How To Start Your Genealogical Research
Start with you! Collect, organize and document a personal history of yourself and your spouse.
The next step is to collect information on your parents (both yours and your spouses). Then make the trip to see your grandparents, if they are still alive, and interview them. You can expand your family tree to include siblings, aunts and uncles and so on. But first, record your core family.
How do I do this?
Collect all the documentation about yourself and your spouse that you can then collect documentation on your parents and grandparents. These items provide factual dates and could include; Birth certificates, Military records, Family Bibles, Pension Applications, Passports, Diplomas, Wills an Obituaries, and various other certificates.
Expanding your family tree
Contact all living relatives and pump them for all the genealogy knowledge they possess. Write to them and let them know what you are doing and why. Include in your correspondence a self addressed stamped envelope to encourage a reply. Besides the information they may provide, ask for copies of all birth certificates, marriage licenses, death certificates, etc. that they can obtain. A wealth of information comes from those documents. Ask your living relatives where any of your ancestors are buried. Visiting cemeteries and reading tombstone inscriptions could provide information of use. You can ask your relatives if they are willing to help you by visiting cemeteries in their area. When writing your relatives, also ask if anyone has ever worked on your family genealogy before. Even if it was for a school project it could come in handy.
Find out if there are any genealogical societies in the towns where your ancestors once lived. If such organizations exist, contact them and ask questions. Most genealogical societies publish a newsletter and will print queries free of charge. Occasionally, an unknown relative is discovered, correspondence commences, and much new information is obtained.
Time for research
Write to courthouses for copies of wills, birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses, etc. If the parties of concern are deceased, and you are a relative, you can usually obtain copies without any problem. Leads come from the information contained in these documents.
Then there is researching through census records. Some cities have branches of the National Archives. These branches can provide you with census records that can be viewed using a reader. You look in areas during the period of time you know or think your ancestors resided there. This can produce names of husbands, wives, and children -- sometimes with ages and occupations. From this more leads are generated. For those researching the Wyoming County area you can download a copy of the 1850 Wyoming Co. Census from my "Download" page.
Thanks to modern technology and the computer age you can now use the Internet to help in your research. Fire up a search engine and search for the surname, or area, your researching. You might want to enter the word Genealogy in your search to narrow it down a little.
And on it goes
Search through newspaper files, archives of applicable counties and states and in state and local libraries. Place queries on internet web sites, in genealogy publications and society newsletters, etc.
Once the bug bites you there is no turning back....especially when you find out you are related to a famous person, or nobility back in the old country, or have relatives who fought with George Washington, or were in the Civil War, etc. Yes, genealogy is interesting and loads of fun. So what are you waiting for? It's time to get started.
Useful web sites for beginners
- Family Tree Maker Step-by-step guide to finding family information.
- Family Search Internet Genealogy Service is another great place to start. You can search their data base which is one of the largest in the world. You can also download a FREE genealogy program similar to Family Tree Maker. (For the Free software, visit the "Order/Download Products" section)