getting started in genealogy
You should begin researching your family history with yourself. It may not be the most obvious place to everyone, but you need to put down on paper what you know. You may be surprised at how far you can get. Set out details of yourself, your spouse, children, parents, and grandparents. For each person, include as much as you can: names (maiden name for the married women), date and location of birth, date and location of marriage, date and location of death, and any other details that you may think of.
Once you have this basis of a family tree, talk to relatives (brothers and sisters, parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and any other relative that you can) and try and fill in the gaps and expand. Never knock back any piece of information - you will be surprised about what small relatively insignificant piece of information can be a lead to a significant piece in the puzzle. Ask for stories as well as just dates and locations, as a family tree is more than a list of names and dates - you are trying to find your family's history.
Here are a few pointers that may assist you in your questioning of your relatives:
- what are your full names?
- Birth and Marriage dates and locations
- Parent's and Grandparent's names
- Where did they grow up?
- What was it like growing up?
- Fondest memory, earliest memories
Once you start to gather a pile of information, you need to get organized. Enter the information in a pedigree or family tree chart, or find a good family tree software package and use your computer to store and organize the data.
The next step is to start searching other sources for records. Choose an individual or family with which to begin your search. Try to find biographies and family histories, search for census records, and birth/marriage/death certificates. Try looking online (see links) or go to the local library or genealogy society. Also use our Genealogy Search Engine to search multiple sites at once.
Once you've gone as far back as you can with the individual or family that your searching, step back and take a break, and then choose another individual or family, and search for their history.