Getting Started

Genealogy is the record or account derived from the search for your family. It is much more than a list of people, places, and dates. It is the total experience that one goes through learning about your family. It is the world’s most popular hobby and you can start anytime, take a break, and pick it up again with ease.

  • There are three areas to search:
  • Yourself, parents, family, friends, and relatives;
  • Public records, local, county, state, federal, and world; and
  • Private materials such as books, agencies, and churches.

The following steps will get you started:

  1. Start With Yourself and Work From Present to Past: Keep in mind for whom you are searching. Begin to record events (such as names, dates, places) Collect all records. Limit your research. Be patient – research may take years.
  2. Locate Your Family Records at Home: Prepare an area to keep your records reasonably safe and accessible including; personal papers, high school yearbooks, birth/marriage/death certificates, mortgages/deeds, snapshots/photos, letters/diaries/scrapbooks, awards and recognitions/diplomas, funeral/mass cards/Bibles, newspaper articles.
  3. Searching Outside the Home: Keep records – time plays tricks on us. Compile family information and identify photos. Write to relatives. Take oral interviews. Collect data and document. Note other cities and states; check maps for locations. Identify people and addresses.
  4. At Your Public Library: Reference and information desk librarians can help; begin there. Identify materials available. Check out and read materials. Learn to use inter-library loan. Begin to search documents. Investigate equipment?
  5. At the Courthouse: Some counties do not permit public searches. Obtain a directory of offices and services. Register of deed (birth, marriage, death). Probate office (wills probated and those filled and not probated). Clerk of Courts Recorder’s office (for land sales, property transfers, and sales index).
  6. Other Family Research Centers: Local, regional, public, genealogical/historical libraries, specific religious affiliate archives, ethnic/trade/insurance/military association archives, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints family research center.
  7. General Research Suggestions: Establish a pattern. Make back-up copies or duplicate records. Store duplicates elsewhere. Print clearly, limit abbreviations. Bring basic facts with you on searches. Record document sources and locations. Keep research inventory updated. Check spelling variations and cultural differences. Be consistent and systematic. Prepare a search goal. Ask for help when necessary.
  8. Organize Your Information: Share your findings with the family. Use standardized forms and formats. Purchase professional charts and forms. Color code your filing system. Create a timeline. Write your family narrative history. Plan your activities.
  9. Use The Internet: Explore sites for place and surname information, research depositories, special interest groups, database offerings, and online education. Place/Answer queries. Participate in ongoing information exchanges, mailing lists, message boards, and forums. Accuracy of information is a problem; verify with offline research.
  10. Join Special Interest Ethnic or Regional Genealogical Groups: Recognize the unique characteristics and records of the group/area that you researching. Explore cultural and educational connections to that group or area.
  11. Observe Ethics and Etiquette: Give credit where it is due. Cite sources. Ask permission. Respect confidences. Give thanks for genealogical kindness.