How to Get Started

Your first steps will differ depending on what you have.

If you have genealogy software.

If you do not have genealogy software.

With software:

  1. Open the program and get familiar with it.
  2. Start entering the information you do have. Start with yourself, your spouse, your children. Your parents should come next, then your siblings, their spouses, their children. Then go to your spouse's side and enter the same information. For each piece of information, you should enter the source. If that source is a person, enter the person's name.
  3. Most software will allow you to print blank information forms. Print about ten of them for the next steps. You will be able to judge how many you need.
  4. When you have all the information you remember, call your mother, get the information in step 2 from her (herself, her spouse, her children, her parents, etc.). After your mother, talk to your father. Next go to your spouse's parents. Contact your grandparents.
  5. When you have talked to all the living resources, start looking in other places. Almost all counties have marriage records, birth certificates, property deeds, court transcripts, etc. Go to the county courthouse for the area you are researching and ask to see this information. Libraries have census records. The state has death certificates. This part is not as simple as it sounds. Make sure you take plenty of pencils, paper, and blank info forms. You will be looking at microfiched records and it can be very tedious work. Plan it for a day when you can spend three or four hours at the county office. Subsequent visits will be shorter, you won't be learning to use the equipment and filing system.  Make sure you record any information you find as well as your source. You don't necessarily need copies of everything, but you want to be able to find it again quickly. At first, the date that great great Uncle John joined the army won't be important, but it will be later on. If you find a copy of Grandpa and Grandma's marriage license, write down the book number and page number. Somtimes you can even pick up originals of items like marriage records and military pension applications. When you visit these government offices, be pleasant and be prepared. If you interupt the employees at their work too often, your welcome will wear out quickly.
  6. Get online and get involved. I have a list of links where you can find more information. There are sites with other family trees, check to see if you can "connect" to them. If you see a name that is in your database, check the dates, spouses, children, etc.  You can join an email list - people send email to everyone on the list to see if anyone has information about a specific person or family.  Check the forums (message boards) - people post messages about their ancestors. You can post a message too. I have found a couple of "cousins" in this manner.
  7. Most people online are willing to share their research with you, especially if you can return the favor.
  8. If Grandma has an old chest stored away in the attic with old pictures, bibles, letters, etc., get it out. Open it up and go through it with her. These momentos will help her remember important happenings in the family's history.
  9. Don't be shy about going to distant relatives with your project. Most people are more than happy to discuss their families with you if you are a good listener. Take a tape recorder and take notes.
  10. If you are going to visit an elderly relative, try to take a video camera. Some of them are very shy about cameras, so position it to the back side where it isn't so obvious. These tapes will be priceless to your descendants.
  11. Don't start with genealogical questions. Ask about what times were like, about the war (there's a war for every generation), about the jobs, the town, their best friends and what they did for fun. Gradually start asking personal information: Where were you born? Where was your mom born? Where did you get married? Was it a church? etc.

  Without software.

You can follow the same steps as above, but you will need a form on which to record your information. The classic "tree" format is great for a few generations, but then it gets to be too small and restrictive. See the form I have here to get an idea of what you will need. Get a looseleaf binder in which to keep your pages and keep them in numerical order. A four inch binder with pockets and pocketed indexes is perfect. Keep any notes, copies of originals and other information in the notebook. If you don't have a hole punch, get one. Number your notes and copies (C123, N234) and put the number on your Info Sheet.

Genealogy Form

Form #:____________________________________________

Name:____________________________________________
Date of birth:____________________________________________
Place of birth:____________________________________________
Date of Death:____________________________________________
Place of Death:____________________________________________
Place of Burial:

Spouse:
Date of Birth:
Place of Birth:
Date of Death:
Place of Death:
Place of Burial:
Date of Marriage:
Place of Marriage:

Children:
1) Name
Male    Female
Date of Birth:
Place of Birth:
Date of Death:
Place of Death:
Date of Marriage:
Place of Marriage:
Spouse's Name:

2) Name
Male    Female
Date of Birth:
Place of Birth:
Date of Death:
Place of Death:
Date of Marriage:
Place of Marriage:
Spouse's Name:

3) Name
Male    Female
Date of Birth:
Place of Birth:
Date of Death:
Place of Death:
Date of Marriage:
Place of Marriage:
Spouse's Name:

4) Name
Male    Female
Date of Birth:
Place of Birth:
Date of Death:
Place of Death:
Date of Marriage:
Place of Marriage:
Spouse's Name:

For each child, fill out a new form. It's a good idea to number your forms - first names are handed down from generation to generation and can get confusing.  Put the child's Form Number after his name on this sheet, put the Grandparents' form number after the Parents' names, this way you won't need to renumber each time you find someone new.

If you are not good at forms, download this one and print it out.

Write extra information on the back of the sheet. (i.e. nicknames, aliases, education, titles <Dr., Col., etc.>, military service.)

If there is more than one spouse, fill out another form with the subject's information and enter the second spouse's information. Make a note that "John Doe has 2nd spouse Form # XXXXX" at the top of the page. This form is called a family group sheet.
 


 

 
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