I have been researching my family tree for the past 13 years. I got started soon after my first daughter was born. I was newly separated from the Air Force and staying at home with my baby. I felt like I needed a bit of intellectual stimulation and genealogy gave that to me. I have continued my research throughout the years and currently blog about my finds at Climbing My Family Tree.
There are many reasons you might want to get started in researching your family tree:
- finding out what your ethnic background is
- learning your family’s place in history
- being able to connect with living relatives
- wanting to know your family’s health history
- it’s fun!!
- Get a box or filing cabinet and start a filing system for all of the documents you collect. I can’t emphasize enough how important this is. Trust me. I have a couple of boxes full of unfiled documents that are haunting me right now.
- Learn how to correctly cite your sources. You want to be able to cite everything you find correctly, so that other researchers and your descendants can see where you got your information.
- Get a genealogy program for your computer. This is the easiest way to keep all of your information organized. There are many programs to choose from, and even a couple simple ones that are free to download.
What do you already know?
- Always start from the known to the unknown. Don’t search for every Smith family that lives in Virginia (at least not to begin with – you may need to do that later after exhausting all other avenues).
- Start by entering information on your immediate family.
- Look in your home for old documents, newspaper clippings, pictures, family heirlooms, Bibles, and letters for clues.
- Get in contact with your parents, grandparents, or other older relatives who may have information or documents for you.
- Ask if anyone in the family has already started doing research. They may be able to get you started!
- Find out about your relatives’ lives and record their stories for future generations. Also ask them about family stories they may have heard about their parents or grandparents.
Types of Resources to Use (definitely not all, but some of the major ones):
- Vital Records – Births, Marriages, Deaths
- Census Records
- Newspapers: Articles and Obituaries
- Probate Records and Wills
- Land Records
- Church and Parish Records
- County and Family Histories
- Immigration Records
- Cemeteries and Cemetery Records
- Military Records: Pensions, Services Records, Draft Registration
- Old Pictures
- Interviewing relatives
Great Genealogy Websites:
- Family Search (FREE!!)
- Ancestry (subscription)
- Genealogy Bank (subscription)
- National Archives
- USGenWeb (FREE)
- Find a Grave (FREE)
- Google and Mocavo search engines
- National Genealogical Society
- Geneabloggers (listing of genealogy blogs)
- Family Tree DNA
- Legacy Family Tree (software)
- Roots Magic (software)
On site research (not everything can be done online!):
Furthering your Genealogy Education:
- Family Search Wiki and Courses
- Local Genealogy Society Meetings
- Webinars and Podcasts
- Books and Magazines