Start Researching Your Family Tree
Where do I Start?
Start with yourself. There is no one in the world who will EVER know as much about you as You! Start by recording your birthdate and birthplace, your educational info, including dates and locations, your address and as many former addresses as you can remember. Next, list your spouse and children. Record all the same information as you did for yourself. Then move on to your parents. If they are still living, bring the recorded information to them to have them verify what you’ve written.
Once you have your immediate family recorded to the best of your ability, it’s time to go searching for proof! Find your birth certificate and those of your children, your marriage license, any death certificates, school yearbooks — basically anything that proves what you’ve recorded.
After you’ve documented your immediate family, you can move backwards in time, recording grandparents, great-grandparents and so on. You use the same methodology, but the records will change and disappear the further you move back. Eventually, you will reach a point where birth certificates, death certificates and marriage records were not required. This is when you will rely on census records, city directories, church records, and other documents to help discover the lives of your ancestors.
I’m stuck! Where do I go for Help?
– Internet. There are countless genealogy learning opportunities all over the internet. There’s something for every learning style: YouTube videos for visual learners, blogs and articles for readers, podcasts for audio learners.
– Local genealogical and historical societies. Search for state or county resources in the area you live or are researching. If they don’t have the answers you seek, they will be able to point you in the right direction.
– Local LDS family history library. Family History centers, run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints operate family history centers all over the world. They are open to all researchers, but have very limited hours, so check before going. To find one click Locate a Family History Library
– Even the pros hit brick walls, where you can find no other information about the relative you are seeking. At that point, you can hire a genealogical professional who specializes in the area or focuses on the type of problem you are having. You can search for a professional by specialty at the Association of Professional Genealogists website at Find a Pro
– Not recording Maiden Names for females
– Not contacting relatives for assistance. Once a relative has passed on, all the valuable knowledge goes with them. Make sure you take advantage of this valuable research source before they’re gone.
– Not citing your sources, including recording the results of negative searches; that is, when you search a record group and do not find the evidence you seek. It is important to log these searches so you don’t accidentally repeat the same search and waste valuable time.
– Not using common sense when reading family histories written by others. If a source for information is not listed, be cautious about accepting it. Some information may be hearsay.
– Assuming that your surname is never spelled a different way. Learn to use soundex and wildcards in your searches. Searching Tips Many documents were handwritten, and they didn’t always have the most legible writing.
Helpful Documents to download and print: Forms