but just aren’t sure where to begin. The first place to start is with yourself and then work your way backwards through past generations.
1. Start with yourself: when and where you were born.
2. Your parents’ information is next: birth dates and locations for your parents.
3. Your grandparents’ information: if you know when and where they were born write that down.
4. If you know your great-grandparents information write that down as well.
Anything beyond that is gravy! But remember, just because your great-uncle Joe told you something, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. Sourcing and citing your research is critical in genealogy. Once you get started, you will find a lot of sloppy family trees with no documentation. You will be glad that you sourced yours and know from where your information came.
I recommend using a pedigree worksheet to begin. It’s concise, organized and easy to understand. A free one can be found here: http://genealogy.about.com/od/free_charts/ig/genealogy_charts/pedigree_chart.htm.
Once you get your worksheet filled out, you can start the detective work. I suggest going to the Church of Latter Day Saints website: http://www.familysearch.org. It’s very good and free. There are literally billions of records from the United States and all over the world waiting to be discovered. There is also a very helpful Wiki and Research Center to help you on your genealogical journey.
Other (free) helpful websites to get you started are:
If you are interested in subscription or fee based repositories, I suggest Ancestry.com. There are multiple ways you can purchase a subscription and their records are in the billions. They offer military, census, newspaper, land and tax records to name a few.
There is family history software available to help you organize and track all those relatives you will be finding. I suggest using Family Tree Maker as it will assist you in creating various reports and family trees. If you have a subscription to Ancestry.com, it will even search for your ancestors for you by searching the databases for names in your tree.
Also, don’t forget about your state library and state archives. These places offer state and county histories which can be invaluable to researchers looking for early ancestors. They also have newspapers, census records and passenger lists (to name a few) on microfilm. They also offer Ancestry.com and Heritage Quest Online free of charge for patrons.
It might seem daunting in the beginning and we all hit “brick walls” where we don’t think we can get any further in our search for our ancestors. However, in the end it is worth the time and trouble, and you will be so happy to have your family’s legacy documented for yourself and future generations. Not to mention the satisfaction you will get by locating the names of those that came before you.
And always remember to source your information! I can’t reiterate enough how important that is. Years ago after a devastating computer crash, I lost about five years of research and had to recreate my database from paper documentation. Unfortunately, I had not documented where I found the information and so I had to start fresh from the beginning with a database that had over 5,000 people. If I had just written down what website address, what library or book and page I had found that information, recreating my database would have taken half of the time. Lesson learned!
If you are working on your family history and have hit a “brick wall” or just need a bit of research help or direction, please feel free to contact me and I will help in whatever way I can.